There are more iterations of all of these and undoubtedly more to come. What better time to get your teeth into Dickens?
A 1911 black and white silent of David Copperfield can be rented on Fandor through Amazon Prime.
David Copperfield 1935 Based on The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger. Adapted by Hugh Walpole. Directed by George Cukor. Freddie Bartholomew as David (Little Lord Fauntleroy, anyone?) Charles Laughton was hired to play Mr. Macawber but it was said “he looked as though he were about to molest the child.” His replacement , W.C. Fields, swore this is the only film in which he didn’t ad-lib. In fact, Cukor got him to play it straight. The performance was highly lauded. Subtitle says it all. A great look at Dickensian England. Rent on Amazon Prime and Netflix.
A 1999 two-part BBC version Directed by Simon Curtis. With Daniel Radcliff (debut)as young David and Bob Hoskins as Micawber won a Peabody Award. You’ll miss parts if you know the story well, but otherwise plays fine. With Maggie Smith, Emilia Fox, Trevor Eve. Free with Amazon Prime
A 1911 black and white of A Tale of Two Cities is free on Amazon Prime.
A Tale of Two Cities 1935 Directed by Jack Conway. Based on Dickens novel of London and Paris. With Ronald Coleman (irresistible voice) Elizabeth Allen, Edna May Oliver, Reginald Owen and Basil Rathbone. Strife, hatred, love, and sacrifice before and during The French Revolution. A French aristocrat and a British lawyer both fall in love with Lucie Manette. “It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It’s a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known,” is intoned at the guillotine. Ronald Colman had coveted the part since he began his career. Stirring. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Scrooge 1935 The first sound version of A Christmas Carol directed by Henry Edwards. With Robert Cochran, Donald Calthrop, Mary Glynne. On Christmas Eve, the miser of all time is visited by ghosts of Past, Present and Future, waking as a changed man. In this version, most of the spirits, including Jacob Marley, are not actually shown onscreen, their voices are heard. Only Christmas Present is actually seen in full figure. Free with Amazon Prime.
Scrooge 1951 Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst. With Alastair Sim, Kathleen Harrison, Hermione Badderly, Mervyn Johns…Michael Hordern plays Marley and his ghost. This is the version most of us grew up watching. Terrific. Rent on Amazon Prime and Netflix
A Christmas Carol 1977 Directed by Moira Armstrong. With Michael Hordern. A good actor. Elaborately conceived spirits. Free with Amazon Prime.
Great Expectations 1946 Directed by David Lean. With John Mills, Bernard Miles, Jean Simmons, Alec Guinness, Finlay Curry, Valerie Hobson. Academy Awards for Art Direction and Cinematography. Spot-on spirit. As a boy, Phillip “Pip” Pirrip meets convict Magwich on the run and sneaks food out to him. Magwich is caught. Rich, crazy spinster, Miss Haversham, arranges for the hero to come to her house to play with beautiful, cruel, adopted daughter, Estella, the old woman’s revenge against all men. Pip falls in unrequited love.
Years later, an anonymous benefactor pays to make a gentleman of Pip. Advantages and polish are bestowed. When he’s 21, the young man is asked back to the house. Estella is forthright but no warmer. Pip meets his patron – not Miss Haversham – and watches him die. He learns the truth about Estella and has new hopes for a future. Free with Amazon Prime.
Great Expectations 1981 BBC Miniseries. Directed by Julian Amyes. With Gerry Sundquist, Joan Hickson, Stratford Johns, Derek Francis…Free with Amazon Prime.
Great Expectations 1999 BBC film Directed by Julian Jarrold. With Ioan Gruffedd, Justine Waddell, Charlotte Rampling. Free with Amazon Prime.
Oliver Twist 1933 Pre-Code film. Directed by William Cowen. With Dickie Moore as Oliver. A low budget version with an angelic looking Oliver and a Fagin who strove not to offend his audience. Free with Amazon Prime.
Oliver Twist 1951 Directed by David Lean. John Howard Davies as Oliver. Alec Guinness as Fagin, Robert Newton as Bill Sykes, Kay Walsh as Nancy, Anthony Newley as Artful Dodger. Oliver is raised in the workhouse, apprenticed to an undertaker, and runs away to the streets of London. He falls in with a gang of pickpockets run by Fagin. When a gentleman takes a liking to the urchin, he’s given a good home, but subsequently kidnapped on the street by Sykes and Nancy and taken back to Fagin.
Murder, accidental death, a chase, and arrests ensue. Oliver is reunited with the man he learns is his godfather. Guinness wore a prosthetic nose in order to look like the book’s classic illustrations. He was accused for it of being Anti-Semitic. A grand film. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Oliver Twist 1985 BBC Miniseries With Amanda Harris, Bed Rodska, Dominic Jephcott. Season 1 Free with Amazon Prime.
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