Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

David Copperfield


This is a book so massive, so full of plot, that it cries out for a 4-part miniseries, like Lonesome Dove. Here we get slightly over two hours and, though everyone involved gives it his or her best, it feels severely abbreviated. There are many, many scenes that last 15 seconds or less before a rapid blackout. Much plot is eliminated. The few characters who are given enough screen time really shine, in particular W.C. Fields as Micawber and Edna May Oliver as Aunt Betsey. Roland Young is perfectly (and ‘umbly) creepy as Uriah Heep. You’d barely recognize him as the man who would go on to play the befuddled Cosmo Topper so well. But truly, David Copperfield is not my favorite of the works of Dickens. DC himself is such a dunce, you just want to grab his lapels and shake him when he marries that childish twit, Dora, when a good woman loves him. And I felt a little sorry for Freddie Bartholomew as the younger David. He doesn’t have much to do but snivel and cry. Dickens had that worshipful Victorian attitude toward his child protagonists such as Copperfield and Oliver Twist (exception, good, stalwart Pip in Great Expectations). He was much better with grown-up characters. Still, it’s an impressive attempt, and it looks great.