David Copperfield

David Copperfield

4.7 4
Director: George Cukor

Cast: George Cukor, W.C. Fields, Lionel Barrymore, Freddie Bartholomew

     
 

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David Copperfield was MGM's major Christmas release for its 1934-1935 season and also the first of producer David O. Selznick's major "literary" films for that studio. While a great deal of editing and streamlining was necessary to distill Charles Dickens' massive novel into 133 minutes of screen time, the end result was so successful that only the nittiest of…  See more details below

Overview

David Copperfield was MGM's major Christmas release for its 1934-1935 season and also the first of producer David O. Selznick's major "literary" films for that studio. While a great deal of editing and streamlining was necessary to distill Charles Dickens' massive novel into 133 minutes of screen time, the end result was so successful that only the nittiest of nitpickers complained about the excised characters and events. Freddie Bartholomew plays the young Copperfield, who, after the death of his mother (Elizabeth Allan), is cruelly mistreated by his stepfather, Mr. Murdstone (Basil Rathbone). David's life brightens when he meets the ever-in-debt Mr. Micawber (W.C. Fields), and he is sheltered by Micawber's large and loving family until Micawber is carted off to debtor's prison. Forced once more to seek a home, David makes his way to the Dover estate of his Aunt Betsey (Edna May Oliver), where he meets another colorful cast of characters, none more so than the childlike Mr. Dick (Lennox Pawle). When Murdstone arrives, insisting that David be returned to him, Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick form a united front to protect the boy. Flash-forward several years: the grown David (now played by Frank Lawton) is attending school, where he meets the lovely Agnes Wickfield (Madge Evans). David discovers that Agnes' businessman father (Lewis Stone) is under the thumb of the "'umble" prevaricator Uriah Heep (Roland Young) and the equally disreputable Steerforth (Hugh Williams). With the help of Mr. Micawber-who in a weak moment has taken a job working side-by-side with Heep-David proves Heep's treachery and rescues the Wickfields. By rights, he should marry Agnes, but David impulsively weds the empty-headed Dora (Maureen O'Sullivan). Only after Dora's death does David come to his senses, realizing that Agnes is the true love of his life. Originally, Charles Laughton was slated to play Micawber, but he pulled out of the production, worried that he wouldn't be funny enough. The casting of W.C. Fields was an inspired choice: although he injects his own established screen personality at every opportunity, Fields was born to play Micawber. Likewise, second-billed Lionel Barrymore fits his portrayal of crusty old Dan Peggoty like a glove. In fact, there isn't a false bit of casting in the whole production, and this, as much as Selznick's sumptuous production values, is the key to David Copperfield's enormous success.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mike Cummings
This 1935 adaptation of David Copperfield has endeared itself to generations of movie audiences in spite of artistic and technical flaws reflecting the state of the movie art in filmdom's infancy. The success of the production derives mainly from its loyalty to the spirit of the novel, its atmospheric depiction of 19th century England, and its talented adult actors. Edna May Oliver (Aunt Betsey Trotwood), Basil Rathbone (Mr. Murdstone), Roland Young (Uriah Heep), Lennox Pawle (Mr. Dick), and W.C. Fields (Wilkins Micawber) all breathe life into their caricaturish alter egos. Oliver and Fields, in particular, verily become their characters, almost out-Dickensing Dickens' characters in their eccentricity. On the other hand, the child actors -- Freddie Bartholomew (David as a boy), Fay Chaldecott (Little Emily), and Marilyn Knowlden (Agnes as a little girl) -- all perform with the overwrought theatricality of elementary students in a school play. Moreover, Elizabeth Allen as Mrs. Clara Copperfield fairly reeks of maudlin melodrama. Even her two-second fainting spell is overdone. Director George Cukor may be responsible for the weak performances of Allen and the children; Cukor's choppy transition style also hurts the film. He unceremoniously cuts off one scene, then begins rolling the camera again elsewhere. Nevertheless, the film is worthwhile because of the strong performances of Oliver, Fields, Rathbone, and the other top-billed adult actors. Be aware, though, that many videotape copies of the film have woefully inferior sound reproduction. Viewers planning to rent it should preview it at the rental shop before taking it home.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/27/2013
UPC:
0883316860144
Original Release:
1935
Source:
Warner Archives
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
2:11:00
Sales rank:
10,235

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
W.C. Fields Micawber
Lionel Barrymore Dan Peggotty
Freddie Bartholomew David Copperfield, as a boy
Maureen O'Sullivan Dora
Madge Evans Agnes
Frank Lawton David Copperfield, as a man
Edna May Oliver Aunt Betsey
Roland Young Uriah Heep
Elizabeth Allan Mrs. Copperfield
Basil Rathbone Mr. Murdstone
Elsa Lanchester Clickett
Jean Cadell Mrs. Micawber
Jessie Ralph Nurse Peggotty
Lennox Pawle Mr. Dick
Una O'Connor Mrs. Gummidge
John Buckler Ham
Hugh Williams Steerforth
Ivan Simpson Limmiter
Fay Chaldecott Little Emily, as a child
Marilyn Knowlden Agnes as Child
Florine McKinney Little Emily, as a woman
Harry Beresford Dr. Chillip
Mabel Colcord Mary Ann
Hugh Walpole Vicar
Renée Gadd Janet
Herbert Mundin Barkis
Margaret Seddon Bit
Lewis Stone Mr. Wickfield
Arthur Treacher Dishonest Coachman

Technical Credits
George Cukor Director
Howard Estabrook Screenwriter
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Robert J. Kern Editor
Oliver Marsh Cinematographer
David O. Selznick Producer
Herbert Stothart Score Composer
Dolly Tree Costumes/Costume Designer
Slavko Vorkapich Special Effects
Hugh Walpole Screenwriter
Charles Dickens Source Author

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Customer Reviews

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David Copperfield 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great movie. I remember it from my childhood and watch it whenever it shows on tv. I hope it is soon released on dvd.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was quite a good movie, along with the book. it was very good, though some parts bored me a tad bit. its a good movie for those who do not want to read the book.I enjoyed it, and you will too.