Dickens in December

As a lifelong Dickens obsessive, I’ve been vaguely intending all year to do a series of postings on films based on his books for his bicentenary, but have only got round to a couple of postings, on the 1935 films of David Copperfield and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Now it’s December and, if I don’t get down to it right now, the moment (or the year) will be gone.

Of course, Christmas is always thought of as the season for Dickens (though there was a lot more to him as a writer than that)  – so I’m going to aim to post something about films associated with and inspired by my favourite novelist every day this month. Realistically, I don’t think I will come up with a full-length review every day, but there will be something Dickensian here for those few people who keep faith with my erratic blogging.

dickens before soundTo start off with, let me just recommend the region 2 BFI DVD Dickens Before Sound, which followed on from their fascinating Silent Shakespeare collection. It features some of the very earliest film adaptations of  Dickens, made between 1901 and  the 1920s. Most of the films are very short and focus on just brief incidents from his novels, but they give a feeling of just how well-known and well-loved his works were. I was especially amazed by Gabriel Grub, a series of lantern slides portraying the short story from Pickwick  Papers which was the inspiration for A Christmas Carol.  Also featured are an adaptation of the Carol from 1901, DW Griffith’s version of The Cricket on the Hearth, and more snippets from Pickwick, Nicholas Nickleby, Great Expectations and David Copperfield, as well as Frank Lloyd’s full-length silent feature of Oliver Twist from 1922. Of course, Dickens’ voice and use of language are central to his appeal, but he is also a very visual writer, who was interpreted by great illustrators like Cruikshank and Phiz, and adapted for the stage from the very beginning – and these  early films tie in with that.

4 thoughts on “Dickens in December

  1. I will also be placing my order for the most affordable “Dickens Before Sound” BFI DVD today Judy!!!

    Looks like you are following up this glorious ‘announcement’ post with some magnificent features!!


    • Sam, I hope you enjoy the DVD – if I remember rightly, you liked the BFI’s ‘Silent Shakespeare’, so I’m confident you will enjoy this one too. Thanks so much… and yes, I’m slipping back into full Dickens obsession mode with frightening speed after staving it off for a year or two.


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