Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1935. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Adaptation by Hugh Walpole, Screenplay by Howard Estabrook, based on the novel by Charles Dickens. 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 Robert Kern. Academy Awards 1935.
Somehow, this Hollywood adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel manages to pare the mammoth story down to two and a half hours and not let it ever feel flimsy, and George Cukor does such a wonderful job coaxing heartfelt performances from his actors that even literary purists will appreciate it. The story follows the young boy of the title (Freddie Bartholomew) from his early days being raised by his widowed mother in a country cottage until she marries a very evil man who drives her to an early grave and turns his harsh attentions to David. Eventually, David grows up to take part in the business world, finding new love in his quirky aunt (Edna May Oliver) and affection in a beautiful girl whom he marries (Maureen O’Sullivan). W.C. Fields is marvelous as the hopeless Mr. Macawber, who is a friend to David at some times and an obstacle for him at others.