Some very greedy and selfish relatives are all after the failing old Martin Chuzzlewit's (Paul Scofield's) money. He is surrounded by all these sycophantic relatives that he truly despises ...
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Some very greedy and selfish relatives are all after the failing old Martin Chuzzlewit's (Paul Scofield's) money. He is surrounded by all these sycophantic relatives that he truly despises while ill, each one only interested in getting their hands on his estate.
Martin Chuzzlewit as written by Charles Dickens becomes another of his young men who rise to success stories with a combination of their own perseverance and an unseen hand of fate which seems to be in control of destiny. Others like this are the more well known David Copperfield and Pip from Great Expectations.
There are two Martin Chuzzlewits, the first is the young Dickensian hero who is played by Ben Walden and there is grandfather Martin Chuzzlewit who is Paul Scofield who also plays his own brother Anthony Chuzzlewit.
The old Martin is one rich dude who is a doddering and miserly sort of man worried as to who might deserve the riches he's accumulated in life. Scofield has a flock of relatives who are hanging on every word and every breath hoping to find favor with the old guy. For strangely enough he's cut off young Walden and now the rest of them just think his fortune is up for grabs with his dying breath.
The worst of the Chuzzlewit relatives is a cousin named Seth Pecksniff who is an ostentatiously pious and inwardly scheming individual. He worms his way into Scofield's confidence and tries to undermine everyone else so that he and his daughters may profit. He's not above using his daughters for that end either though the daughters played by Julia Sawalha and Emma Chambers. Pecksniff is one of Dickens's most enduring if villainous characters and here he's played with full unctuousness going on all cylinders by Tom Wilkinson.
One of the daughters in fact at Wilkinson's urging marries an equally villainous cousin Jonas Chuzzlewit played by Keith Allen to further the Pecksniff fortunes. He also takes in 'students' to 'learn' architecture and he's got a lovely racket there in passing off promising student's drawings as his own work and living off the money they pay him to allegedly learn. He deals young Walden dirty that way, but most catch on to him including Walden with exception of good hearted Tom Pinch played by Philip Allen. Even he gets wise at one point.
Martin Chuzzlewit was written after Dickens had returned from an American tour and part of the novel has young Martin and a friend going to America to seek a fortune of his own. Dickens was not happy with what he saw in America and the Americans you see here are a merciless bunch of greedy film flam businessmen. That part of the novel got a short shrift in this production.
Considering how Dickens portrayed some of his own countrymen I can't really fault him for writing what he saw in the USA of the 1840s. Just the Chuzzlewit family or most of them are enough to make you gag.
This is a fine BBC productions impeccably cast and giving us a good picture of the United Kingdom of the early Victorian years. Best in the cast is Tom Wilkinson as Pecksniff. The word itself became a noun in the English language for hypocrite just mccarthyism became a synonym for slanderous accusation without proof.
When one of your characters becomes a noun, that's the greatest success you can have.
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