The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Charles Dickens' unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, has been a source of speculation and controversy ever since its posthumous publication. Even so, the ending concocted by scenarists John Balderston and Gladys Unger for the 1935 film version of Edwin Drood met with near-unanimous approval from Dickens buffs, who felt that Balderston and Unger had remained faithful to the author's original intention. Claude Rains stars as John Jasper, the seemingly respectable choirmaster of Cloisterham Cathedral. What no one suspects is that Jasper is an opium addict, given to fits of paranoia and jealousy. Pushing him over the edge is the fact that his beautiful ward, Rosa Bud (Heather Angel), has fallen in love with handsome Edwin Drood (David Manners). That Drood is murdered by Jasper is made abundantly clear: it is the mystery of how he was murdered and how Jasper disposed of the body that holds the viewer's interest. The film's relatively short running time required the screenwriters to drop several of Dickens' more colorful supporting characters: of those retained, Francis L. Sullivan is a standout as Mr. Crisparkle. The Mystery of Edwin Drood was transformed into a Broadway musical in 1980s (which offered several alternate endings), then was refilmed in 1993.