Sunday, August 15, 2010

#6 DZP: A Tale of Two Cities 1935

A Tale of Two Cities is a 1935 film based upon Charles Dickens' 1859 historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The film stars Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton, Donald Woods and Elizabeth Allan. The supporting players include Basil Rathbone, Blanche Yurka, and Edna Mae Oliver. It was directed by Jack Conway from a screenplay by W.P. Lipscomb and S.N. Behrman. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Film Editing. The story is set in the French Revolution and deals with two men who are alike, not only in appearance, but in their love for the same woman.

On the eve of the French Revolution, Lucie Manette (Elizabeth Allan) is informed that her father (Henry B. Walthall) is not dead, but has been a prisoner in the Bastille for many long years before finally being released. She travels to Paris to take her father to her home in England. Dr. Manette has been taken care of by a friend, Ernest Defarge (Mitchell Lewis), and his wife (Blanche Yurka). The old man's mind has given way during his long ordeal, but Lucie's tender care begins to restore his sanity.

On the trip across the English Channel, Lucie meets Charles Darnay (Donald Woods), a French aristocrat who, unlike his unfeeling uncle, the Marquis de St. Evremonde (Basil Rathbone), is sympathetic to the plight of the downtrodden French masses. Darnay is framed for treason, but is saved by the cleverness of the dissolute Sydney Carton (Ronald Colman). Carton goes drinking with Barsad (Walter Catlett), the main prosecution witness, and tricks him into admitting that he lied. When Barsad is called to testify, he is horrified to discover that Carton is one of the defense attorneys and grudgingly allows that he might have been mistaken. Darnay is released.

Carton is thanked by Lucie, who has attended the trial of her new friend. He quickly falls in love with her, but realizes it is hopeless. Lucie eventually marries Darnay, and they have a daughter.

By this time, the Reign of Terror has engulfed France. The long-suffering commoners vent their fury on the aristocrats, condemning scores daily to Madame Guillotine. Darnay is tricked into returning to Paris and arrested. Dr. Manette pleads for mercy for his son-in-law, but Madame Defarge, seeking revenge against all the Evremondes, regardless of guilt or innocence, convinces the tribunal to sentence him to death.

Carton comes up with a desperate rescue plan. He first persuades Lucie and her friends to leave Paris by promising to save Darnay. Then he blackmails an old acquaintance, Barsad, now an influential man in the French government, to enable Carton to visit Darnay in jail. There, Carton drugs the prisoner unconscious, switches places with him, and has Darnay carried out to be reunited with his family.

Madame Defarge, her thirst for vengeance still unsatisfied, goes to have Lucie and her daughter arrested, only to find that they have fled with Dr. Manette. As she goes to raise the alarm, she is confronted by Miss Pross (Edna May Oliver), Lucie's devoted servant. In the ensuing struggle, Madame Defarge is killed.

Meanwhile, only a condemned seamstress (Isabel Jewell) notices Carton's substitution, but keeps quiet. She draws comfort in his heroism as they ride in the same cart to the execution place.

Well if that wasn't depressing. I understand those might have been the times, but all the thirst for blood from the Reign of Terror of France was just so sad. They were slaves, but to kill innocent people or people that had spoke to a Aristocrat once in their life, would have to pay with death. Makes me wonder if politics will lead us to that same suffering one day...

It was very brave of Carton to take the place of Darnay, and to keep the poor seamstress company will they come down to the last minute of their lives. I wasn't sure about him, and I couldn't keep up with the names at first, but slowly when he fell in love with Lucie, you saw more of his character and started to feel the pain and suffering he was going through; a wonderful job by Ronald Colman indeed.

I did like the Christmas parts and of course seeing all the ladies fashion back then. And the way movies were filmed back then was interesting too. I never read Dickson's book, but this movie had enough emotion packed into (the less than 3 hour movie) it.

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