David Copperfield (The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger)

1935

David Copperfield (The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger)

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Movie Info

David Copperfield was MGM's major Christmas release for its 1934-1935 season and also the first of producer David O. Selznick's major "literary" films for that studio. While a great deal of editing and streamlining was necessary to distill Charles Dickens' massive novel into 133 minutes of screen time, the end result was so successful that only the nittiest of nitpickers complained about the excised characters and events. Freddie Bartholomew plays the young Copperfield, who, after the death of his mother (Elizabeth Allan), is cruelly mistreated by his stepfather, Mr. Murdstone (Basil Rathbone). David's life brightens when he meets the ever-in-debt Mr. Micawber (W.C. Fields), and he is sheltered by Micawber's large and loving family until Micawber is carted off to debtor's prison. Forced once more to seek a home, David makes his way to the Dover estate of his Aunt Betsey (Edna May Oliver), where he meets another colorful cast of characters, none more so than the childlike Mr. Dick (Lennox Pawle). When Murdstone arrives, insisting that David be returned to him, Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick form a united front to protect the boy. Flash-forward several years: the grown David (now played by Frank Lawton) is attending school, where he meets the lovely Agnes Wickfield (Madge Evans). David discovers that Agnes' businessman father (Lewis Stone) is under the thumb of the "'umble" prevaricator Uriah Heep (Roland Young) and the equally disreputable Steerforth (Hugh Williams). With the help of Mr. Micawber-who in a weak moment has taken a job working side-by-side with Heep-David proves Heep's treachery and rescues the Wickfields. By rights, he should marry Agnes, but David impulsively weds the empty-headed Dora (Maureen O'Sullivan). Only after Dora's death does David come to his senses, realizing that Agnes is the true love of his life. Originally, Charles Laughton was slated to play Micawber, but he pulled out of the production, worried that he wouldn't be funny enough. The casting of W.C. Fields was an inspired choice: although he injects his own established screen personality at every opportunity, Fields was born to play Micawber. Likewise, second-billed Lionel Barrymore fits his portrayal of crusty old Dan Peggoty like a glove. In fact, there isn't a false bit of casting in the whole production, and this, as much as Selznick's sumptuous production values, is the key to David Copperfield's enormous success.

Cast

Freddie Bartholomew
as Young David Copperfield
Frank Lawton
as David Copperfield (older)
W.C. Fields
as Mr. Wilkins Micawber
Lionel Barrymore
as Dan Peggotty
Edna May Oliver
as Aunt Betsey Trotwood
Elizabeth Allan
as Mrs. Clara Copperfield/Mrs. Murdstone
Harry Beresford
as Dr. Chillip
Hugh Walpole
as The Vicar
Basil Rathbone
as Mr. Edward Murdstone
Madge Evans
as Agnes Wickfield (older)
Lewis Stone
as Mr. Wickfield
Roland Young
as Uriah Heep
Jean Cadell
as Mrs. Micawber
Jessie Ralph
as Nurse Peggotty
Lennox Pawle
as Mr. Dick
Violet Kemble Cooper
as Jane Murdstone
Una O'Connor
as Mrs. Gummidge
Hugh Williams
as Steerforth
Ivan Simpson
as Limmiter
Fay Chaldecott
as Little Emily as Child
Marilyn Knowlden
as Agnes as Child
Florine McKinney
as Little Emily as Woman
Mabel Colcord
as Mary Ann
Arthur Treacher
as Dishonest Coachman
View All

Critic Reviews for David Copperfield (The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger)

All Critics (3) | Fresh (3)

Audience Reviews for David Copperfield (The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger)

  • Mar 30, 2016
    Not a bad flix, looks great. I never knew Dickens wrote a story where a orphan boy meets nothing but good people.
    cody f Super Reviewer
  • Mar 30, 2016
    Not for all tastes, perhaps, but easily one of the best adaptations of a book to the screen I've ever seen. I had just finished the book when I learned that W. C. Fields had played Micawber in this version. It's the perfect role for him. I've always loved his work, and this is his best work.
    Morris N Super Reviewer
  • Jul 23, 2013
    Not bad but not a great film. I don't think anyone has done justice to David Copperfield as of yet. W.C. Fields is underused in his role.
    John B Super Reviewer

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