Short Ends and Leader

'David Copperfield' (1911)

The girlhood of David Copperfield.

David Copperfield

Director: George O. Nichols
Cast: Ed Genung, Flora Foster
Distributor: Thanhouser
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1911
USDVD release date: 2012-10-16

PopMatter previously profiled a collection of films by the Thanhouser Company of New Rochelle, an excellent, ambitious movie studio founded by Edwin Thanhouser. As early as 1911, they experimented with expanding the market beyond one-reel dramas by mounting this three-part version of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, released as a kind of serial in weekly installments.

The parts focus on David's woeful childhood, the episode of Emily's elopement with Steerforth, and finally his two marriages. When they'd acquired all three parts, exhibitors were encouraged to have a special showing of all three together--about 40 glorious minutes. In the first part, David is played by girl star Flora Foster, a casting decision common for the period. An original nitrate print was preserved in Italy in 1955, and this video comes from a newly restored 35mm print finished in 2012. The Italian cards are still present (with optional English subtitles), and Philip Carli wrote a new score.

As is common for the time, the story is presented in tableaus, with a title card announcing the action of the scene that's about to unfold without any dialogue cards. Although many scenes are presented in a single shot, with actions composed carefully in depth by director George O. Nichols, there are also many sequences edited together from several shots in a manner that feels modern except that there are almost no close-ups. There's one interesting medium close-up as Micawber looks over Uriah Heep's shoulder; the shot is a compromise between Micawber's viewpoint and the audience's.

Scholar Joss Marsh offers excellent commentary in which she points out both technical qualities and literary liberties (such as making Copperfield's wives into sisters). The films include a surprising amount of detail and character for such a truncation, and this is possible both because of silent conventions and the audience's assumed familiarity with the story. As a bonus, the studio's excellent half-hour two-reeler of Nicholas Nickleby (1912) is also included; it's previously been available in Volume 8 of the Thanhouser DVD collection.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.