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During the French Revolution, French national Lucie Manette meets and falls in love with Englishman Charles Darnay. He is however hiding his true identity as a member of the French aristocratic Evrémonde family, who he has denounced in private. The Marquis St. Evrémonde in particular was a cruel man, those he wronged who have vowed to see the end of the family line at any cost. Lucie's father Dr. Alexandre Manette, in fact, was imprisoned in the Bastille for eighteen years because of actions of the Marquis. Into their lives comes English barrister Sydney Carton, who enjoys his alcohol to excess. Carton earlier defended Darnay in a trial on trumped up charges of treason. Carton doesn't really like Darnay in part because Carton also loves Lucie, he realizing that that love is unrequited. But Carton does eventually learn of Darnay's true heritage at a critical time. Carton takes extraordinary measures to ensure Lucie's happiness during this time, which has the potential to be explosive ... Written by
During the final scenes of the tumbrels rolling to the guillotine, Sydney Carton and the other characters in the tumbrel appear to switch sides. First, they are on the right, then on the left, then on the right again. See more »
In this bicentennial of Charles Dickens it's a good thing to examine all the versions of A Tale Of Two Cities and see aspects in all of them that reflect on the story telling abilities of Dickens. In a Tale Of Two Cities his characters come from a generation or two behind Dickens and it might be the only one of his great work that could be classified as historical. All the rest you can immediately recall to mind are set in his contemporary time.
What he did and what Thomas Carlyle did as his contemporary is create characters and write history respectively that forever stamped the image of a seminal historical event in our consciences. For those of us of a historical scholarly bent the image of what Carlyle and Dickens wrote about the French Revolution is soddered into our minds. There's a reason for it, it lies in their research and their abilities as writers.
With Dickens it something additional his ability to create unforgettable characters, people whom you once read about and can't forget. Such is Sydney Carton who starts out in the novel as a supporting player but who gradually in the story moves to the first rank and his deed at the end climaxes the story.
The Thirties version of A Tale Of Two Cities at MGM and this 1958 film the Rank Organisation are the two best known. Even though MGM's was a Hollywood film it was populated by a cast of British expatriates. Ronald Colman was the Carton of the Thirties and his performance was colored by his impeccable style and good diction. I've always felt Colman so typified the British people as they like to see themselves and we would all like to be Ronald Colman if we're male and come from that blessed isle.
In this version Dirk Bogarde's dissolute drunkenness is emphasized far more than with Colman. So is his unrequited love for Lucy Manette the French expatriate played here by Dorothy Tutin. But she loves another, a fellow expatriate Charles Darnay played here by a French actor Paul Guers whom I find to have been dubbed. He does bare a superficial resemblance to Bogarde and that is the real key to the story of A Tale Of Two Cities.
The rest of the cast boasts some of the best British performers around at the time like Cecil Parker, Athene Seyler, Donald Pleasance, and Christopher Lee as a cunning and vicious Marquis St. Evremonde. The relationship is changed making Lee and Guers cousins as opposed to an uncle and nephew.
Rank Organisation went almost whole hog on this film with an impeccable recreation of late Eighteenth century London and Paris. They could have gone for color, but why be picky. Whatever else A Tale Of Two Cities is politics and history aside, it's about a man who no one thinks has any great character, but in the end really steps to the plate for the one he loves. Which makes the film have a universal theme for the ages.
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