The evening kicks off with the TCM premiere of Dickens' unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) at 8 pm which is followed by the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol featuring Reginald Owen as Ebeneezer Scrooge with the Lockhart family, Gene, Kathleen and even young June, on hand as various Cratchits. Tucked at the end of the evening is 1922's Oliver Twist starring Jackie Coogan in the title role with Lon Chaney cast as Fagin.But it's the two classics in the middle that I've spent the most time with on this site and I wanted to point towards some earlier articles to help celebrate them.
David Copperfield (1935) airs at 11:15 pm EST. This classic, produced by David O. Selznick for MGM, introduced the world to Freddie Bartholomew, who would become the top male child star for the next few years and star in several other classics including Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) and Captains Courageous (1937).
Freddie is a favorite here and earlier this year became subject of a 3-part nearly 10,000 word biography covering his life and career. A very interesting person. I also produced a more concise version of the Freddie Bartholomew biography that also includes the lengthy bibliography for my more complete effort. See it here.
The David Copperfield article I wrote includes background of the film, a little review of the movie itself and a brief biography of the wonderful Lennox Pawle who plays Mr. Dick. With an all-star cast also including Elizabeth Allan, Basil Rathbone, Edna May Oliver, Lionel Barrymore, Roland Young, Lewis Stone, Maureen O'Sullivan, Madge Evans, the underrated Frank Lawton, and most famously W.C. Fields as Micawber, David Copperfield is as strong a screen classic as it is a literary classic.
Choosing to highlight only 68 of Dickens' original 92 characters, MGM's David Copperfield plays almost as a string of quick vignettes held together by the presence of either Bartholomew or Lawton's David the Younger. But each little segment, whether sad or sweet, threatening or humorous, is solid and kept alive by the sheer mass of colorful characters littered throughout David's life ... See my entire David Copperfield (1935) article here.
A Tale of Two Cities (1935) follows Copperfield at 1:30 am EST.Also from Selznick at MGM and released Christmas Day, 1935, just a couple of months after Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities sees the return of several stars from the earlier movie, most notably, Elizabeth Allan, Edna May Oliver and Basil Rathbone.
But the story here is Ronald Colman, who gives one of the best performances of his career as Sydney Carton, and the exciting French Revolution sequence, the highlight of the film that will get you sitting up straight in your chair and maybe even waving your fists a little if you're the excitable type.
Next Monday night TCM airs my own favorite version of A Christmas Carol, the 1951 version with Alastair Sim, along with the David Lean pair Oliver Twist (1948) and Great Expectations (1946). Also on the schedule December 12 is Nicholas Nickleby (1947).
A Tale of Two Cities is a rousing tale of good and evil, love and war, and yes, both the best and worst of times, but at it's center is the magnificently mixed-up Carton and Colman's towering talents. Interesting to note that Producer David O. Selznick originally wanted Colman to play both Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, but that Colman nixed it. How they settled on Donald Woods as Darnay after both Robert Donat and Brian Aherne were rumored ... See my entire A Tale of Two Cities article here.
December 19 features just two Dickens' based films, the 1958 A Tale of Two Cities starring Dirk Bogarde as Sydney Carton and the 1970 musical Scrooge, part-time background soundtrack of my own Christmas mornings for as long as I can recall.
The Dickens celebration closes December 26 with both parts of 1988's Little Dorrit starring Derek Jacobi. I usually get a little upset when TCM goes as recent as that, but I'm willing to give old Claudius a try in anything, so count me in on the 26th.
But for me the good stuff is typically the 1930's stuff and so I'm excited to catch Edwin Drood for the first time and to revisit each of the Selznick masterpieces for the first time since I've written about either of them. It'll be good to see little Freddie again too! Enjoy!