14 May 2022

Written by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was one of the most important English writers during the Victorian era and the first literary chronicler of the metropolis in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. He became famous with 'The Pickwick Papers', which appeared monthly from 1836 onwards. It was followed by 'Oliver Twist' in 1837-1838, 'Nicholas Nickleby' in 1838-1839, 'The Old Curiosity Shop' and 'Barnaby Rudge', both in 1841. Other famous novels are the partly autobiographical 'David Copperfield' (1849-1850), 'Great Expectations' (1860-1861), and 'A Christmas Carol' (1843). 'A Tale of Two Cities' is the world's seventh best-selling book with 200 million copies. His last novel, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood", was never completed and was later published posthumously. Characteristics of Dickens' stories are the social evils, the story structure, the cartoonish characters, and the humour. The first feature-length film adaptation was a 1913 version of 'David Copperfield' directed by Thomas Bentley for producer Cecil Hepworth. In the years since the prolific author has never ceased to be an inspiration for filmmakers—dozens of adaptations of his work have made their way to the screen. 

Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist (1922)
British postcard presented with The Penny Magazine. Photo: First National. Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist (Frank Lloyd, 1922).

John Martin Harvey
British postcard by Beagles Postcards, no. 707 C. Photo: Ellis & Walery. British Actor-manager Sir John Martin Harvey (1863-1944) was one of the last great romantic actors of the English theatre. His most famous play was 'The Only Way' (1899), an adaptation of Charles Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities'. 25 years later, he also featured in the film version when he was a sprightly 62 year-old.

John Martin Harvey
British postcard by the London Stereoscope Company. Photo: John Martin Harvey in The Only Way.

Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Fagin
British postcard by J. Beagles & Co., London, no. 354. Photo: F.W. Burford. Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Fagin in 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens.

Bransby Williams in David Copperfield
British postcard by Rapid Photo co., London, no. 3122 Photo: R. Thiele & Co. Publicity still for a stage production of David Copperfield with Bransby Williams as Uriah Heep. Caption: "Curse him - how I hate him." British comic actor and writer Bransby Williams (1870-1961) was on stage from the 1890s and often worked as a monologist and impersonator. From 1911 on, he played roles in more than 20 films. He is best known for his portraying various Charles Dickens characters.

Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist (1922)
Italian postcard by Fotominio / G. B. Falci, Milano. Photo: Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist (Frank Lloyd, 1922).

Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist (1922)
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition. Photo: Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist (Frank Lloyd, 1922).

Gunnar Tolnaes in Little Dorrit
Finnish postcard, no. 433. The postcard carries a stamp from the Finnish film inspection office. Photo: Karina Bell as Little Dorrit and Gunnar Tolnaes as Arthur Clennam in the Charles Dickens adaptation Lille Dorritt/Little Dorrit (A.W. Sandberg, 1924), Dickens's rags-to-riches (and over again) story of a woman raised in a debtor's prison and her complex, fascinating life.

Anny Ondra
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8717, 1933-1934. Photo: Ondra-Lamac-Film. Anny Ondra in Klein Dorrit/Little Dorrit (Carl Lamac, 1934).

W.C. Fields and Freddie Bartholomew in David Copperfield (1935)
British postcard by De Reszke Cigarettes, no. 6. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). W.C. Fields and Freddie Bartholomew in David Copperfield (George Cukor, 1935). This George Cukor adaptation makes exceptional work of condensing the story down to just over two hours. Full of enthusiastic turns from 'big' actors, particularly W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber.

Frank Lawton and Maureen O'Sullivan in David Copperfield (1935)
British postcard for Abdulla Cigarettes, no. 38. Photo: M.G.M. Frank Lawton and Maureen O'Sullivan in David Copperfield (George Cukor, 1935).

John Mills and Juliet Mills in the studio
British postcard by Rotary Photo, London, no. F.S. 18. Caption: John Mills with his small daughter 'Bunch' (Juliet Mills) in the studio. The picture was taken during the shooting of Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946). At the time, Bunch must have been four years old.

Dirk Bogarde in A Tale of Two Cities (1958)
British postcard. Photo: Rank. Dirk Bogarde in A Tale of Two Cities (Ralph Thomas, 1958), set in London and Paris in the lead up to the French Revolution.  The task of adapting this notoriously difficult story was given to T.E.B. Clarke, best remembered as a writer of Ealing comedies. The role of Sydney Carton, the drunken lawyer who becomes a self-sacrificing melodramatic hero, was played by Dirk Bogarde at the height of his matinee-idol fame.

Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Italian postcard by Grafiche Biondetti srl, Verona, no. 133/4. Illustration: Walt Disney Productions. Film image of Mickey's Christmas Carol (Burny Mattinson, 1983). At 26 minutes Mickey's Christmas Carol is technically a short, but it was released in cinemas, so we're having it. Scrooge McDuck obviously takes the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge, with beloved Disney characters making up the rest of the cast. The animation is beautiful and the Disney humour marries well with Dickens' story. 

Oliver & Co. (1988)
French postcard by MB, Paris, no. D 640, 5/4. Image: Disney. Publicity still for Oliver & Co. (1988). Oliver & Company (George Scribner, 1988) is the twenty-seventh animated feature released in the Disney Canon. It was inspired by Charles Dickens's 'Oliver Twist' (1838).

Sources: Liz Cantrell and Adam Rathe (Town & Country), Wikipedia (Dutch), and IMDb.

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