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The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1947)

Approved | | Drama | 3 December 1947 (USA)
Nineteenth century England. When Nicholas Nickleby's father dies and leaves his family destitute, his uncle, the greedy moneylender, Ralph Nickleby, finds Nicholas a job teaching in a ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Derek Bond ...
Mary Merrall ...
Athene Seyler ...
Alfred Drayton ...
Vida Hope ...
Roy Hermitage ...
Aubrey Woods ...
Patricia Hayes ...
Cyril Fletcher ...
Mr.Mantalini / Alfred Mantalini
Cathleen Nesbitt ...


Nineteenth century England. When Nicholas Nickleby's father dies and leaves his family destitute, his uncle, the greedy moneylender, Ralph Nickleby, finds Nicholas a job teaching in a repulsive school in Yorkshire. Nicholas flees the school taking with him one of the persecuted boys, Smike, and they join a troop of actors. Nicholas then has to protect Smike, while trying to stop his Uncle Ralph taking advantage of his sister Kate, and later his sweetheart, Madeline Bray, whose father is in debtors prison. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

3 December 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Nicholas Nickleby  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film received its initial telecast in the New York City area Tuesday 4 July 1950 on WNBT (Channel 4). See more »


Referenced in Little Women (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

Falls off after hopeful beginning
11 January 2012 | by (England) – See all my reviews

I'm afraid I find myself agreeing with the contemporary post-war reviewers: compared to the two recent David Lean adaptations of Dickens ("Oliver Twist" and "Great Expectations"), this version of "Nicholas Nickleby" is definitely lacklustre, despite a promising cast (Cedric Hardwicke; Sybil Thorndike; Bernard Miles; Stanley Holloway).

I did feel that the musical score for this production really doesn't help. There's nothing much wrong with it as such, but it is distinctly unsubtle. I found it actively intrusive in a number of scenes, interrupting any atmosphere that was being built up with its blatant attempts to steer audience emotions in the direction it thought they ought to go: pathos, tension, romance all came clumping in and clumping out again, to negative effect.

And matters were not improved by the failure of the two young female leads, Sally Anne Howes or Jill Balcon, to display any dramatic ability in this picture. Miss Howes in particular seemed to spend much of the film with a completely blank expression, even in scenes where she was supposed to be in considerable distress, and the entire storyline involving Nicholas's sister Kate was less compelling than it ought to have been as a result.

It is Cedric Hardwicke as Ralph Nickleby, top-billed above young Derek Bond as his eponymous nephew, who makes the most impression in this version of "Nicholas Nickleby". His is one of the few characters to be given depths beyond a surface caricature, and he makes the most of it in a compelling performance. Bernard Miles as his grotesque clerk Newman Noggs (I was reminded of Jerry Cruncher in "A Tale of Two Cities") is also memorable, and Stanley Holloway makes a typically resonant but all too brief appearance as the theatrical Vincent Crummles, incidentally reminding us of the close links between Dickens' novels and the popular Victorian melodrama, with their blend of pathos and broad comedy.

The opening scenes up until young Nicholas leaves Dotheboys Hall show promise; but after that the film declines into a rather thin series of events. I was interested ahead of time to see what Ealing Studios would make of this uncharacteristic attempt to produce a literary adaptation, but I'm afraid the result probably explains why the studio didn't make a habit of it! Worth watching for Hardwicke's talent, as ever; but not a great screen version of Dickens.

A better adaptation was broadcast by the BBC in 2002, featuring Charles Dance as an excellent Ralph Nickleby.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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