Today is the anniversary of the release date of David O. Selznick’s all-star 1935 Hollywood adaptation of Dickens’ David Copperfield.
Today this film is best remembered today for W.C. Fields’ magical turn as Micawber, his only “legit” role, and a performance he knocked out of the park. One never regrets any Fields performance, but his turn in this film does make you lament performances that MIGHT have been, such as Fields as Captain Andy in Show Boat (a part originally devised for him), Fields as Don Quixote (which was being developed at one time), Fields as the Wizard of Oz (which came close to happening, though one hardly regrets that Frank Morgan ended up with the part), Fields as Falstaff, Fields as the Duke in Huckleberry Finn. Oh the might have beens. But the man was in bad health and aging in the talkie era. The window was small, and like I said we must be grateful for what we have.
Directed by George Cukor, the film’s cast is almost unbelievable in the proliferation of faces nearly as welcome as Fields’: Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Edna Mae Oliver, Basil Rathbone, Una O’Connor, Maureen O’Sullivan et al. Oddly, one of the more minor stars in the picture is the man who plays the adult David, Frank Lawton. In fact the film is a bit of too much…trying to cram in all the events of a fairly epic tale, it zips along from plot point to plot point like a speed date on real speed. But it packs plenty of magic nonetheless.
For more on classic comedy stars don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To find out more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold