While this film is not especially well-remembered today, and has been eclipsed by practically all of the later film versions of the Charles Dickens novel, it did begin a Hollywood "fad" for Dickens that lasted for about five years. It was followed by Great Expectations (1934) (a poorly reviewed and now forgotten version with Jane Wyatt and Phillips Holmes), the classic MGM all-star David Copperfield (1935), Universal's Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) (with Claude Rains), the classic A Tale of Two Cities (1935) - another MGM Dickens blockbuster - and MGM's 1938 A Christmas Carol (1938) with Reginald Owen. There would be very few versions of Dickens from Hollywood after that; most films based on Dickens' books would be made by British studios. However, notable exceptions have been the many versions of "A Christmas Carol" produced for American television. See more »
My baby, my boy. I want to see him.
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Not the best adaptation, but wonderfully entertaining nonetheless
This 1933 version of the Charles Dickens masterpiece is a true oddity. Featuring performances ranging from very good to hysterically bad, and camera work ranging from amateurish, with glimpses of visual artistry and beauty. Dickie Moore is a very young Oliver Twist, with the face of an angel, but zero acting ability. This fact didn't bother me as some of the faces this kid makes are just so hilarious and inappropriate for the scene he is playing, that you just gotta love him! It is actually an endearing performance. Sonny Ray, the actor who played the Artful Dodger had to be pushing 40, which also brought about some unintentional laughter. He also was utterly devoid of any acting talent whatsoever, which makes me wonder just why he was cast at all. However others fare much better here. William Boyd was quite effective and fearful as the sinister Bill Sykes, and Irving Pichel certainly looked the part of Fagin. Also worth mentioning is an actress named Barbara Kent, who played the part of 'Rose'. Again, no acting talent whatsoever, but she possessed that certain porcelain beauty that is associated with silent film stars, and she is delightful to look at here. It must not be forgotten that this is a 1933 production, and one of the first 'talkies'. This was a transitional time for cinema, as actors were still employing the techniques that were used during the silent film days, where body movements and facial expressions were greatly exaggerated in order to get the point across without spoken dialog. This kind of acting is sometimes present here, and i do not think it hinders the production. The best performance has to be that of Nancy Sikes, played wonderfully here by actress Doris Lloyd. She played that difficult part with the right measure of hardness, with a heart and a good nature kept well hidden from scoundrels Fagin and Bill. The fact that this has such a low budget lends this old film a spooky, sometimes surreal quality. There is some effective use of shadows and light. The dark, murky quality here makes Fagin and the others appear as sickly degenerates. And best of all it follows the Dickens story quite faithfully, omitting certain things for budget reasons, most likely. I love the story so much, and those who love to see these immortal characters come to life should get great enjoyment out of this film. This is the third film adaptation of Oliver that I have obtained. I enjoyed the Polanski version, and the David Lean version even more. So by the time I got around to this version it was just a pleasure to see all these characters that I know so well come to life in yet another production of this timeless story. Also the fact that this film is so old lends it another level of mystery and strange beauty somehow. Sometimes a low budget adds to the grittiness of the material. And this is one of the few versions that includes the final scene of Fagin in prison, where he is visited by Oliver, an important scene that is sadly missing from the David Lean version. For fans of the book and the other films, I recommend hunting down this lesser-known film version of a literary masterpiece. This should be a treat especially, for fans of the earlier days of cinema.
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