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 ...
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In a storm, in a workhouse, to a nameless woman, young Oliver Twist is born into parish care where he's overworked and underfed. As he grows older his adventures take him from the ... See full summary »
Based on the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist is about an orphan boy who runs away from a workhouse and meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. Oliver is taken in by the pickpocket ... See full summary »
Based on Charles Dickens' novel, this adaptation traces the childhood of an orphan whose mother dies giving birth to him in an English work-house in the 1820s. Little Oliver Twist, already ... See full summary »
Society-girl thrill seeker Lydia causes the death of motorcycle policeman and is prosecuted by her fiancé Daniel who describes in lurid detail the downfall of Rome. While she's in prison she reforms and Daniel becomes a wasted alcoholic.
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
OLIVER TWIST (First National Pictures, 1922), a Sol Lesser production, directed by Frank Lloyd, is another one of many screen adaptations taken from Charles Dickens' immortal story. Dickens himself described it best in a reprinted passage displayed during the opening credits: "When that tale was first published, I fully expected it would be objected to on high moral grounds. It set a very coarse and shocking circumstance that among the characters in my story, I had chosen from the filthiest, most criminal and degraded of London's population. The character of Sikes is a thief, Fagin a receiver of stolen goods, the boys are pick-pockets and Nancy is a prostitute. Yet I saw no reason, when I wrote the book, why the dregs of life, so long as their speech did not offend the ear, should not serve the purpose of a moral. In this spirit, I wished to show in little Oliver the principle of Good surviving through every adverse circumstance and triumphing at last among what companions I could try him best."
In the now familiar story for anyone who's either read the literary tale or seen the latter screen or made for TV adaptations, the introduction begins with a woman, reportedly found lying on the street and taken inside a workhouse by a Mrs. Thingummy, having given birth to an infant boy. The mother dies, and the old hag, noticing an expensive looking locket in the dead woman's possession, takes it before arranging for the orphan to be sent away and raised in a workhouse. Nine years later, the boy, known to all as Oliver Twist (Jackie Coogan), living on charity along with other workhouse orphans, lives a cruel and abusive life doing two days work in one under strict supervision of Bumble the Beadle (James Marcus). When asking for more gruel/porridge for supper, as punishment, Oliver is confined to his room where the hungry boy dreams of food, glorious food. Later taken to Mr. Sowerberry (Nelson McDowall) where he's to work an undertaker's apprentice, Oliver is further tormented by Noah Claypool (Lewis Sargent), a fellow workmate, through comments said about his deceased mother. A fight ensues, causing Oliver to be put away in a gloomy room. Seeing a way out, he escapes and journeys towards London so not to be sent back to the dreaded workhouse. After seven days of begging for money and food, Oliver finally makes it to his destination where he meets Jack Dawkins (Edouard Thebaol), better known as "The Artful Dodger." Later introduced to Fagin (Lon Chaney) and placed in his Field Lane slum apartment for food and lodging, Oliver, now in the company of thieves, including Bill Sikes (George Siegmann), Fagin's henchman; and Nancy (Gladys Brockwell), Bill's woman; the boy is taught a game of stealing. Oliver is later arrested for stealing while at the same time a stranger named Monk (Carl Stockdale), with some possible connection to Oliver's family history, comes searching for him.
Other members of the "all-star cast" include Aggie Herring (Mrs. Corny), Joan Standing (Charlotte); Esther Ralston (Rose Maylie); Taylor Graves (Charles Bates); and Eddie Boland (Toby Crackitt). Lionel Bellmore, who plays Mr. Brownlow here, would assume another role as Mr. Bumble in the 1933 sound adaptation to OLIVER TWIST (Monogram, 1933) starring Dickie Moore.
In spite of its age and this being a silent movie (with most circulating prints with organ score by John Muri, and you-tube edition with scoring that leaves impressionable thoughts of being played on a toy piano), this 1922 76 minute edition holds up quite well for film buffs, thanks to Lloyd's authentic direction of 19th century London setting believably captured on screen. Though it would be logical for Lon Chaney's bearded Fagin, giving that character actor Tully Marshall feel to it, to steal every scene he's in. He does, but many of the film's best moments belong to little Jackie. It's certainly hard to forget his sad face emotions capturing the essence of Dickens character, particularly one who's never experience happiness. Even in a courtroom scene where the accused thief is forced to stand on a platform as he fights dizziness and keeping his eyes open to what's happening around him, brings forth emotional pity, though not by his stern judges. Only when taken in by the wealthy Mr. Brownlow is he given that opportunity to find the true meaning of happiness and considering himself one of the family. After abducted back to the gang of thieves who strip him of his luxury clothing and revert him back to his former pauper looking appearance is quite an emotional impact for little Oliver, especially when in the clutches of the likes of Bill Sikes. No wonder Coogan became the most popular child actor of his time.
Once feared lost, a print was reportedly discovered in Yugoslavia around 1975. How fortunate to now have OLIVER TWIST available in our mist. Distributed to video cassette in the 1980s by Blackhawk and later Republic Home Video, it's latter distribution by Kino Video on VHS and later DVD format, with same organ scoring by Muri, contains some color tinting as well. After many years of obscurity, OLIVER TWIST was finally presented on cable television's TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES (TCM premiere: August 15, 2011) where it occasionally plays as part of its "Silent Sundays" festival. A worthy rediscovery of both film and Jackie Coogan from anyone wanting more. (***)
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