Monday, March 10, 2014

Through David Copperfield's Eyes


The March Literary Flick selection is the 1935 version of the Charles Dickens classic, David Copperfield. I’m embarrassed to say that until now, I had never read it, but I recently downloaded the audiobook from Library2Go and am enjoying it immensely.

What struck me from the beginning was the rich detail Dickens brings to each character through the eyes of the titular David Copperfield. He’s a young innocent, sent into the world of work by his stepfather after his mother dies. Arrangements are made for him to board with Mr. Micawber.

I went in, and found there a stoutish, middle-aged person, in a brown surtout and black tights and shoes, with no more hair upon his head (which was a large one, and very shining) than there is upon an egg, and with a very extensive face, which he turned full upon me. His clothes were shabby, but he had an imposing shirt-collar on. He carried a jaunty sort of a stick, with a large pair of rusty tassels to it; and a quizzing-glass hung outside his coat,—for ornament, I afterwards found, as he very seldom looked through it, and couldn't see anything when he did.


While David strives to see the good in Mr. Micawber, his description of the man hints at character flaws that are revealed throughout the story.

Another colorfully described character is Uriah Heap, a clerk who works for an attorney.

… I saw a cadaverous face appear at a small window on the ground floor … It belonged to a red-haired person—a youth of fifteen, as I take it now, but looking much older—whose hair was cropped as close as the closest stubble; who had hardly any eyebrows, and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red-brown, so unsheltered and unshaded, that I remember wondering how he went to sleep. He was high-shouldered and bony; dressed in decent black, with a white wisp of a neckcloth; buttoned up to the throat; and had a long, lank, skeleton hand, which particularly attracted my attention, as he stood at the pony's head, rubbing his chin with it, and looking up at us in the chaise. 


Uriah is portrayed as a writhing, slimy, shifty-eyed person, whom David mistrusts from first meeting.

David O. Selznick and George Cuckor directed and produced the 1935 version of the film. They selected a cast of stellar actors to bring Charles Dickens’ characters to life. Stars include W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber, Roland Young as Uriah Heap, Basil Rathbone as Mr. Murdstone, Lionel Barrymore as Dan’l Peggoty, Jessie Ralph as Peggoty, Maureen O’Sullivan as Dora, and Edna May Oliver as Aunt Betsy. The role of David Copperfield went to Freddie Bartholomew after an extensive talent search in Canada and Great Britain by Selznick and Cuckor.

David Copperfield will be shown in the McEntee Meeting Room on Tuesday, March 11, at 6:30 p.m. I look forward to seeing how the story matches my imagination. I hope you can join me!

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