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David Copperfield
The Personal History, Adventure, Experience, and Observation of David Copperfield, the Younger

USA 1935
produced by
David O. Selznik for MGM
directed by George Cukor
starring Frank Lawton, Freddie Bartholomew, W.C. Fields, Roland Young, Maureen O'Sullivan, Lionel Barrymore, Jessie Ralph, Madge Evans, Basil Rathbone, Violet Kemble Cooper, Edna May Oliver, Lennox Pawle, Lewis Stone, Elizabeth Allan, Hugh Williams, Elsa Lanchester, Jean Cadell, Una O'Connor, John Buckler, Ivan F. Simpson, Herbert Mundin, Fay Chaldecott, Marilyn Knowlden, Florine McKinney, Harry Beresford, Mabel Colcord, Renee Gadd, Hugh Walpole
screenplay by Howard Estabrook, based on the novel by Charles Dickens, adaptation by Hugh Walpole, music by Herbert Stothart

David Copperfield

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When David Copperfield the younger is born, his father is already dead, but when the boy is in his early teens (and played by Freddie Bartholomew), his mum (Elizabeth Allan) has decided to marry again, the charming Mr Murdstone (Basil Rathbone), a man David immediately distrusts - and right he is, too, because once his mother has married him, Murdstone and his sister (Violet Kemble Cooper) totally take over the Copperfield household and terrorize David and his mother. Eventually, David's mother dies when giving birth to David's little brother, and so does the newborn - and Murdstone wastes no time sending David away to London to learn a trade, which basically means working and Mr Micawber's wine trading company. As hard as the work is though, Mr Micawber (W.C. Fields) is a kind-hearted man and the first friend David has had in a long time. But as nice a man as Micawber might be, he also owes money all across the city, and eventually is jailed for it, and once released he is thrown out of London - which means David is out of a job, out of a home, and out of a friend.

David decides to head for Dover - and on foot, too, after he is robbed - to seek shelter with the only relative left to him, aunt Betsey (Edna May Oliver), a woman he has never met. He finds her to be a cantankerous spinster, but with a heart of gold, and when Murdstone arrives at her doorstep to retrieve the boy, she just won't hand David over and instead chases Murdstone and sister off the premises.

Eventually though, she has to send him away, to learn a trade at lawyer Wickfield's (Lewis Stone) office, but that doesn't seem too bad once David has made the acquaintance of Wickfield's daughter Agnes (Marilyn Knowlden).

Years have passed, and David has grown a man (and is now played by Frank Lawton) when he decides to leave Wickfield's employ to go to London to write his first novel - but not before providing his old friend Micawber with employ in Wickfield's office, which seems to more and more slip Wickfield's control due to his drinking habit, and instead, his clerk Uriah Heep (Roland Young) attempts to take over.

In London, David meets Dora (Maureen O'Sullivan), whom he immediately falls in love with and soon marries - much to the dismay of his childhood sweetheart Agnes (now played by Madge Evans) -, but the longer they are married, the more Dora turns out to be an incompetent housekeeper and an all-around childish being who drives David to despair sometimes - and yet he can't stop loving her, and when she falls gravely ill and dies, it breaks his heart and he leaves England altogether for a year.

When David returns to Mr Wickfield's place, he finds it has effectively been taken over by Uriah Heep, who has swindled and weaseled his way upstairs and who also seems to have Micawber under his thumb. But at heart, Micawber is an honest man, and eventually he confides into David and delivers proof for Uriah Heep's wrongdoings, and eventually, too, David presents Uriah with this evidence, which weighs heavily enough for Uriah to leave voluntarily to evade prosecution.

With these affairs in order, David, who has come to his senses in Europe, proposes to Agnes, who happily accepts ...

 

When it comes to translating Charles Dickens' novel into a feature film, this one does pretty well, it's relatively kitsch-free, the cast is pretty amazing and everyone looks his or her part, the story is dramatic in all the appropriate spots, and the direction is very cinematic (as opposed to stagey, as is the case with many other literary adaptations) - but all that said, David Copperfield is far from a masterpiece, and the problem lies within the source novel itself that is far too complex and too rich in subplots to be properly translated into a feature film, even one that lasts over 2 hours like this one. Having said this, David Copperfield's complexity might work very well in book form, as novels follow different rules from feature films, but on the big screen the story simply lacks a real climax, instead seems to be wandering off left and right every now and again for no apparent reason, while at the same time, many subplots seem to be underdeveloped due to temporary constraints.

That all said, I'm not saying that David Copperfield is a bad film, and it's quite probably the best adaptation of Dickens' novel ... but it's not an excellent film, either.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD