BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945)

Director David Lean and writer Noël Coward made the ordinary romantic in this beloved British film. Shot as World War II was ending, it depicts the romance between a married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a middle-class wife and mother (Celia Johnson) who first meet when he removes a cinder from her eye. Through a series of clandestine encounters in train-station tearooms, they fall in love—all to the strains of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, which found a new popularity when the picture became a surprise hit. After the success of Lean’s adaptation of Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit (1945), the playwright had suggested an expansion of his short play Still Life (a rare serious work from the comic genius). Lean insisted on casting less well-known actors and working on a small scale. Nobody expected such a modest film to be a hit with film audiences, and it performed poorly in early previews. Fortunately, the producers entered the picture in the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It went on to international acclaim, bringing Johnson the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actress and scoring three Oscar nominations (Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay).

(d. David Lean, 86m, Digital)