John Martin-Harvey as Sydney Carton in ‘The Only Way’ (1927)

I’d been hoping to write about the 1927 British silent film The Only Way, based on A Tale of  Two Cities, as part of my series of Dickens postings – but so far I haven’t managed to see this film. The BFI does have it available to watch online but only to registered universities/colleges and libraries – my local libraries are in the process of registering, but this is likely to take a while.

However, though I haven’t managed to see the film as yet, I couldn’t resist sharing this photograph of the film’s star, Sir John Martin-Harvey, as Sydney Carton. He had also played the role on stage many times and there are many striking photos and even paintings of him as Carton online.

the only way

I will hope to write more about this film in future when I finally get a chance to see it!

12 thoughts on “John Martin-Harvey as Sydney Carton in ‘The Only Way’ (1927)

  1. Thanks for alerting me to the fact that the BFI have now digitised it. They have a nitrate copy which is tinted. The two public showings I’ve been to are in black and white. Having seen the tinted original first, the black and white came as a real disappointment. JMH has trouble coming over as a convincing double for a man over half his age, but as a record of his acting in his most important role it’s invaluable. And his son Michael gets a tiny cameo right near the end.


    • Chris, I would have loved to see a public screening during the Dickens festival at the BFI earlier this year but unfortunately wasn’t able to get there. Sorry to hear the tinting on the nitrate wasn’t there and that you were disappointed – I know that the tinting on many silent films is an important element. Your page about Martin-Harvey is great – I live in East Anglia (in Ipswich) and hadn’t realised he was from an Essex family until seeing your page. Thanks very much for the comment.
      I should have mentioned that the film can also be seen at BFI mediatheques as well as in libraries, so I do hope to see it by one of these routes soon.


    • Great, isn’t it? BTW I believe this photo is from a stage performance (when he was still Mr rather than Sir) and that he looks older in the film.


  2. An intriguing relic here to say the least Judy, and one well-worth checking out I would opine. This looks like one worth seeing as a stand alone too, not only for the Dickens completist. I love the photo too!


    • I am hoping to see this before too long and report back on it, Sam. I almost feel as if that photo is of the ‘real’ Carton – it looks so perfect for the character.


  3. I’ve watched the BFI copy online now. It’s all in in B&W :-( The outdoor scenes should be in gold, the romantic ones (including the final one) in pink. The nighttime scenes should be in blue. Having seen it twice with a piano accompaniment at the NFT it’s quite trying without it. The final scene (“It is a far, far better thing…”) is interesting because JMH “thinks” the lines rather than saying them. The words are on the intertitles.


    • Glad you were able to see it, Chris, but sorry it doesn’t have the tints – thank you for the information on those! I’m sure you must have missed the piano accompaniment, which does add so much to a silent film. I’ll let you know when I do finally get to see the film and hopefully put up a further piece about it then.


    • I do wish it would get a DVD release, Gina – will let you know if I ever hear anything on that front! I still haven’t been able to see it but do hope to do so.


  4. Just to say that I have finally seen this version, via two visits to the BFI mediatheque in London – I was very impressed and hope to write a piece about it in the next few days. A shame that it is so hard to see this film.


  5. Pingback: The Only Way (Herbert Wilcox, 1927) | Movie classics

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