Saturday, June 24, 2017

Two Of The Greatest Acting Scenes In Film History!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                            "David Copperfield," both the novel and Selznick's 1935 film, are why I am today a Dickensian.  I wonder how many people recall the 1935 film, directed by the great George Cukor, and demonstrating, on Selznick's part, the kind of reverence for a literary work, which would culminate, four years later, with "Gone With The Wind."

                               This is a period film, in every sense of the word.  The period is both the Nineteenth Century world of Dickens, and that of 1935 Hollywood.  The opening sequence of this film is almost silent movie camp, and yet there is a purpose to it.  From start to finish, from credits to end titles, with cast, costumes, and settings, not to mention script, Selznick's film is like opening an expensive Victorian edition of the novel.  No other Dickens adaptation, save David Lean's 1947 "Great Expectations," can make that claim.

                                Selznick assembled a galaxy of fine actors--including a brilliant Maureen O'Sullivan as Dora Spenlow--but, even if one is not partial to Dickens, there are two scenes that should be witnessed for the brilliance of the acting alone.  Even the actors who surround them, and don't speak, are locked into their roles, but the scenes involve veteran Edna Mae Oliver, and, in a surprising, deeply moving dramatic performance, W.C. Fields.

                                 Both scenes are retributory.  The first is when Aunt Betsey Trotwood lets the Murdstones (who played, with full venality, by Basil Rathbone and Violet Kemble Cooper) have it, for their abusive treatment of both David and his mother.  The second is when Wilkins Micawber, played by Fields, does the same to Uriah Heep, brilliantly played by Roland Young, for his treatment of Judge Wickfield, and his daughter, Agnes, beautifully played by Lewis Stone and Madge Evans.

                                Edna Mae Oliver's scene should come as no surprise, considering her versatility as an actress.  While some may prefer her "catfight" with Blanche Yurka, as Madame DeFarge, in Selznick's 1936 "A Tale Of Two Cities," I prefer her understated, deadly cunning, in "David Copperfield."  Her vitriol is the match the Murdstones finally meet, and Oliver's delivery is sharp and chilling.  And the Murdstones know they have met their match.  Good riddance!

                                But W.C. Fields is a revelation throughout.  However, when he dishes it out to Uriah Heep, it is his finest moment on film.  Why he never did more dramatic roles I will never understand.  Nor, though nominated for Best Picture Of 1935, I cannot understand how a single actor from this "David Copperfield" did not receive a single Oscar nomination.

                                 How I wish I could show, on here, these two brilliant scenes.  They may be out
there, but I have failed to find them.

                                 And, as revival houses become history, I fear this film will be forgotten.

                                It shouldn't. It shows that, once upon a time, there was an artistry to how Hollywood approached literature, that, dated though it be, holds up better than what is offered now!

                                Allow this film, and these scenes, to work their magic on you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Victoria Adams said...

Good news found the Edna Mae scene on YouTube.
It is so neat what one can find on google; I don't even have a computer, I am doing all this on a little old iPhone!

The Raving Queen said...

I found it, and saw it again.
What a treat, and sheer brilliance.
Thank you.