David Copperfield (1935)

“Copperfield, you perceive before you, the shattered fragments of a temple once called Man. The blossom is blighted. The leaf is withered. The God of Day goes down upon the dreary scene. In short, I am forever floored.” Perfectly cast (if slightly overlong) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production was directed by George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story) and based upon Charles Dickens’ classic 1850 novel. All-star cast includes Freddie Bartholomew as the young David Copperfield, Basil Rathbone as sadistic Edward Murdstone, Lionel Barrymore as Dan Peggotty, Elsa Lanchester as Clickett, Edna May Oliver as Aunt Betsey, Maureen O’Sullivan as Dora, Frank Lawton as the older David Copperfield, Roland Young as the creepy Uriah Heep, Lewis Stone as Mr. Wickfield and, of course, W. C. Fields as Mr. Micawber (Charles Laughton was originally cast in the role). This is reportedly the only film where Fields didn’t ad lib his lines. Fields is definitely a welcome sight whenever the film starts to bog down a little. I also enjoyed the performance of Lennox Pawle as the off-the-wall character, Mr. Dick (he reminds me of Benny Hill!). Not nearly as good as David Lean’s superb adaptations of Dickens’ Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948) but then again what the hell is? Useless Trivia: David Copperfield was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture (but lost out to Mutiny on the Bounty, which starred Laughton and Clark Gable).

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