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David Copperfield (BBC)
David Copperfield
Actors: David Yelland, Patience Collier, Colette O'Neil, Pat Keen, John Gill (IV)
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
NR     2006     5hr 25min

David Yelland stars as David Copperfield in this superb BBC adaptation of one of Charles Dickens? best-loved and most autobiographical of novels. Torn from his loving mother and devoted maid by his wicked step-father, Dav...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: David Yelland, Patience Collier, Colette O'Neil, Pat Keen, John Gill (IV)
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Drama
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/04/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 5hr 25min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A dearth of Copperfields
bookloversfriend | United States | 09/15/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"If the BBC can devote 26 episodes to the Forsyte Saga (an excellent movie), surely they can devote 12 episodes to the greatest novel in the English language. Or to put it another way, if the BBC can devote five hours to an inferior novel like "The Buccaneers", surely they can devote twice that number to David Copperfield.

The 1974 version of the book is 5 hours long, the longest version so far. It includes all the important events of the novel, but only touches on these events and the many characters and does not have time to make the events as effective as they could be. The script is creditable except a few times where it ducked a dramatic scene, breaking before and coming in afterward, including the scene which Tolstoy called the greatest in all of world literature--the storm at sea. It is also a low budget film.

The casting is inferior with weak performances of almost all the actors (the exceptions being Anthony Andrews as Steerforth, the actress who played Aunt Betsy and the actor who played Heap, who gave us the best Uriah of any of the movie versions). Outstanding examples of bad casting were (1) David's mother, who should have been young and dainty instead of 40 and rugged, and (2) Dora, who should have been 16 and petite instead of late 30s and tall and sturdy. Also, the actor played Macawber too seriously without the touch of comic absurdity which the book has and which the part required. The actor who played the grown-up David did not look half so bad as the picture on the cover and played his part adequately.

The 1935 version with its stark black and white resembles the Cruikshank drawings in the book, and many of the performances are definitive: Freddy Bartholomew as young David, Edna Mae Oliver as Aunt Betsy, Basil Rathbone as Murdstone, Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Peggoty, as well as the people who played David's mother, little Emily, and most of the minor characters. The settings are a joke, cardboard, painted backdrops and the arid landscape of California filling in for the lush green English countryside. Still, it is an effective and indelible movie, marred only by having to leave so much out (2 hours 10 minutes) and by the horrendously inappropriate casting of W.C. Fields as Macawber (the most laconic actor in the movies to play the most loquacious character in all literature?!) His laboring to get the words out is painful to watch. The director, George Cukor, wanted Charles Laughton. Louis B. Mayer overruled him. But the filmmaker knew how to make movies, and the screenwriter knew how to write screenplays. The same cannot be said for the other film versions.

The 1970 version is a joke. Some smart-aleck screenwriter thought it would be clever to chop the story up into bits, toss them in the air, pick them up randomly and show them to the audience. All the moving events are thus rendered totally ineffective. This version is useful only as a lesson in how to ruin a great story.

The 1999 version is only three hours long and has more elaborate sets, some location shooting, and background music, but suffers from poor or inappropriate casting. Maggie Smith chose to play Aunt Betsy as a straight serious role, depriving the character of the comic touches which make Aunt Betsy such a cherished character. Bob Hoskins' performance bears no relation to Macawber, thus depriving us of one of the most colorful characters in all literature. Incredibly, the actor chosen to play Murdstone looks almost identical to Hoskins! Imelda Staunton portrays Mrs. Macawber very well, and the boy does well enough as young David, but the rest of the cast is lamentable. And the omission of Traddles is a loss. The script is hit and miss. But the most serious problems are the introduction of a narrator who is constantly narrating and keeping the audience at one remove from the events, and the actor who played the grown-up David, who constantly smiled and smirked, sometimes even in the tragic scenes. He seemed to have no other facial expression.

Bottom line: If you can only afford one version, the 1974 version is your best bet. Alas."
Best version of David Copperfield
goosepup | Massachusetts, USA | 04/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have seen quite a few versions of David Copperfield and, in my opinion, this one is the best. The actors are outstanding, with a special nod to Anthony Andrews who plays a chilling Steerforth, and the locations and script are excellent also. I highly recommend this production. I have been waiting for it to come to DVD for a long time, and I'm so happy it finally has. It is definitely worth seeing."
Literate, thoughtful, and relatively thorough adaptation
Hugh Oliver | Provo, UT | 03/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This 1974 production, while not perfect, is still far and away the best David Copperfield I have seen. It is written and acted by people who seem to know the novel. It is very well cast. I always thought Edna Mae Oliver and Maggie Smith were fine in the role of Aunt Betsey, but Patience Collier's Aunt Betsey is, in my opinion, definitive. Her performance is simply outstanding.
This is the only adaptation I know of which has David's friend Traddles, and he really is much more vital to the story than one might think.
A previous reviewer called Anthony Andrews' Steerforth chilling and he certainly is.
Others have commented on David himself being the least interesting character of the book, and in other versions of the story the portrayals of the adult David have been bland. David Yelland's title character is a vulnerable and sometimes naive hero and is quite likeable.
The sparse use of soundtrack music actually works very well with this production and it is refreshing to watch performances which are dramatic but never over the top or artificial.
For what it is worth, I think Mr. Tungay, one of the teachers at David's boyhood school, looks a lot like Beetlejuice, from the movie of the same name.

I highly recommend this version of David Copperfield."
Splendid performances make this a winner.
Brent Carleton | 07/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Well written, well designed, well acted, and well directed, this solidly produced BBC mini-series merits praise all around.

Mr. Dickens' novel is not easily truncated for television, even in six installments, but the scenarists here have done such an admirable job of distilling the essential story points and characterizations, that viewers are afforded a well rounded treatment.

At first, David Yelland seems an odd choice for the title role, given that his physiognomy does not especially match with the youngster who plays the child David in the early chapters. Mr. Yelland is further hampered by a peculiar (and anachronistic) fringed bang hairdo, that looks like nothing so much as a Beatle wig. Despite these handicaps, however, he more than justifies his selection by his excellent performance.

Not only does he manage the emotional depth required in the stories later chapters, upon the betrayal of Steerforth etc,. but manages a comedy scene (a disastrous dinner party with wife Dora) with expert understated finesse.

Indeed, space precludes individual acting citations, since the players are down to the smallest bit, all outstanding in characterization, appearance and deportment. This is truly superlative ensemble acting.

Particular mention must be accorded Patricia Routledge, in her hilarious turn as Mrs. Micawber, Arthur Lowe as Mr. Micawber, Patience Collier as Betsy Trotwood, Anthony Andrews, (both chilling and attractive) as Steerforth, and perhaps most memorably, Jacqueline Pearce, (of Hammer horror fame) as Rosa Dartle and Sheila Keith as Mrs. Steerforth.

Indeed, the scenes between Misses Pearce and Keith, rife with bitter and hidden anguish, are shot with a tension and blood freezing quality, you'll not soon forget! (all the better to offset the sentimentality elsewhere).

Production design in both settings and costumes is apt, and the production team are to be commended on the way they cleverly fused outdoor footage with studio sets in seamless fashion.