Nicholas Nickleby (1947)

Nicholas Nickleby (1947)

“My nephew will find it harder than he thinks to get the better of me.”

After the death of his father, Nicholas Nickleby (Derek Bond) arrives with his mother (Mary Merrall) and sister (Sally Ann Howes) to seek support from his cold, money-lending Uncle Ralph (Cedric Hardwicke). Hardwicke finds Howes a job as a seamstress, and Bond a position as a tutor in a boarding school run by a sadistic headmaster (Alfred Drayton) and his wife (Sybil Thorndike), where Bond befriends and rescues a crippled young man named Smike (Aubrey Woods). While rooming with his uncle’s sympathetic clerk (Bernard Miles), Bond struggles to find steady work and falls for a beautiful young woman (Jill Balcon) whose gambling father (George Relph) is indebted to Hardwicke.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Charles Dickens Adaptations
  • Class Relations
  • Historical Drama

Helmed by Brazilian-born director Alberto Cavalcanti, this adaptation of Charles Dickens’ third novel — after The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist — was released in between David Lean’s Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948). While it doesn’t reach the narrative heights of either of those classics, it possesses enough historical charm and atmospheric cinematography to remain of note on its own merits:

It’s chock-a-block full of characters from Dickens’ 952-page serialized novel:

… with Cavalcanti and screenwriter John Dighton admirably keeping us engaged and able to follow along as Bond and his loved ones encounter a seemingly endless string of bad apples:

… with a few decent ones tossed in here and there:

Note: Cavalcanti was clearly a genius of sorts, originally studying law, architecture, and interior design before embarking on his career in cinema, primarily making his mark with this and “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” sequence from the omnibus film Dead of Night (1945).

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Cedric Hardwicke as Uncle Ralph
  • Gordon Dines’ cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s probably must-see for Dickens fans.


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