There have been over a dozen film and TV versions of Charles Dickens’s novel David Copperfield, the oldest filmed in 1911. A 1999 BBC TV version, with a young Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter), Bob Hoskins and Ian McKellen, is definitely worth a look, and there’s also a passable TV film with Hugh Dancy, Paul Bettany and Sally Field made in 2000 (a 1993 animated film, with Sheena Easton, Julian Lennon and Michael York is so awful it’s almost worth seeing). But the best made-for-cinema version remains the 1935 film, directed by George Cukor and starring WC Fields as Micawber, a role he would always be associated with.
It’s the story, of course, of poor unfortunate David, whose father died before he was born and whose mother goes on to remarry Murdstone (Rathbone), a man who rules the house with an iron fist. When his mother dies, David is sent to work in London and crosses paths with a variety of interesting characters, including Micawber (Fields, who replaced Charles Laughton in the part), the scheming Uriah Heep (Roland Young), and the young Dora (Maureen O’Sullivan). While it would be impossible to include every character and event from Dickens’s weighty novel, Cukor manages to keep much of the book intact, and delivers a classic adaptation brimming with impressive costumes and sets, and memorable performances.
Is David Copperfield suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Children old enough to sit through and be entertained by a Dickens’ adaptation should fine nothing scary here.
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