When David’s father dies, his mother remarries. His new stepfather Murdstone has a mean and cruel view on how to raise a child. When David’s mother dies from grief, Murdstone sends David to London to work for a living. When David escapes to his aunt Betsey his life starts to get better.
Director: George Cukor
Cast: Edna May Oliver, Elizabeth Allan, Jessie Ralph, Harry Beresford, Freddie Bartholomew, Hugh Walpole, Basil Rathbone, Herbert Mundin, John Buckler, Fay Chaldecott, Una O’Connor, Lionel Barrymore, Violet Kemble Cooper, Elsa Lanchester, Jean Cadell, W.C. Fields, Lennox Pawle, Renee Gadd, Roland Young, Lewis Stone, Marilyn Knowlden, Frank Lawton, Madge Evans, Hugh Williams, Maureen O’Sullivan, Florine McKinney, Ivan F. Simpson, Mabel Colcord, Bobby Callahan, Marion Ballou
David Copperfield, born in England six months after the death of his father, is reared by his mother Clara and Nurse Peggotty. Time passes, and Clara is courted by Mr. Murdstone, a severe and domineering man who ingratiates himself to Clara but whom David and Nurse Peggotty dislike. When Nurse Peggotty takes David on a two-week visit to her family, he is told the story of how Dan Peggotty, the nurse’s brother, adopted the orphaned Little Em’ly and her cousin Ham. Upon his return home, David learns that his mother has married Murdstone, and that Murdstone has dismissed Nurse Peggotty and replaced her with his sister Jane. Clara objects to Jane’s presence, but Murdstone insists that she stay and scolds her for complaining. He then strikes David for not knowing his school lesson, and locks him in his room. When Clara dies in childbirth, Murdstone sends David to London, where he is to work and live under the supervision of the genial Wilkins Micawber. Micawber, frequently hounded by debt collectors, is soon arrested and put in debtor’s prison. David is then placed under the guardianship of his aunt, Betsey Trotwood, who lives in Dover with her cousin, Mr. Dick. After completing his treacherous journey on foot to Dover, David meets his aunt and immediately takes a disliking to her. David is next sent to live with the Wickfields, a wealthy family headed by the alcoholic Mr. Wickfield. Wickfield’s obsequious clerk, Uriah Heep, also lives in the house, as does Wickfield’s daugther Agnes. Agnes falls in love with David following his return from studying at Canterbury, though he takes little notice of her. David soon realizes that during his absence Heep maneuvered himself into a position of power, and that Micawber is now employed by Heep. David next moves to London, where he intends to seek a job as a writer. In the city, he sees his old friend Steerforth, who accompanies him to the opera, where David meets and falls in love with a pretty girl named Dora. Shortly thereafter, Steerforth elopes to Italy with Em’ly, who had been engaged to Ham. Later, when Ham learns that Steerforth deserted Em’ly in Italy, he searches for her, but dies while attempting to rescue a man, who turns out to be Steerforth, from a capsized yacht. Following the publication of his short stories, David marries Dora, which causes Agnes distress, but the frail and emotional Dora later dies of a strange illness. At the Wickfields’, David discovers that Heep has usurped so much power through his knavery, that he has threatened Mr. Wickfield in order to secure his consent to marry Agnes. Through Micawber’s efforts, Heep is exposed as a villain in the presence of the Wickfields, Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick. David’s attentions then return to Agnes as he asserts his love for her
A young boy grows to manhood in Victorian England. He will learn to deal with the early deaths of his parents. He will be cruelly abused by his sadistic stepfather. He will be betrayed by false friends. He will experience a brief, tragic marriage. He will also be showered with tenderness and affection from hearts good & true. He will grow to be a man made strong by adversity, but still wondering if he’ll turn out to be the hero of his own life. He is DAVID COPPERFIELD.
Charles Dickens’ masterpiece comes to marvelous life in this triumphant translation from literary classic into film. Enormous care was taken by MGM to get the look & feel just right – to make the viewer believe they were seeing the novel spread out before them, without a false moment from start to finish. (The Studio even went so far as to use special on-location exterior filming at Canterbury Cathedral, a segment that only runs for a few seconds.)
The all-star cast is remarkable:
Freddie Bartholomew, newly brought from England by his aunt, is perfect in the role of Young David; his anguish at the death of his mother is almost palpable.
Replacing a reluctant Charles Laughton, W. C. Fields proved a triumph in the comic role of the penniless Mr. Micawber, always confident of something `turning up.’ (You might think Fields’ American accent & mannerisms would tend to be grating, but he turns in what is arguably his finest performance. Fields had loved Dickens’ novels for years and always kept a few in his vaudeville trunk. He knew the role and how to play it. Here he takes the character of Micawber, tweaks it slightly, and delights us.)
Lionel Barrymore, as the old fisherman Dan’l Peggoty, adding yet another exceptional portrait to his gallery of character parts.
Edna May Oliver is unforgettable as the stern, yet loving, Aunt Betsey, forever chasing donkeys off her property – fiercely defensive of those she cares for.
Basil Rathbone as Mr. Murdstone, dark & dangerous, full of passions & fury.
Maureen O’Sullivan as darling Dora, sweet & doomed.
Roland Young as an oily Uriah Heep, sniveling & devious.
Lewis Stone, Elizabeth Allan, Una O’Connor, Lennox Pawle, Elsa Lanchester, Violet Kemble Cooper, Madge Evans, Frank Lawton
all perfectly cast.
(Look for E. E. Clive, Lionel Belmore & Arthur Treacher in tiny uncredited roles. Sir Hugh Walpole, the celebrated English novelist who adapted the novel for the screen, appears as the Vicar.)
Savor this wonderful film again & again.
~ Ron Oliver
DVD9 | VIDEO_TS | NTSC | 4:3 | 720×480 | 5600 kbps | 7.5Gb
Audio: English AC3 2.0 @ 192 Kbps | Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
02:10:00 | USA | Adventure, Drama, Romance
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