David Copperfield (TV Mini-Series 1974– ) Poster

(1974– )

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A first rate cast- this deserves to be released on video at least!
nickjg13 October 2002
This production attempts to efface the Hollywood version of more than thirty years before. Arthur Lowe and Martin Jarvis are wonderfully effective as Wilkins Micawber and Uriah Heep - avoiding too close a resemblance to W.C. Fields and Roland Young. Mrs Micawber is hilariously overblown, played by Patricia Routledge, and Patience Collier, the battily eccentric Aunt Betsey Trotwood, seems to live the part. In fact Patience Collier seems to have stepped straight out of the 19th century. Her magnificent impatience with Heep and her stoicism in the face of adversity are beautifully modulated. Not to be forgotten, Liz Smith as Mrs Heep. Though she and Steerforth's mother are socially poles apart, they both have the same obsessive and overindulgent relationships with their sons, which Diskens identifies as a source of evil. While Mrs Heep is more venal in simply being overborne by her son's dishonesty, Mrs Steerfoth has covered up a truly nast piece of domestic violence and pays the penalty daily by having the scourge of Rosa Dartle at her elbow. This Dickens portrait of family life is seldom seen in dramatisations. Mrs Steerforth (Sheila Keith) and Rosa Dartle (Jacqueline Pearce)- brought out a feature of the book which is often glossed over in productions because studios want to make it family viewing. This series didn't make that mistake although it was designed for Sunday teatime viewing. The sado-masochistic relationship between Rosa Dartle and Steerforth (and, to some extent his mother) and the suggestion of prepubescent homosexual attachment of David to Steerforth are implied. In fact, the scenes between Rosa and Steerforth/Mrs Steerforth, and between David and James Steerforth are where both the book and this production rwally talk to adults. A BBC dramatisation that ought to be better remembered.
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A good job
markhanley10 April 2006
I found it interesting that in this five hour production of David Copperfield, it was still necessary to do some substantial editing, all in the interest of time, no doubt. For example, a wonderful character like Mrs. Gummidge is not well developed, and to understand her, you would have to have read the novel. Likewise, there's no mention of the alligator book. Small details, I know, but very apparent as you're viewing. By the time I reached the last episode, the story was getting a little tiresome, but I think that's true of the novel, too. The part of the adult Agnes, however, is played by Gail Harrison, and for that bit of brilliant casting, I say Bravo! She is absolutely lovely.
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Splendid performances make this a winner.
BrentCarleton11 July 2008
Well written, well designed, well acted, and well directed, this solidly produced BBC mini-series merits praise all around.

Mr. Dickens' novel is not easily truncated for television, even in six installments, but the scenarists here have done such an admirable job of distilling the essential story points and characterizations, that viewers are afforded a well rounded treatment.

At first, David Yelland seems an odd choice for the title role, given that his physiognomy does not especially match with the youngster who plays the child David in the early chapters. Mr. Yelland is further hampered by a peculiar (and anachronistic) fringed bang hairdo, that looks like nothing so much as a Beatle wig. Despite these handicaps, however, he more than justifies his selection by his excellent performance.

Not only does he manage the emotional depth required in the stories later chapters, upon the betrayal of Steerforth etc,. but manages a comedy scene (a disastrous dinner party with wife Dora) with expert understated finesse.

Indeed, space precludes individual acting citations, since the players are down to the smallest bit, all outstanding in characterization, appearance and deportment. This is truly outstanding ensemble acting.

Particular mention must be accorded Patricia Routledge, in her hilarious turn as Mrs. Micawber, Arthur Lowe as Mr. Micawber, Patience Collier as Betsy Trotwood, Anthony Andrews, (both chilling and attractive)as Steerforth, and perhaps most memorably, Jacqueline Pearce, (of Hammer horror fame) as Rosa Dartle and Sheila Keith as Mrs. Steerforth.

Indeed, the scenes between Misses Pearce and Keith, rife with bitter and hidden anguish, are shot with a tension and blood freezing quality, you'll not soon forget! (all the better to offset the sentimentality elsewhere).

Production design in both settings and costumes is apt, and the production team are to be commended on the way they cleverly fused outdoor footage with studio sets in seamless fashion.

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Great, but not the greatest
David Brown10 January 2004
This was a great TV version, with some great British character actors, but it was surpassed IMO by the BBC's version of 8 years earlier. Colin Jeavons was the definitive Uriah Heep - his ubiquitous refrain "ever so 'umble" became quite a catchphrase in the UK at the time.

Unfortunately I suspect the 1966 TV version (which was in B&W) has long since been lost. The IMDB entry for it is very skimpy.
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Someone put this on DVD Please!!!
Fiona13 November 2004
I remember this as a glorious adaptation with a wonderful cast.

In response to the previous review, I'm pretty sure it was Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan in 'Blake's 7') who was Rosa Steerforth, and wasn't Anthony Andrews, Steerforth?...

In a dream world I'd have this on DVD, in the meantime, did anyone ever record it???

(If you click on 'more' under the cast overview, you will see the whole cast and crew list!)
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The best adaptation I have ever seen.
willport15 April 2003
They were all "right"! A wonderful Micawber and wife in Arthur Lowe and Patricia Routledge. The best Uriah I have ever encountered in Martin Jarvis and, of course, the incomparable Liz Smith as Ury's mum. For me it puts the later adaptations to shame. Oh, if only it were available on DVD - vain hope?
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Perfect Interpretation Of Dickens.
screenman6 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This series is over 30 years old. I watched it on its original release and remember being absolutely captivated.

Up to that point, I am ashamed to say that I had never been a Dickens fan. Various adaptations of his work had been shown on television when I was a child and I had found them dark, dismal, unexciting. I was probably too young to understand.

After this serial was screened, I signed-up for The Master's complete works on a book-a-month deal from Heron Publishers. To this day, I still believe it was the best investment I ever made. And this serial was the inspiration.

Reading the book afterwards, I was amazed at the fidelity of characterisation. Very few names struck me on the credits at the time, though Arthur Lowe immediately stood out on account of his success in 'Dad's Army'. Yet every one of them seemed to have been lifted clean off the pages I was reading.

One of the saddest things about dramatisations of Dickens's work is that his tremendous sense of humour and irony tend to get air-brushed out. The depravation, the scheming, the wickedness, the cruelty and squalor; all these things are invariably retained. But for some reason, the humour is lost. And that is half of Dicken's charm. There were times when I found myself doubled-up with laughter at some of the sly, cutting narrative and observations he made. Lionel Bart's musical 'Oliver' comes closer to catching the authentic comedy and tragedy than many more pretentious offerings.

There is less of The Master's humour in this particular story. I think that is because it draws upon too many threads of his personal experience. In Copperfield, he let's the characters do the talking. But what characters! Most academics (and snobs) insist that Shakespeare was Britain's greatest writer. I insist it was Charles Dickens.

The 9-stars I have awarded are based upon a 30-odd year old memory and may not withstand a rescreening. Even so, I will not recant. This drama introduced me to a phenomenon that everyone should experience.

So here's a question; what the deuce is a British production of a British novel, about British characters set in Britain doing on a region 1 DVD?
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A fine adaptation
TheLittleSongbird17 September 2013
Not quite as good as the 1999 and 1935 adaptations, but it does a great job telling the story within 5-episodes. Its attention to characterisation is remarkable, especially with Uriah Heap, the Micawbers and Tommy(a character that is often ignored or not always interesting). The pacing of the last episode drags just a tad, but not enough to spoil things. The adaptation is beautifully made as well as true to period, apart from David's hairstyle, with fluid photography and evocative settings and costuming, striking but careful not to be too clean. The writing is faithful in spirit to Dickens, the tragic elements are very touching and the scenes that require a foreboding touch- like with Uriah Heap and the Murdstones- are so. What it also does well is making the comedy believable, the Micawbers are hilarious, in this regard this is one of the better adaptations of the book to bring this out. The story draws you in and doesn't let go, also respecting the source material. The performances are fine too, Martin Jarvis stands out as a very snake-like Uriah Heap as does Patricia Routledge as one of the funniest Mrs Micawbers you'll ever see. Arthur Rowe is similarly amusing and kindly, and Anthony Andrews convinces being both chilling and handsome. David Yelland is a likable and charismatic lead, while the Agnes is just lovely. The Murdstones are also convincingly played but have a little more memorable elsewhere, in most other adaptations of the book(especially 1999 and 1935) they are one of the best assets but here they're out-shined. Overall, fine and very well done. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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