“There is a sickness these days which labels itself humanitarianism.”
Just prior to the French Revolution, an alcoholic British lawyer (Ronald Colman) falls for a sweet young woman (Elizabeth Allan) whose father (Henry B. Walthalle) was held captive by the French ruling class for years — however, Allan’s romantic sights are set on the kind relative (Donald Woods) of an evil aristocrat (Basil Rathbone) whose fate is about to change as the people of France rise up in rebellion.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Basil Rathbone Films
- Character Arc
- Charles Dickens Films
- Class Relations
- French Revolution
- Historical Drama
- Love Triangle
- Ronald Colman Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “popular adaptation of Dickens’s novel of the French Revolution, expensively produced by M-G-M”, is “slow in spots and the direction by Jack Conway is too restrained during the scenes after the common people take over”, but concedes that “the picture is well cast, has sweep, and captures the times in which it is set.” He adds that “Basil Rathbone makes a brief but effective appearance as a heartless marquis who’s upset that his horses might have been injured while trampling a peasant boy” (!):
… and notes that another highlight is “Blanche Yurka steal[ing] the film as the vengeful revolutionary Madame Defarge”:
… who engages in a “wrestling match with Miss Pross (Edna May Oliver).”
Having never read this particular novel by Dickens, I found it a bit challenging to dive into the complex tale and care about the characters — but as soon as Colman entered the scene, I was more engaged: it actually took me a moment to recognize him, given how deeply immersed he is in his performance as “a crooked, heavy-drinking, politically apathetic English lawyer”:
… who undergoes a significant change of heart. His role, as well as the fine cinematography and period sets, make this worth a look by those who are curious, but it’s not must-see for all film fanatics.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton
- Atmospheric cinematography
No, though of course Dickens fans will want to check it out.