Oliver Twist (UK, 1948)
Directed by David Lean
Starring John Howard Davies, Alec Guinness, Robert Newton, Kay Walsh
BFI Top 100: #46 (1999)
Charles Dickens as a storyteller is inherently episodic. Having cut his teeth as a journalist and shorthand writer, he carried over this approach into his works of fiction, which was itself consolidated by their serialisation in newspapers. Throughout his novels Dickens tells his stories like a journalist, having a great eye for human behaviour and social injustice. He paints a vivid introductory picture of a character, including the elaborately grotesque name, and then introduces other aspects in small episodes or bites of information until the story has run its course.
The Hobbit, Lean is using as a reference an abridged version of the text created by Alec Guinness for the stage. One of the biggest problems he has is that his title character is not always his main protagonist: sometimes the story is more interested in Fagin, or Sikes, or Nancy, or the two rich gentlemen.
Cinderella of the regression in attitudes to women following World War II, with the women whose defiance of gender roles helped to win the war being expected to go back to the kitchen and bedroom as if nothing had ever happened. In this case, women are depicted in one of two massively limiting ways: either as the comedy battleaxe, in the case of Mrs. Bumble, or the hysterical, vulnerable mother figure, such as Nancy.
Oliver Twist features in my recent article for WhatCulture! on Dickens adaptations, which you can read in full here.
NEXT REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)