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The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1947)

Approved | | Drama | 3 December 1947 (USA)
A young, compassionate man struggles to save his family and friends from the abusive exploitation of his cold-hearted, grasping uncle.

Director:

Alberto Cavalcanti (as Cavalcanti)

Writers:

Charles Dickens (by), John Dighton (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Derek Bond ... Nicholas Nickleby
Cedric Hardwicke ... Ralph Nickleby
Mary Merrall ... Mrs. Nickleby
Sally Ann Howes ... Kate Nickleby
Bernard Miles ... Newman Noggs
Athene Seyler ... Miss La Creevy
Alfred Drayton ... Wackford Squeers
Sybil Thorndike ... Mrs. Squeers
Vida Hope Vida Hope ... Fanny Squeers
Roy Hermitage Roy Hermitage ... Wackford Squeers Jnr.
Aubrey Woods Aubrey Woods ... Smike
Patricia Hayes Patricia Hayes ... Phoebe
Cyril Fletcher Cyril Fletcher ... Mr.Mantalini / Alfred Mantalini
Fay Compton ... Madame Mantalini / Mme Mantalini
Cathleen Nesbitt ... Miss Knag
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Storyline

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

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 December 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Nicholas Nickleby See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Ealing Studios See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Despite his prominent billing, Cyril Fletcher only appears in one scene, and is on screen for only three minutes. See more »

Connections

Version of Nicholas Nickleby (1957) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Falls off after hopeful beginning
11 January 2012 | by Igenlode WordsmithSee 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.


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