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Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: A Tale Of Two Cities {1935 Movie Review}

A Tale of Two Cities _ 1935 based upon Charles Dickens' 1859 historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The film stars Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton, Donald Woods and Elizabeth Allan. The supporting players include Basil Rathbone, Blanche Yurka, and Edna May Oliver.

I have a love/hate relationship with movies made in the 30's and 40's. The films based on classic books are usually terrible adaptions (P&P was the worst, although TSP was pretty good – though I didn't enjoy it that much) and several others that are just based on, real life, I guess, are not so great. One time watches are what I usually call them (I love pretty much anything with Jimmy Stewart in it, though). So when I sat down to watch this movie version of ATOTC, I wasn't expecting much, if anything. I'd suggested watching it, because if a movie-to-book adaption is bad, I always enjoying discussing its bad points with my siblings/blogging friends. In this case, however, there would be no bad points.

It was stupendously amazing.

Sure, there were the typical aspects of a 30's-40's movie – melodramatic music (honestly, I don't know why they feel it necessary to list the composer in the credits, since all the music sounds pretty much the same for any of those movies), some overacting (mostly on the part of the actress who plays Lucie, who, incidentally was the typical blonde actress that one sees in every. single. old movie), and a couple of other timeless cliches, but overall, it was spectacular, in every sense of the word. The mob scenes, the all-star casting (all-star for way back then, of course), and the surprisingly accurate adaption made for a smashingly good film.

158. A Tale of Two Cities (1935, dir. Conway)  Rating: B+  Finished: May 4, 2013

Yes, the book-to-screen adaption was one of the best I've ever seen. Naturally, things had to be cut (when aren't they?), but it was done very well. Little touches here and there showed that the film directors had obviously read the book. A lot of the dialog was taken straight from it, although a few bits were moved around and given to different characters (for instance, instead of Charles saying to Lucie that someday George Washington could be as famous as King George, Sydney says it at a dinner party in the Manette home, much later in the movie). I really loved the way everything stayed so accurate, and it wasn't just with the plot/dialog. The character portrayals were, for the most part, completely true to the book.

"You're going to die in his place. Why?" "He is my friend."  A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1935)To start with, Ronald Colman gave a stellar performance as Sydney Carton. From what I gather, he was the Tom Hiddleston or Aaron Tveit of his day, and his portrayal of Sydney goes to show why. Acting, voice, everything, was I really, really loved how he played one of my favorite characters in literary history. And it was completely accurate. At first, you could really feel the loathing Sydney had for himself and then as he gradually changes under Lucie's guidance and his love for her, your opinion starts to change as well. Just like in the book (in my opinion, the musical version of Sydney doesn't quite capture that – more on that in my review later on this week). And the way he played The End, so heartbreaking. The one and only time I've really cried in an old b&w film. Other than the epic tragedy of the role, he also had several funny scenes/lines – it made for a good, balanced performance.

As for the rest of the actors/actresses...they all played their parts quite well (although, compared to Sydney...). Lucie was probably my least favorite character portrayal as she seemed to weepy and fainty (is that a word?). And her acting wasn't that great (during the wedding, she says “I wonder why Sydney didn't come to my wedding...” HELLO. Sorry. I guess that's not bad acting, per se, but it struck me as really, really dumb – book Lucie isn't at all like that). Charles was okay, as was Dr Manette. The Defarges were really, really good, though. I really liked both of their portrayals (more on them later this week). Miss Pross and Mr Lorry were great too. I pretty much liked everyone, with the exception of Lucie (fun fact: I have several copies of ATOTC and one of them is illustrated, and almost all the drawings look like they were taken from the movie. It's pretty cool).

This film is definitely worth your time. You won't regret watching it, especially if you're a period drama fan.



Miss Jane Bennet said...

Okay, I'll admit, I was *not* expecting a favorable review of this movie--probably because it was black and white and old. ;P But after reading this, I might just have to watch it--great review! :)
Luckily, it's on YouTube. =)

Maddie Rose said...

I just finished ATOTC with my English class. I asked if we would be watching the movie and my teacher said no. I was disappointed, but I got the impression she didn't think much of ATOTC's film adaptations.

So I wasn't going to watch this movie... but after your review I think I will. :) If only just for a great portrayal of dear Sydney Carton. :)

Amy Wegner said...

My sister and I like to watch this movie every once in a while. IT really is a surprisingly good movie for the times. I love how Ronald Colman played Sidney. You could really pity him, and, like you said, his performance in the end... heartbreaking! I read that he played Sidney on the condition that he wouldn't have to play Charles Darney also, which I think was a good thing.

I agree about the woman who played Lucie. I've seen her in a couple other old movies, and she acts exactly the same in all of them... not a fan of her acting, but it was ok... didn't take away from the movie. :)

Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry, perfect! Dr. Mannette, excellent... Charles Darney, Pretty good. Haha, pretty much agree on what you said for all of it! :D

Really enjoyed the Review! I thought we were the only ones to enjoy it! :D Love the book, and appreciate how close they stayed to the book.


Lydia said...

I will have to watch this now! Thanks for letting me know about this version!

Hayden said...

I thought this movie was marvelous! It's actually the reason I read the book in the first place, and when people complain that there isn't a good movie version of A Tale of Two cities, I point them to this one. (although maybe it's just because Ronald Coleman is so great as Sydney Carton...)But we all greatly enjoyed the Defarges and Miss Pross as well.

Oh- and fun fact- when we saw the "other knitting lady" (not sure what her character name was- can't remember) who's always with Madame Defarge, we kept commenting that she looked like the old hag (evil witch in disguise) in Disney's animated Snow White...and then found out the two characters were played by the same actress! but I guess the movies were made about the same time :)

Rose P said...

Interesting review.
I didn't expect that this version was any good, it being from the thirties and all...but now I might just have to watch it.

Caroline L. said...

RONALD COLMAN IS PERFECT THE END. I love every movie of his that I have seen - his acting in every one is just WOW. And he is suuuuuch a suave gentleman. I canNOT get over his voice! He obviously totally understood Sydney's character and brought it to life so exquisitely. THE END SCENE. I CRIED BUCKETS. No, but seriously. I used tissues. It was that bad. Seriously a flawless performance!

Which completely makes up for any stodginess of the rest of the film. Lucie's portrayal bugged me, too. As did Charles's. But Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross were great. I've seen those two actors in a lot of old films, and I liked seeing their familiar faces again. =]

Eva said...

Yep, those are pretty much my thoughts on the film. Ronald as Sydney made up for any imperfections in the rest of the film <3

Gina said...

I think the Internet ate my comment! Trying again . . . I agree that Elizabeth Allan wasn't a good Lucie. My favorite portrayal is by Dorothy Tutin in the 1958 movie.

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