Director Delbert Mann and his scriptwriter, Jack Pulman, elected to tell this version of David Copperfield through the eyes of David as a young man. A very woebegone chap he is. Just returned from a self-imposed exile abroad he wanders up and down a deserted beach, pondering over the last few years of his life and what went so despairingly wrong with them.
The story is jerkily and bitterly related, mainly in flashbacks, but the constant return to the brooding, self-pitying Copperfield makes for a melancholy drag.
It also means that through constant flashbacks few of Dickens’ wonderful array of characters get much opportunity to develop their roles.
Notably, Laurence Olivier, as the schoolmaster Creakle, and Richard Attenborough, as his cringing, one-legged assistant, Tungay. Their brilliant brief appearances light up the screen in about 60 seconds flat. Then they disappear.