The Gospel in Dickens
Click the image to order my book!

« The creepy pairs poll | Main | 'Great Expectations' (1989), part 3 »

July 19, 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

This is so wonderfully written! Beautiful analyses of our favorite character.
I've never seen the Dick Bogarde one, but I hope I can find it somewhere. The Coleman one was actually my introduction to Dickens (Christmas Carol aside), and I dearly love his portrayal of Carton, though I think he's a bit old for the role. Excellent points about it, though.
The thing I like best about the Sarandon version is that he plays both characters. I don't remember much else about it.
And I dearly loved the Wilby version. Didn't much like Lucie, but I loved James Wilby in the role.

P.S. Have you ever noticed how Michael Kitchen looks a lot like Ronald Coleman?

Thanks, Christy! (And yes, he sort of does!)

My colleague Diane alerts me that Netflix does carry the Bogarde film, even though it's out of print in the U.S. Amazon has a few used copies as well.

Great post! I've only seen the 1989 version, so to me, Wilby *is* Sydney Carton; but I do want to re-read the book and watch the '35 and '58 versions too.

And yeah, I think it's definitely time for another adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities! :)

"My colleague Diane alerts me that Netflix does carry the Bogarde film"

Yes, I looked it up there and requested it with joy.

"And yeah, I think it's definitely time for another adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities! :) "

Hear hear! With all these excellent adaptions of Little Dorrit and Bleak House and so on, it's about time we get a good Two Cities! Gina, who would you cast as Sydney?

You know, since the last time we discussed it -- for those who missed it -- I've actually started leaning more and more toward the Robert Downey, Jr., idea. I know Nina didn't care for it (sorry, Nina!). But having seen a few of his films since that discussion, I can now see him pulling off that rakish-exterior/sensitive-interior act with aplomb. And the British accent as well. What do you think?

I don't know him well enough to say, except I think he's too old...

Yeah, I agree with Christy.

Fair enough (although more and more, Hollywood seems to be a place where no one ever ages). :-) I'd still like to see what he could do with the role, though. How about you guys -- any casting ideas?

By the way, Christy, I neglected to comment on your mention of Lucie. I'd be interested to hear more about why you didn't care for Serena Gordon.

Myself, I thought Dorothy Tutin (1958) was wonderful; Alice Krige (1980) and Serena Gordon (1989) were good; and Elizabeth Allan (1935) was not very good at all. Although in fairness to Allan, her part was very poorly written.

I don't remember why I didn't like her. I just requested the movie from the library to watch it again, so maybe I'll find out.
This is probably a very terrible idea, but what about David Tennant for Sydney? As long as he could keep from being funny... He's a long-time Shakespearean actor, so he knows how to do classical roles, he has a very expressive face, and when he is serious, you really believe him. He carries a lot of conviction.
Of course, my dream Sydney Carton would play both Carton and Darnay, and I don't know if I can see David Tennant as Darnay.

Oh, oh, oh, wouldn't I have loved to have seen Jeff Goldblum as Carton (if he could do a British accent) a few years ago! Way too old now, of course. Sigh.
Or what about Ralph Fiennes? He's got the handsome down for Darnay, he does the smouldering rotter very well (ever seen the "Wuthering Heights" he was in? that was the closest I've ever come to actually *liking* Heathcliff), and I can see him being all romantically heroic.
Or, for a younger option, try Rupert Friend. He played quite a marvelous Prince Albert in the recent "Young Victoria."
Or--hey, JJ Feild. I've seen him do serious, I've seen him do silly, and I think he's marvelous.
Or Lee Pace. Not British, don't know if he can do the accent or not (and really, you want a real Brit), maybe too handsome, but he's a very good actor.
OK, I'll stop now.
New thought: Michael Kitchen's not quite old enough, but he'd make a great Dr. Manette, I think.

I'd love to see Ioan Gruffudd as either Carton or Darnay (probably Carton). Rupert Friend might also be good. Or Richard Armitage! :)

Hmm, yes, Ioan Gruffudd would be good.

I like Ioan Gruffudd myself, though I don't know if I could get his William Wilberforce or Pip out of my head...

Gruffudd or Pace would be scrumptious. The whole world would fall in love with Carton! :D (Well, he is supposed to be handsome -- the book even says so!)

Haven't seen much Tennant -- I still need to finish watching his "Hamlet."

Oh, and by the way, when they do another ATOTC, we REALLY need a good Mr. Lorry. All the Mr. Lorrys have been significantly flawed -- not so much in the acting as in the writing. Which is a shame, as he's such a great character in the book.

I would love to see either Pip or Joe from various adaptations of Great Expectations explored!

also, as someone who saw Tale of Two Cities on broadway, I quite enjoyed James Barbour's musical portrayal of Sydney. He was equal parts tortured and humorous. He really won over the audience

I considered doing a Pip vs Pip comparison, but it's been ages since I read Great Expectations (one of the first classics I read!), and I've only seen 3 adaptations. ;)

Rachel -- would you like to write it? :-) Guest posts are always welcome!

Me, I've been thinking about doing an Estella vs. Estella one of these days . . .

This is really difficult! I think Dirk Bogarde just shades it for me, but I love James Wilby and Ronald Colman too. Sadly I've never managed to see the Chris Sarandon version, though I have seen another version from the same year, 1980, with Paul Shelley in the double role as Carton and Darnay - must admit I don't remember this adaptation as well as the others, though I've just got hold of it on DVD so should be able to see it again soon. I'd love to see a new adaptation - JJ Feild or Richard Armitage would be great as Carton, but there are a lot of talented actors who would do a good job.

Judy, thanks for coming by. I think I've heard of that Paul Shelley version. Would love it if you could let us know your impressions after you watch it again!


I vote for James Wilby. Although, they cut out way too much of his lines and Sydney is an awesomely-written character. You don’t get it in the movie that he was once off to a good start, but never made it anywhere in life no matter how much he works. I kind of have the same job (legal drudgery) and career path (slow downward spiral fueled by alcoholism and despair) as he does. I just love Sydney Carton, and if I could get into any book, that would be it. No, I wouldn’t redeem him – but we’d be awesome drinking buddies until we landed in the debtor’s prison with Mr. Jingle. Perhaps Mr. Pickwick will send us all to Barbados!

I need to get out more. I seriously, seriously do.

Oh, I vote for Richard Armitage. I see my idea has preceded me here! That girl who played the new Mrs. DeWinter would be a good Lucie. Let's all take a moment to hate Lucie and Charles. Jerks. Ok thanks and carry on.

Why do we have to hate Lucie and Charles? I rather like them both.

They're all yours! Actually, that cute French boy in the Wilby version was kind of making me like Charles. I never liked him in the book. We hate him because - he's symbolic of what Sydney was supposed to be like? I'll muse on this deeply philosophical thought tonight while I sit on my front porch and drink. Ok, thanks for your attention to this matter. PS how about an audiobook read by James Wilby?

Sorry I wasn't able to jump into the conversation earlier. Hectic day.

Maryann, do you mean Emilia Fox? Yes, I think I can see her being a good Lucie. Did you ever see her as Clara Copperfield?

As for Carton -- once we had an "icebreaker question" at my Bible study about which fictional character we would bring to life if we could. I said I would bring Carton to life and take him to AA meetings. :-) For his own sake. I might not be able to get him to fall in love with me, but at least I could try to promote his health and peace of mind!

I think maybe I like Charles for the reasons you hate him. He's good, virtuous, honest, compassionate, kind. I am attracted to goodness.
The reason I like Sydney is because his life is turned around by goodness. Lucie's goodness opens his eyes to the realities of life, and he is redeemed by his sacrifice, the ultimate goodness.

I really like James Wilby, so I think an audiobook read by him would be awesome.

I just watched the Dick Bogarde version (got it on Netflix). It was most excellent, though I noted many areas that rather annoyed me. You're quite right about Bogarde himself: he was a splendid Sydney Carton. I also really liked Striver, and it was lovely to see Leo McKern, Christopher Lee, and Rosalie Crutchley, and though I didn't really like Dorothy Tutin's portrayal of Lucie at first, by the end I realized I liked it better than the way she was played in the Ronald Coleman version.
I wrote a bit of a stream-of-consciousness thing while I was watching it. Here are my thoughts:

Carton in the first chapter? Gah! He doesn't belong there.
They totally betrayed that Madame Defarge was the sister! So much for dramatic endings.
Gabelle’s daughter as a maid? How dumb is that? And they made Gabelle a footman? And make him tell his daughter just to patiently endure Monseigneur's groping?
Rather than the court case being based on Carton’s genius, it is all based on his happening to be in Dover?
Brilliant job of making Darnay and Carton look alike, and also of contrasting them: Darnay all upright and precise and Carton slouchy and careless of speech.
They took away Dr. Manette’s nobility by making him refuse to know who Darnay was.
Making Gabelle’s daughter the little seamstress (and having Carton see her tried) kind of takes away the simplicity and pure kindness of her and Carton’s relationship.
What’s up with Carton trying to find dirt on Darnay?
They make Lucie ask Carton for help? That’s horrid!
It’s dumb that Madame Defarge actually sees Lucie. Part of Miss Pross’s valiance in the original was in her defending an empty house to give Lucie time to escape.
So glad to see Lucie recognizing her husband. It’s one of my great disappointments with the book that it’s completely passed over.
Sydney’s final monologue: I don’t know if it’s just because the words are so famous, but most of the monologue sounded like normal thought, but the far, far better part sounded like a quotation. Of course I bawled while he was saying/thinking it.

Ahh, I have trained you well. ;-) Yes, I noticed a lot of the same things you did. Various productions seem to take various liberties with Gabelle: He's a footman, he's a tutor, he's all kinds of things. Odd.

Another odd thing is that various productions have made Carton and Cruncher buddies. My memory is hazy, but I think at least two of the movies did that, plus the recent Broadway show.

Glad you liked Bogarde too!

I noticed that too, about the Carton/Cruncher thing. That was never in the book.

Now that you mentioned it...I soooo would love a new TOTC adaptation. The Chris Sarandon version is the only one I've seen, and despite many flaws (like Alice Kirge is, I think, no where near pretty enough), I do enjoy it. But I think it's high time for a new one. TOTC is my favorite Dickens (and the first I read after A Christmas Carol) and I want to see a good adaptation of it!!!

If Anthony Andrews can't be Sydney...sniff...then perhaps he could be one of the older characters? Mr. Lorry, perhaps?

I just think it's high time the man came back out of the woodwork! I'm so excited that he's in The King's Speech...can't wait to see it.

As you can see, I'm doing some going-back-and-reading-over-the-blog. :-) On top of all the things we have in common, Gina, Dickens is our favorite author! :-)

Glad to have you here, Alexandra, and I hope you've been enjoying your read-through! :-)

I too am SOOO finicky about Carton's theatrical portrayal! After several, SEVERAL hours of searching I found Wilby to be my personal favourite, although, the Sydney in the Broadway musical seemed pretty gorgeous...unfortunately I never saw the musical in person to judge this.

My favourite Carton during years was James Wilby, but Ronald Colman is my favourite now. This is the best version for me. The BBC miniseries with Paul Shelley is a great adaptation too. I think that the declaration scene is very close to the book.

I think Sydney Carton at the musical is based on Colman's performance. James Barbour is a great actor and singer, and he plays the role very well. I have a DVD with the musical in concert and the official CD. They both are wonderful. James is my second favourite. ;)

Sorry for my English, but I'm Spanish.

I feel that James Wilby was the best Carton. He captured very well the self-loathing and despondency in Sydney Carton. There are certain parts where his portrayal just moves me. When he spies Lucie and Charles kissing, he watched them for a second, then scoffs at himself in an unsurprised way as if to say,"who are you to try for her affections?' Then he walks away looking as though he doesn't really care, but you can tell that he does. I love how towards the end of the film, when Carton is giving instructions to Mr. Lorry; his eye get bright and his whole person becomes animated. You can see that for once in his life, Carton feels excited and motivated my something; that he has finally found a purpose; a way of redeeming himself. I do wish though, that the movie showed more of Carton's interaction with the Darnay's after their wedding. The part in the book where he comes to their house just to sit in the corner and soak up some of the love and happiness in the room (and the fact that the children love him) is one of my favorite parts. I also just love the way he says "I hate you" to Charles Darnay in the beginning.
I also felt that Charles Darnay was very well portrayed in this mini series, because his good traits were shown, with out him being obnoxiously perfect.
These are just my feelings. I am a very opinionated person when it comes to classic books and the movies made for them. I have read the book many times and have seen all of the movies except for some of the silent ones. All of the other high school students my age think I am completely crazy for loving these books and movies, but there you have it. I quote A Tale of Two Cities like other kids quote Chuck Norris. I am glad that I have found this site. It gladdens my heart to know that other people share my favorite book.

It's very nice to have you here, Annette! We like opinionated people. :-) Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I'm also very fond of Carton's visits to the Darnays and his relationship with the children. It's one of those details that make his character so rich and intriguing.

Annette- don't worry, you're not alone! I'm a high school student who loves Dickens too. :D Sometimes when I have a particularly frustrating day, it's quite heartening to think to myself, "Hey, it could be a lot worse - at least I'm not boarded at Salem House or Dotheboys Hall or the like!" Well, technically, that wouldn't be possible because I'm a girl - probably Lowood from Jane Eyre is more accurate!
Anyways...A Tale of Two Cities...Sydney Carton is just such a magnificent, multifaceted character. I think I'm still waiting for an actor who definitively captures that. :)

On second thought, David Tennant would make an excellent Sidney Carton. I don't really want another remake though. That is something that really bugs me, when there is movie adaptation of a book, for example; BBC's Pride and Prejudice that was wonderfully done,and then somebody feels the urge to do a remake ten years later that(in my opinion) was not half as good. So if a remake of A Tale of Two Cities is done, (with or without David Tennant) it had better be the best version yet or I will be upset.

Is this still open for commenting? The post is 2 years old and here I am in 2012, lol. I feel as if I have missed out on a great discussion. Nevertheless, My favourite is Wilby's version. It's exactly how I imagined Sydney! You are right about how the other actors except Wilby wear their hair too short. In the scene where Carton commands Darnay to exchange clothes with him, didn't Carton take a ribbon from his hair and put it on his? That must mean he has long hair. Also, in the Wilby version...Lucie wasn't how I imagined her to be but she was still a decent Lucie. I imagined her much more child-like and innocent and passionate yet strong <3

I don't like how in other versions, they cut out Carton's famous last words. :( That is one of my favourite things about the book and even though I have finished it, I still open it and read the last page from time to time. I wish Dickens gave us an actual future instead of Carton imagining it. I like to believe that is what happened though.

Isn't it strange that there isn't even on 21st century adaption of A Tale of Two Cities in film or in form of a TV SERIES? Rather strange really. Other Dickensian works have been re-made throughout the 20th and 21st century.... It's rather sad because A Tale of Two Cities is my favourite. :(

I would cast Orlando Bloom and Rupert friend as Charles/Sydney. Tazmin Merchant as Lucie, her girlish innocent beauty would do it. What do you think? :)

Definitely still open, and thanks for contributing! :-) That could certainly work!

The other day some friends and I were discussing the possibility of Jim Caviezel as Carton. Maybe an out-of-the-box choice, but he did "Count of Monte Cristo," so we know he can do period drama, and he does both snarky and sincere every week on "Person of Interest," so we know he could do those!

I'm still very much sad and unable to move on and read anything else after A Tale of Two Cities. Every book I touch or word I read reminds me of Sydney's sacrifice. What would you recommend? :(

Jim Caviezel! Hmmm. Too old, but he would probably be very good.
I was reading through the old comments, and now that I've seen a couple of Robert Downey, Jr. movies, I'm inclined to agree with you, Gina, except, again, too old. They're young men at the beginning. Still young men at the end, though it is nearly 10 years later, or whatsit.

Nevra Liz, one can't advise better than to carry on with Dickens. Try Bleak House (self-sacrifice in spades) or Our Mutual Friend or Little Dorrit.

Aww, Nevra Liz, I feel your pain! All of Christy's recommendations are good ones. "Little Dorrit" in particular, I think, might be helpful -- I find it easy to lose myself in that one.

Additionally, how would you like to write a guest post about what reading "A Tale of Two Cities" was like for you? We can always use a good guest post. And sometimes writing out one's feelings about a book helps to make sense of them, I find. If you're interested, respond to this comment, and then I'll send you an e-mail.

Jim Caviezel seems old for the part. Charles was around nineteen years old when he met Lucie, no? and thirty-six when he was imprisoned. Still a young man, I think. Out of Orlando and Rupert, who do you think should play Carton? :)

Christy and Gina - Thank you for your suggestions, I will try to find Little Dorrit and the others when I go on my book-hunt on Sunday. ;) Recently I bought A Christmas Carol but I am unwilling to start it. What do you think of this one?

Also, isn't Barnaby Rudge the only historical fiction that Dickens has written apart from A Tale of Two cities? Would you recommend it? :)

Lastly, Gina, Thank you very much for your kind suggestion <3 It would be an honour but I don't think my English is that good since I am not a native and I have never written a book review before. :(

I'd like to discuss the book with you though and make more sense of it, if that's all right? It's very frustrating when you finish a book and are smitten by it and yet you have no one to talk to about it. I've been doing mental analysis in my head ever since I read it.

Alan Rickman.
You're welcome.

I would cast Alan Rickman as Mr Lorry and Donald Sutherland as Stryver aka the lion. :D

Nevra Liz, "A Christmas Carol" is excellent, and a pretty quick read. I say go ahead and give it a shot! :-) And sure, I'd be happy to discuss "Two Cities" with you.

"Barnaby Rudge" isn't bad, but I personally don't think it's among Dickens's strongest novels. Still, there's lots of interesting historical detail in it, if that's what you're in the mood for!

I am thinking of starting 'A Christmas Carol' in the Christmas season. I went on a book fair today and got several books by the Bronte sisters, Robert Louis Stevenson, Victor Hugo and A Bleak House by Charles Dickens as Christy recommended! :D Can't wait to start it soon. I'm in love with the cover. I'm kind of scared by your self-sacrifice comment though and after reading A Tale of Two cities. :D

Gina - I'm not sure where the discussion will take place but thank you for accepting. Could you e-mail me (I think you can see my e-mail since you're an administrator of the page) for the discussion? :) I'd love that!

P.S I saw a beautiful cover and a book today, it made me drool. 'Complete works of Charles Dickens' Aaaah!

Why not just have the discussion here? :-) As we've already started it here, it seems like the best and simplest course.

I know exactly what you mean about needing to analyze something you've fallen in love with. I feel like I have to do that every single time I read the end of Two Cities. So I do it in my journal, usually.
Christmas Carol is absolutely delicious. Devourable.

Which Bronte books did you get? I love Anne Bronte's books.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)