David Copperfield (1935) starring Freddie Bartholomew, Frank Lawton, W.C. Fields, Basil Rathbone
There’s a lot of good things to be said about David Copperfield — fine acting all around, interesting characters that the audience cares about, good cinematography, etc. I’d like to point out a few highlights:
- Basil Rathbone is absolutely despicable as the hard, cruel, abusive stepfather. A wonderful performance, that causes the audience to absolutely despise him.
- W. C. Fields, a comedian, shines in his role as Mr. Micawber – a bright spot in young David’s life, played seriously with a touch of whimsy
- Truly an all-star cast, including Lionel Barrymore, Elsa Lanchester, Maureen O’Sullivan, Edna May Oliver
- A few favorite characters actors as well, including Una O’Connor (Frankenstein), Roland Young (Topper)
Movie quotes from David Copperfield
Mr. Murdstone (Basil Rathbone): If I have an obstinate horse or a dog to deal with what do you think I’d do?
David Copperfield as a child: I don’t know.
Mr. Murdstone (Basil Rathbone): I’d beat him. I’d make him wince and smart. I say to myself, “I’ll conquer that fellow”. And if it were to cost him all the blood he had, I’d do it.
Mr. Micawber (W. C. Fields): Copperfield, at present, I have nothing to bestow but advice. Still, that advice is so far worth taking. I have never taken it myself, and am the miserable creature you behold. Young friend, I counsel you: annual income, 20 pounds. Annual expenditure, 19 pounds. Result? Happiness. Annual income, 20 pounds. Annual expenditure, 21 pounds. Result? Misery. Farewell, Copperfield. I shall be happy to improve your prospects, in case anything turns up – which, I may say, I am hourly expecting.
Editorial review of David Copperfield courtesy of Amazon.com
Dickens, with his vast humanity and that amazing vitality of his which created a whole world of characters, contains inexhaustible riches for the screen, though his long rambling plots are the despair of scenario writers. His people–types, caricatures, or whatever you choose to call them–are distinct and individual in appearance, actions and speech–and are rare parts for good actors. The trick in getting Dickens effectively on the screen was an enormously difficult one of selecting and condensing–keeping enough to satisfy the Dickens lover who complains bitterly when any favourite character or episode is left out. Some may find Dickens as being overlong, overly sentimental and often more than a bit tedious; at any rate, however, this is excellent Dickens!
Good intentions and imposing ambitions are plentiful enough in the making of movies, but woefully rare are the instances where technical excellence, good taste and judgement and an intelligent sense of the rightness of things combined to bring those intentions and ambitions to a successful issue. DAVID COPPERFIELD is one of those rare and happy successes. It met every reasonable expectation competently and generously, and the film was highly praised by the critics and public alike back in 1935. This filmed version of the classic novel by Dickens, is remarkably faithful to the source – rich in atmosphere and fine characterizations.
David himself is played ideally by both Freddie Bartholomew and Frank Lawton; they miraculously seem to be the same person at different ages! If Frank Lawton seems less interesting, its only because his adventures are so mild compared with those of Bartholomew. W.C. Fields‘ whole career seemed to have been a preparation for his role as Micawber; he is magnificent in his off-beat role