The Gospel in Dickens
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July 19, 2010


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Swinging by on the internet three years later, but here I am...I just read Tale of Two Cities in school, and, of course, cried at the end (which I never do). The Chris Sarandon and Dirk Bogarde versions are both on Youtube and I'm planning to check them out. There are clips of the Ronald Coleman version which I really want to see - his Still, I get the sense that none of them really nail it.

But it would be so great to see a full-fledged miniseries. It just seems so...filmable. Our Mutual Friend, Bleak House, and Little Dorrit were so great. (Ah, Rokesmith! I loved Stephen Mackintosh).

My vote for Sydney Carton...hmm. Probably Rupert Graves. He can really play the drunk, the bad guy, and witty guy, and the good guy (see, respectively, Inspector Lewis, Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Marple, and Sherlock). Very expressive eyes. Ioan Gruffudd is too...naïve-ish. I don't think he would bring the world-weariness. But I agree with the others, Michael Kitchen must have a part. What a great actor!

"A Tale of Two Cities" is my favorite story and Sydney Carton my favorite character! It's really hard to pick a favorite Sydney because it's really hard to pick a favorite adaptation, and so much depends on that. In my opinion, all of the adaptations are flawed, and--sacrilege I know--the novel itself is flawed in a way, because the characters are rather flat--archetypes more than people--except perhaps Sydney. This presents a challenge for filmmakers, who may want to make it "realistic" even though, ironically, the novel reads like a film, particularly the French Revolution scenes. Anyway, performance alone, if I can isolate it, James Wilby overall was my favorite because as you said, he hit all the notes; however, like that adaptation as a whole, there is something stagey about it. I was very impressed by Dirk Bogarde, although that adaptation was so abbreviated; perhaps he best captures Sydney's soul. I never quite saw Colman's appeal; his hairstyle and Humphrey Bogart style weariness takes me out of the story. I think that may be the best overall adaptation, however, because of the addition of a scene Dickens didn't write: the scene outside of church on Christmas Eve. While Elizabeth Allan is still too lightweight as Lucie, that scene works because it shows Lucie's essential quality--compassion--and its spiritual aspect. Most films just try for her beauty and forget this. Lucie and Charles are hard to portray because they are so goody-goody they don't seem real. I would argue that Lucie really could be the main character of A Tale of Two Cities but Dickens instead made her more of an ideal rather than real. Who are your favorite Lucies?

I think Alice Krige of the 1980 version may be the closest to the book without being made of cardboard. She probably swoons too much, but she captures her compassionate nature. Serena Gordon looked most like how I picture Lucie--big beautiful eyes and golden hair--but perhaps the filmmakers tried too hard to make her "realistic" and were trying for thoughtful but she mostly comes across as cold. I remember Dorothy Tutin doing something interesting as Lucie but I can't remember and Allan mostly seems like an airhead. What does everyone think?

Thanks for commenting, Kim! Dorothy Tutin is far and away my favorite Lucie. I think her version is the most well-rounded, and she brings a sweetness to the part that feels real and human, not saccharine.

A tale of Two Cities ,lives forever even 9 years after this discussion began.
Not to get too far-off topic. It seems that everyone has their favorite versions of Sidney Carton and other characters through remakes of this great book. My slant on this is that an Academy Award performance was turned in by Blanche Yurka for her embodiment of Madame Defarge. Just an opinion, everybody's got one , but her performance I thought was nakedly raw and honest.

I would have love to see Jim Caviezel in the role of Sidney Carton, but when he was younger. Because of the way he portrayed Dantes in the count of monte cristo.

He and Coleman are ver similar... to me at least... they both give that feeling of being courteous & noble.

Ronald Coleman is my favourite Carton, but I also like Bogarde's performance as well. He's very funny, and he's look like a hurt kid on the inside... like Carton...

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