Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1935. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by W.P. Lipscomb, S.N. Behrman, based on the novel by Charles Dickens, and the bibliographies The French Revolution by Thomas Carlyle, Journal of the Temple by M. Clery, The Memoirs by Mademoiselle des Echerolles, M. Nicholas. Cinematography by Oliver T. Marsh. Produced by David O. Selznick. Music by Herbert Stothart. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Dolly Tree. Film Editing by Conrad A. Nervig. Academy Awards 1936.
This is quite possibly the best adaptation of a Dickens novel after David Lean’s magnificent Great Expectations. Donald Woods plays the earnest Charles Darnay, who is accused of spying against England when the French revolution takes full swing and he is a sympathizer caught in the middle of it. The film brings to life an acceptably accurate view of the time (as accurate as any studio film from the thirties could be, anyway) while also displaying the absolute chaos that Paris lived under during these historically important times (the best and the worst of them, as the book says). Elizabeth Allan is breathtaking as the woman determined to save her beloved Charles from the guillotine by enlisting the help of the unmotivated Sydney Carton (Ronald Colman), while the excellent supporting cast is rounded out by the always memorable Edna May Oliver, Reginald Owen, and particularly villainous Basil Rathbone.