29 June 2005 | Lvenactress
A Worthy Adaption of an Excellent Novel!
I read the book "A Tale of Two Cities", by Charles Dickens, in ninth grade, and to my extreme surprise, it became my second favorite novel of all time. That's why I was thrilled to get my hands on this acclaimed film version, starring Ronald Colman as about my favorite literary character I've met, among a terrific cast.
I am slightly biased, since I was comparing the film very strongly to the novel. Fortunately, the movie did not disappoint - it was excellent! They had to cut much material that was in the novel or else the movie would go on foooooooreeeeeeeeeveeeeeeeerrrrrrr....but they kept the important scenes and kept the essence of Dickens's classic. They also found the right balance between the scenes with our heroes, Lucie Manette, Charles Darnay, Dr. Manette, and Sydney Carton (among others) in London, and the material featuring the Defarges and other peasants in Paris. And they made it compelling, not boring and droning.
The cast, like I said, is very ideal, but I will mention those that stand out the most. Elizabeth Allan surprised me by giving Lucie - who is the world's most annoying and flimsy character in the novel - genuine character and substance, even though Lucie doesn't get to actually do much. Blanche Yurka was absolutely perfect as Mme. Defarge; she was cold and frightening, yet you could sympathize with her without thinking she was too mushy. Edna May Oliver was a treat as Miss Pross, capturing the image of the seemingly strict yet warm maid in the Manette household.
But what I was really judging the movie upon was my imaginary boyfriend, Sydney Carton. Ronald Colman was impeccable as the unlikely hero. He got the different "sides" of Carton right - drunk, insolent, and smart-alecky in one scene and tenderly romantic in the next. The film version also added more humor to Carton, which fits his character well. (The scene in which he pretends to flirt with Miss Pross was not in the novel, but it is one of my favorites.) Sydney Carton's selfless act of sacrifice (and his comforting of the frightened seamstress) are extremely moving. Wonderfully done.
My only real qualifier is that, to my surprise, Charles Darnay (Donald Woods) and Sydney Carton didn't look that much alike. Darnay had sharper features, whereas Carton...ah, Ronald Colman has these lovely brown eyes, giving him a slightly puppy-dog look sometimes. Oh well - the movie made it fairly clear that they were supposed to look alike. Besides, how easy is it casting dopplegangers?
Overall, if you have read "A Tale of Two Cities," there's a darn good chance you're going to like this film. And if you haven't read the book, you may like it anyway. Either way, I highly recommend it.