One year ago, I was outside Charles Dickens house in Portsmouth, waving my Dickens 2012 flag along with many other Dickens fans as people everywhere celebrated the birthday of one of the most celebrated authors of all time.
Charles Dickens is an author I grew up reading and I’m familiar with the majority of his major novels and many of his shorter stories too. I haven’t seen that many film/TV adaptations of his books, but I thought that for his 201st birthday, I would celebrate by listing my top five favourite adaptations of his books.
5) Mickey’s A Christmas Carol (Burny Mattinson, 1983)
I grew up watching this film. Although it is only short, it is by far the most delightful adaptation (closely followed by the 2009 Jim Carrey adaptation) of this classic Christmas tale. The Disney characters all fit perfectly into their A Christmas Carol characters, from Donald Duck as the rotten Scrooge to Mickey as the delightful Bob Cratchit. This film was a childhood favourite of mine, and something we watched every Christmas. Although only a small Disney animation not even available on dvd, this is by far one of the best Disney films ever made.
4) Great Expectations (Alfonso Cuarón, 1998)
This adaptation of my favourite Dickens novel was directed by one of my all-time favourite directors. It was also scored by Patrick Doyle who, despite scoring my least favourite Harry Potter ost (Goblet of Fire), I thought the score for this adaptation was absolutely beautiful. The acting was brilliant (although I am a massive fan of Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow anyway), and despite being a modern twist on the classic tale, it worked really well and it didn’t ruin the original story in any way as it had its own take on the themes within the original novel, and it fitted together perfectly. This is an absolutely classic film that I recommend to anyone to watch first if they are not familiar with the stories of Dickens.
3) David Copperfield (Simon Curtis, 1999)
This adaptation of David Copperfield stars a very young Daniel Radcliffe. It also stars Maggie Smith who is an absolutely wonderful actor adored throughout Britain for her brilliant acting, and Nicholas Lyndhurst who is known mostly for his roles in Goodnight Sweetheart and Only Fools And Horses. Aside from all of the many wonderful British actors, David Copperfield is one of the best Dickens stories, supposedly a very much autobiographical tale of Dickens himself. I thought this two-parter series was a brilliant adaptation of the book (which is one of my favourite Dickens stories), and is a series any fan of costume dramas absolutely must see; not only is it a brilliant portrayal of life in Victorian Britain, but the costumes and sets are visually gorgeous.
2) Great Expectations (Mike Newell, 2012)
The most perfect Dickens novel ever written was adapted into the most beautiful film made in 2012 in the form of Mike Newell’s Great Expectations. There wasn’t a single fault I could find with this film. The score, costumes, sets, story, directing, cinematography, acting and every other part of this film were flawless. I have never enjoyed a Dickens adaptation more, and I was very much surprised that the film received some mixed reviews and wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, especially as the film opened the London Film Festival, and so I assumed that it would be well received. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and think it is definitely worthy of a few nods from the critics, and being such a huge fan of the novel, it was inevitable that at least one adaptation of the book would score highly on my top 5 list. I very much recommend this film to any fans of period dramas, Dickens fans, British cinema fans or even film fans in general, and I very much hope that more people grow to love and appreciate this film as much as I do.
1) Oliver! (Carol Reed, 1968)
The story of poor, orphaned boy, Oliver Twist was the first Charles Dickens story I was ever introduced to when I was around 4 or 5, and sparked an adoration for Dickens stories in me from this very early age. Mark Lester and Jack Wild are absolutely delightful as the singing duo, Oliver and the cheeky Artful Dodger, (and they did in fact go on to star in other movies together, including Melody, which is fabulous!!). The film also boasts many other stars of the time including Oliver Reed, Shani Wallis, Ron Moody and Harry Secombe to name a few. The songs are classics and everyone is familiar with the line “Please Sir, can I have some more?”. This adaptation of Oliver Twist is flawless and such a feel-good movie that there is never a time when I haven’t been in the mood to watch it. This is probably one of the better known adaptations of a Dickens novel, and by far definitely my favourite, not only because of my personal history of watching the film as a child, but because I consider this film one of the best musicals ever made and a cinematic masterpiece.