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Oliver's mother, a penniless outcast, died giving birth to him. As a young boy Oliver is brought up in a workhouse, later apprenticed to an uncaring undertaker, and eventually is taken in by a gang of thieves who befriend him for their own purposes. All the while, there are secrets from Oliver's family history waiting to come to light. Written by
Good Version of the Story With Coogan, Chaney, & More
With a good cast headed by Jackie Coogan and Lon Chaney, plus decent atmosphere that conjures up the sights of Dickens' world, this version of "Oliver Twist" works well. The Dickens story makes wonderful movie material, but it is also quite melodramatic, and for a film version to succeed requires convincing characters and a believable recreation of the world of the novel. Coogan, Chaney, and director Frank Lloyd all get the job done.
Coogan was of course the best and obvious choice in his day to play Oliver. But Chaney, although much more limited in his screen time, is even more memorable. Fagin is the kind of role that Chaney most excelled at. His make-up, mannerisms, and gestures are all impressive, and it is amazing the way that without dialogue he can so quickly and efficiently define his character's relationships with the other characters. The rest of the cast are mostly lesser-known names, but they all do a good job of establishing their characters, too. The settings are a bit plain at times, but are always consistent with the story, and they do the job of showing us the varied places where Oliver lived the different stages of his young life.
There have many versions of the Oliver story, and the terrific David Lean version from the 40's is still the one by which all others should be measured. But this is a good adaptation, and it has almost everything you could ask for in a silent version of the story.
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