Review: ‘A Tale of Two Cities’

Metro achieves in A Tale of Two Cities a screen classic. The two yawning pitfalls of spectacle and dialog have been adroitly evaded. The fall of the Bastille [directed by Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur] is breathtaking but it is given no greater valuation than its influence on the plot [from the novel by Charles Dickens] warrants.

Metro achieves in A Tale of Two Cities a screen classic. The two yawning pitfalls of spectacle and dialog have been adroitly evaded. The fall of the Bastille [directed by Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur] is breathtaking but it is given no greater valuation than its influence on the plot [from the novel by Charles Dickens] warrants.

The rabble at the guillotine is blood-chilling in its ferocity, but not for a moment does it overlie the principals, waiting in the shadow of the bloody platform for their turn to come. In the dialog the lines are neither the often stilted phrases of the book, nor yet the colloquial language of today.

Ronald Colman makes his Carton one of the most pathetic figures in the screen catalog. Gone are his drawing room mannerisms, shaved along with his moustache. Henry B. Walthall is good as Manette and Blanche Yurka magnificent as the vengeful Mme De Farge.

The others all are good, each in proportion to assignment, with Elizabeth Allan suffering somewhat from necessity for being so typically a Dickens’ heroine.

1936: Nominations: Best Picture, Editing

A Tale of Two Cities

Production

M-G-M. Director Jack Conway; Producer David O. Selznick; Screenplay W.P. Lipscomb, S.N. Behrman; Camera Oliver T. Marsh; Editor Conrad A. Nervig; Music Herbert Stothart; Art Director Cedric Gibbons, Frederic Hope, Edwin B. Willis

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1936. Running time: 121 MIN.

With

Ronald Colman Elizabeth Allan Edna May Oliver Reginald Owen Basil Rathbone Blanche Yurka
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