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
This film received its initial telecast in the New York City area Tuesday 4 July 1950 on WNBT (Channel 4). See more »
[Nicholas and Kate confront Ralph at Madeline's wedding]
I advise you to leave here, my lady. I can use force with your brother.
You can use force with me. I've no doubt you'd like to.
Will you go?
No, I will not go! From the moment we came to London, you thought you can do as you like with us. Mama trusted you. We all did. We found you out now, and we are free of your charity! I'm not afraid of you!
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Here's the problem with Dickens. He makes a lot of story, just chocks things full of characters, motives, events. Its not that he is describing a world so much as creating one. That's the central notion here that in entering a Dickens project, you enter a world that is especially suited for the narrative arcs he will give us.
Those are arcs concerned with the ridiculous state of man, a particular kind of London-oriented man. There are only two balls he juggles, this writer. One is the notion of justice (though not always precisely what we would like) and the other is the ridiculousness. We'll see that as humor when we consider certain characters or events, but its really rooted in the nature of the world.
Its a great formula, this notion of the world, a sort of battle between the firm laws of fate that always spin correctly and the contrasting notion that there is a wobble in some of those wheels, perhaps coming from our weaknesses, perhaps God just having a bad day.
If you want to translate one of his projects to film, you need to capture this first. And you need to do it at the most basic level, quite literally in the creation of the world we see. The cinematic vocabulary IS up to it. The version of this story by McGrath understood this intuitively, though he would probably describe it superficially as the balance of gravitas and humor.
This version... Well, they got all the bits of the story in there. And they have a remarkably pretty girl as the sister-at-risk. And, alas, the world they have created is quite competent and coherent visually. In fact if this weren't Dickens, it would almost make sense to watch it without sound. If you know the story, you can do that with some of these old films that have disastrous management of sound, speech and score as this does.
But that coherent world we'd see has nothing to do with the world of Dickens.
Stay away from this one. Its dreadful. Everything that makes it a movie gets in the way of everything that makes it a good book.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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