When you watch as much Turner Classic Movies as I do, you soon realize that for a significant portion of the twentieth century, Claude Rains was in everything. I mean everything. Doesn't matter what genre -- you can turn on any old drama, comedy, fantasy, thriller, epic, whatever, and whoops, there's Claude again. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. That voice of his . . . it does things to me.
But it was only recently that I discovered that Rains starred in a 1935 film version of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I'm sorry to say it's become an incredibly rare version; it hasn't come out on DVD, and the VHS version is no longer in print. But fortunately, Amazon has a handful of copies available, so I got myself one and sat down to watch it.
Rains (with a head of very dark hair; I missed the silver mane!) plays John Jasper in much the same way as he would play the Phantom of the Opera years later, all swirling capes, brooding glares, and gloomy pounding on pianos and lurking in corners. He's definitely the star here, but the rest of the cast is also very good, and there are several performers of interest to Dickensians.
Francis L. Sullivan (Septimus Crisparkle) is, says IMDb, one of the few actors to play the same role in two different films: He was Mr. Jaggers in both the 1934 and 1946 versions of Great Expectations. Valerie Hobson (Helena Landless) was also in the 1946 GE, playing the grown Estella, and Forrester Harvey (Durdles) was Pumblechook and Harry Cording (opium addict) was Orlick in the 1934 one. D'Arcy Corrigan (another opium addict) played the Ghost of Christmas Future in the 1938 A Christmas Carol. E. E. Clive (Sapsea) had an uncredited role in the 1935 David Copperfield. And then there's Walter Brennan -- yes, the Walter Brennan, the only other person in the cast who would become as big a name as Rains. He has a small role as a milkman here and an uncredited role in the 1934 GE.
And several of them made it into A Tale of Two Cities in the same year as Edwin Drood. Walter Kingsbury (Grewgious) played Victor. (Victor? Hmm. I must be overdue for another viewing, because I certainly don't remember any Victor.) Harvey and Clive both had uncredited roles. That makes three Dickens films in one year for E. E. Clive, which I'm guessing is a very rare if not unique accomplishment. Let's award him the Dickensblog Order of Merit!
. . . Well, shoot. I didn't mean to get all caught up in Six Degrees of IMDb, but I got so interested in introducing you to the cast and their Dickensian credentials, I've run out of time to write the review. (Actually, there are a bunch more Edwin Drood cast members, but they're all uncredited and I'm not going to bother with them, or I really would be here all night.) Tune in tomorrow for the scoop!