David Lean wanted his film to have a feeling of heightened realism. Working closely in conjunction with art director John Bryan and cinematographer Guy Green, he employed several tricks, such as forced perspective, to achieve this effect. The famous opening shot in the graveyard, for instance, features a brooding church in the background which in reality was only 3 meters high.
David Lean was not a particularly well-read man, and only became aware of the power of Charles Dickens' story when his wife Kay Walsh dragged him along to a theatrical production of "Great Expectations" in 1939. Incidentally, playing Herbert Pocket in this production, was a young Alec Guinness, whom Lean subsequently cast in the same role in the film version. Aside from bit parts, it was Guinness' first major screen role and was also the first of six films he made with Lean. Martita Hunt was also in the stage production, playing Miss Havisham, a role she reprised in the film.
John Mills, playing Pip from the age of 18 to 25, was actually 38 at the time of filming.
Alec Guinness was very nervous and self-conscious when he started filming, as he found his wig to be particularly uncomfortable.
Valerie Hobson was widely considered to be miscast as the adult Estella.
Francis L. Sullivan previously played Jaggers in the 1934 version.
Guy Green replaced Robert Krasker as cinematographer on this film. David Lean and Ronald Neame were not satisfied with Krasker's studio recreation of the marshes in the opening scenes.
During one scene where she had to carry a candle while walking up the stairs, Jean Simmons' apron caught fire.
First cinema feature of Howard Lang.
First movie speaking role for Alec Guinness.
One of the few films to be shown on commercial network television after it had been shown many times on local stations, including PBS affiliates.