David Copperfield: Cukor, Laughton, and W.C. Fields

David O. Selznick, who had taste for great literature, had a habit of keeping lists of possible literary classics he might want to film. Novels, which had withstood the test of time, he believed, were a welcome change from Hollywood’s conventional formulas. Selznick decided to push for an adaptation of Dickens’s David Copperfield. Though no one at MGM was silly enough to suggest modernizing the Dickens masterpiece, he encountered the same kind of opposition he had initially experienced at RKO over Little Women.

Selznick’s contract stipulated that he had control over story selection, but MGM’s top brass was adamantly opposed to highbrow literary adaptations, claiming they were expensive and risky in terms box office appeal. In a February l934 memo to the Loew’s executives, Selznick noted that the public was tired of the hackneyed and standardized movies that Hollywood was grinding out with workmanlike efficiency. Realizing that the classics had to be carefully handled, Selznick emphasized there were few producers with sufficient understanding and few directors with sufficient taste and talent to transcribe them with an “accuracy of spirit and mood.” He finally persuaded the studio heads that he had the understanding, and Cukor had the taste and talent to tackle David Copperfield.

David Copperfield enjoyed a great barrage of advertising. “America makes a British epic,” read the headline of one newspaper. Originally, the movie was going to be made with an entirely British cast. Selznick and Cukor were to prepare the script in Hollywood, then cast and shoot it entirely in England. Louis B. supported the idea, hoping it would boost the film’s grosses in Britain and also revitalize MGM’s British company.

Once it was decided to shoot in England, Cukor became impatient, demanding to know “when the hell,” they were leaving. Here was his great opportunity to go to London, the world’s theater capital, which he had been wanting to see–but either lacked the time or money to do so.

On May 8, l934, Selznick, Cukor and Estabrook arrived in London to look for authentic types and scout locations. Cukor got to meet the British literary elite–Hugh Walpole, J.B. Priestley–at a special lunch for the filmmakers. Selznick told reporters that an American Micawber or Dan Peggotty “simply won’t do”–“We won’t dare, but anyway, we don’t want.”

In London, Cukor got in touch with the head of the Charles Dickens Society, who told him about every place associated with the novel. He carefully went all over the ground traveled by the protagonist, but in the end, only one second-unit shot, a charming view of David walking to Canterbury, was used.

David Copperfield was not destined to be shot in London. The alternative was to make the film in Hollywood, but still use English actors. Cukor was lucky there were many good British actors in Hollywood at the time. Thus, Elsa Lanchester was cast as Clickett, Roland Young as Uriah Heep, and Basil Rathbone as Mr. Murdstone.

Working with Charles Laughton

Early on, Cukor decided that Charles Laughton would be a perfect Micawber. Having just won an Oscar for The Private Lives of Henry VIII, Laughton would be the most prestigious name in the large cast. But the capricious actor was not very interested and had to be persuaded to take the role. Selznick, too, thought Laughton was a good choice, and was willing to do whatever necessary to sign him.

Laughton finally agreed to play Micawber, but then a new set of problems arose for the actor, who had always been insecure. “If Charles had his way,” wrote his wife Elsa Lanchester, “he never would have acted at all, because in every part he ever played, after the first two or three days’ work, he tried to get out of the picture.” On the set of David Copperfield, the situation was worse than ever–Laughton lost his confidence. He considered Micawber a ham actor who was always “on”–if he were to play a ham, he would have to make his own comments on the character. But Dickens’ portrayal was so complete that Laughton felt he had nothing to add.

Initially, Laughton and Cukor got on very well, despite Cukor’s fears of encountering the actor’s alleged prejudice against Jews. Laughton’s physical embodiment of the character was right down to the meticulous makeup of his own devising. But Laughton’s insecurity was too close to the surface–and he began exhibiting strange habits on the set. Laughton needed offstage noises to get himself into the mood, and he was the first actor Cukor encountered who prepared himself for a laughing entrance by walking around making “ha-ha” sounds for hours. Deep down, Laughton felt he wasn’t right, and soon Cukor himself sensed he lacked the geniality the part called for. After one week, Laughton withdrew from the picture–Cukor gave a sigh of relief.

Brilliant Fields

Selznick went to Paramount and made hasty arrangements to borrow W. C. Fields, who as anticipated, jumped at the chance of playing Micawber. Physically, he wasn’t right, but his spirit was ideal. “This is the first time in my life I ever played a real ‘character’ part,” Fields told the press, “I’ve always gone over my dialogue and made it fit my style.”

So many unfavorable stories circulated about Fields that Cukor prepared himself for displays of capricious behavior. But they never happened. Even Fields’ alleged trademark–hatred for children–was not in evidence. Fields treated the 11-year-old Bartholomew with kindness and respect. They spent some time together; Bartholomew became like Fields’ own son.

Fields, in fact, was endearing to work with; his suggestions and ad libs were sound and always in character. In a scene in which he had to sit at a desk writing, he asked Cukor if he could have a cup of tea on the desk. When Micawber got agitated, Fields dipped his pen into the teacup instead of the inkwell. In another scene, sitting on a high stool, he asked for a wastepaper basket so that he could get his feet stuck in it. He found Fields cooperative and dignified–a great complement from Cukor.

To simulate the White Cliffs of Dover, Cukor used locations around Malibu. When he eventually saw the real cliffs, he said he preferred his own: “Our cliffs were better, whiter and cliffier.” “A director creates things artistically,” he quipped, “and then he finds them happening in real life.” As usual, Cukor found the research process stimulating, there were always surprises, and the result was never quite as expected. “When you really look at things, you reeducate your eyes and your sensibilities.”

Cukor regarded filmmaking as a process of self-education. “Every picture is an education to me,” he later said, “Most of the education I have is from preparing pictures. I become sort of a half-assed expert on certain things. In a very profound way, I do a great deal of research purely for myself, and some of it sticks.”

Cukor torturing actresses

David Copperfield launched another long-enduring friendship, this one with Maureen O’Sullivan. According to the actress, Cukor didn’t think she was very good in the ingenue role. “I didn’t quite understand what he wanted and I felt I wasn’t doing it right,” she confessed. O’Sullivan and Cukor did not see eye to eye about Dora. “I went for hair-dressing tests, and I came back to the set to show George my hairdo, which was exactly the same as the one I’d worn in The Barretts of Wimpole Street. I’d rather fancied myself in that, and had pictured Dora as being a more fiery character, which was opposed to George’s notion. George was very disappointed. ‘Oh, he said, ‘I thought you were going to come up with a new hairdo.'”

Cukor was clearly in control of her characterization. “George told you explicitly what line reading he wanted,” she said, “He was very adamant about exactly what he wished you to do, where to stand, how to move. He wasn’t really open to suggestions, and I didn’t make any, because I was in awe of him. George was not dictatorial or fussy, he just knew what he wanted.”

O’Sullivan singled out Cukor’s major qualities as a director as his deep understanding of the material and his tremendous humor, which he used to get what he wished for. In one scene, O’Sullivan had to dance with a dog. “I had just done a Tarzan film, and I couldn’t get this dog to face the camera.” Cukor came over and said, “Maureen, pretend you’re in the Tarzan film. Just wind that damn dog up and get his face on the camera–just twist it around.”

Cukor’s methods, however, were not always so benign. During her death scene, he didn’t quite like what was coming through. “Off camera,” she recalled, “George twisted my feet, turning them this way and that way. It was rather painful and I was in agony, but he got the right expression on my face.” Cukor would use the same trick, twisting Olivia De Havilland’s feet in her birth-giving scene in Gone With the Wind.

Cukor was ill during the first three previews, arising from a palet of pain for the fourth. “They were hectic, confusing times,” he later recalled, “Everybody urging different things, cut some of the stories, release the picture in two parts.” But he always gave credit to Selznick for adamantly insisting that the picture be released in its present form.

The reaction of Cukor’s peers in Hollywood was fantastic. It was the “most magnificent” picture Zane Grey, the noted Westerns’ writer, has seen. “People who have wanted clean pictures have been wonderfully vindicated.” And Joseph Breen, of the Production Code Administration, who Cukor would often come into conflict in the future, noted that he had not seen a picture in a long time that appealed to him more than David Copperfield.

For the British premiere, a Copperfield luncheon was organized, with celebrities like Hugh Walpole, Sir Frederick Macmillan, J.B. Priestly, Frank Lawton (who played the mature Copperfield), and two of Dickens’ granddaughters in attendance. The British press came ready to attack the film, but everyone was charmed by what they saw.

Walpole, who also played the parson in the film, praised David Copperfield, particularly its editing, which was also nominated for an Oscar. Walpole very much wanted to work with Cukor again, and tried to find the right English classic for them to tackle. Though another literary friendship began, they never managed another collaboration. Years later, Walpole dedicated a collection of his stories to Cukor with a most personal inscription.


(in order of appearance)

Edna May Oliver as Betsey Trotwood
Elizabeth Allan as Clara Copperfield
Jessie Ralph as Clara Peggotty
Harry Beresford as Dr. Chillip
Freddie Bartholomew as David Copperfield as a boy
Basil Rathbone as Edward Murdstone
Hugh Walpole as the vicar
Herbert Mundin as Barkis, coachman
John Buckler as Ham Peggotty
Faye Chaldecott as Little Em’ly as a child
Una O’Connor as Mrs. Gummidge
Lionel Barrymore as Dan’l Peggotty
Violet Kemble Cooper as Jane Murdstone
Elsa Lanchester as Clickett, Micawber’s maid
Jean Cadell as Emma Micawber
W. C. Fields as Wilkins Micawber
Lennox Pawle as Mr. Dick
Renee Gadd as Janet, Aunt Betsey’s maid
Marilyn Knowlden as Agnes Wickfield as a child
Lewis Stone as Mr. Wickfield
Roland Young as Uriah Heep
Frank Lawton as David Copperfield as a young man
Madge Evans as Agnes Wickfield as a woman
Hugh Williams as James Steerforth
Maureen O’Sullivan as Dora Spenlow
Florine McKinney as Little Em’ly as a woman
Ivan F. Simpson as Littimer, Steerforth’s servant
Mabel Colcord as Mary Ann

xosotin chelseathông tin chuyển nhượngcâu lạc bộ bóng đá arsenalbóng đá atalantabundesligacầu thủ haalandUEFAevertonxosokeonhacaiketquabongdalichthidau7m.newskqbdtysokeobongdabongdalufutebol ao vivofutemaxmulticanaisonbetbsport.fitonbet88.oooi9bet.bizhi88.ooookvip.atf8bet.atfb88.cashvn88.cashshbet.atbóng đá world cupbóng đá inter milantin juventusbenzemala ligaclb leicester cityMUman citymessi lionelsalahnapolineymarpsgronaldoserie atottenhamvalenciaAS ROMALeverkusenac milanmbappenapolinewcastleaston villaliverpoolfa cupreal madridpremier leagueAjaxbao bong da247EPLbarcelonabournemouthaff cupasean footballbên lề sân cỏbáo bóng đá mớibóng đá cúp thế giớitin bóng đá ViệtUEFAbáo bóng đá việt namHuyền thoại bóng đágiải ngoại hạng anhSeagametap chi bong da the gioitin bong da lutrận đấu hôm nayviệt nam bóng đátin nong bong daBóng đá nữthể thao 7m24h bóng đábóng đá hôm naythe thao ngoai hang anhtin nhanh bóng đáphòng thay đồ bóng đábóng đá phủikèo nhà cái onbetbóng đá lu 2thông tin phòng thay đồthe thao vuaapp đánh lô đềdudoanxosoxổ số giải đặc biệthôm nay xổ sốkèo đẹp hôm nayketquaxosokq xskqxsmnsoi cầu ba miềnsoi cau thong kesxkt hôm naythế giới xổ sốxổ số 24hxo.soxoso3mienxo so ba mienxoso dac bietxosodientoanxổ số dự đoánvé số chiều xổxoso ket quaxosokienthietxoso kq hôm nayxoso ktxổ số megaxổ số mới nhất hôm nayxoso truc tiepxoso ViệtSX3MIENxs dự đoánxs mien bac hom nayxs miên namxsmientrungxsmn thu 7con số may mắn hôm nayKQXS 3 miền Bắc Trung Nam Nhanhdự đoán xổ số 3 miềndò vé sốdu doan xo so hom nayket qua xo xoket qua xo so.vntrúng thưởng xo sokq xoso trực tiếpket qua xskqxs 247số miền nams0x0 mienbacxosobamien hôm naysố đẹp hôm naysố đẹp trực tuyếnnuôi số đẹpxo so hom quaxoso ketquaxstruc tiep hom nayxổ số kiến thiết trực tiếpxổ số kq hôm nayso xo kq trực tuyenkết quả xổ số miền bắc trực tiếpxo so miền namxổ số miền nam trực tiếptrực tiếp xổ số hôm nayket wa xsKQ XOSOxoso onlinexo so truc tiep hom nayxsttso mien bac trong ngàyKQXS3Msố so mien bacdu doan xo so onlinedu doan cau loxổ số kenokqxs vnKQXOSOKQXS hôm naytrực tiếp kết quả xổ số ba miềncap lo dep nhat hom naysoi cầu chuẩn hôm nayso ket qua xo soXem kết quả xổ số nhanh nhấtSX3MIENXSMB chủ nhậtKQXSMNkết quả mở giải trực tuyếnGiờ vàng chốt số OnlineĐánh Đề Con Gìdò số miền namdò vé số hôm nayso mo so debach thủ lô đẹp nhất hôm naycầu đề hôm naykết quả xổ số kiến thiết toàn quốccau dep 88xsmb rong bach kimket qua xs 2023dự đoán xổ số hàng ngàyBạch thủ đề miền BắcSoi Cầu MB thần tàisoi cau vip 247soi cầu tốtsoi cầu miễn phísoi cau mb vipxsmb hom nayxs vietlottxsmn hôm naycầu lô đẹpthống kê lô kép xổ số miền Bắcquay thử xsmnxổ số thần tàiQuay thử XSMTxổ số chiều nayxo so mien nam hom nayweb đánh lô đề trực tuyến uy tínKQXS hôm nayxsmb ngày hôm nayXSMT chủ nhậtxổ số Power 6/55KQXS A trúng roycao thủ chốt sốbảng xổ số đặc biệtsoi cầu 247 vipsoi cầu wap 666Soi cầu miễn phí 888 VIPSoi Cau Chuan MBđộc thủ desố miền bắcthần tài cho sốKết quả xổ số thần tàiXem trực tiếp xổ sốXIN SỐ THẦN TÀI THỔ ĐỊACầu lô số đẹplô đẹp vip 24hsoi cầu miễn phí 888xổ số kiến thiết chiều nayXSMN thứ 7 hàng tuầnKết quả Xổ số Hồ Chí Minhnhà cái xổ số Việt NamXổ Số Đại PhátXổ số mới nhất Hôm Nayso xo mb hom nayxxmb88quay thu mbXo so Minh ChinhXS Minh Ngọc trực tiếp hôm nayXSMN 88XSTDxs than taixổ số UY TIN NHẤTxs vietlott 88SOI CẦU SIÊU CHUẨNSoiCauVietlô đẹp hôm nay vipket qua so xo hom naykqxsmb 30 ngàydự đoán xổ số 3 miềnSoi cầu 3 càng chuẩn xácbạch thủ lônuoi lo chuanbắt lô chuẩn theo ngàykq xo-solô 3 càngnuôi lô đề siêu vipcầu Lô Xiên XSMBđề về bao nhiêuSoi cầu x3xổ số kiến thiết ngày hôm nayquay thử xsmttruc tiep kết quả sxmntrực tiếp miền bắckết quả xổ số chấm vnbảng xs đặc biệt năm 2023soi cau xsmbxổ số hà nội hôm naysxmtxsmt hôm nayxs truc tiep mbketqua xo so onlinekqxs onlinexo số hôm nayXS3MTin xs hôm nayxsmn thu2XSMN hom nayxổ số miền bắc trực tiếp hôm naySO XOxsmbsxmn hôm nay188betlink188 xo sosoi cầu vip 88lô tô việtsoi lô việtXS247xs ba miềnchốt lô đẹp nhất hôm naychốt số xsmbCHƠI LÔ TÔsoi cau mn hom naychốt lô chuẩndu doan sxmtdự đoán xổ số onlinerồng bạch kim chốt 3 càng miễn phí hôm naythống kê lô gan miền bắcdàn đề lôCầu Kèo Đặc Biệtchốt cầu may mắnkết quả xổ số miền bắc hômSoi cầu vàng 777thẻ bài onlinedu doan mn 888soi cầu miền nam vipsoi cầu mt vipdàn de hôm nay7 cao thủ chốt sốsoi cau mien phi 7777 cao thủ chốt số nức tiếng3 càng miền bắcrồng bạch kim 777dàn de bất bạion newsddxsmn188betw88w88789bettf88sin88suvipsunwintf88five8812betsv88vn88Top 10 nhà cái uy tínsky88iwinlucky88nhacaisin88oxbetm88vn88w88789betiwinf8betrio66rio66lucky88oxbetvn88188bet789betMay-88five88one88sin88bk88xbetoxbetMU88188BETSV88RIO66ONBET88188betM88M88SV88Jun-68Jun-88one88iwinv9betw388OXBETw388w388onbetonbetonbetonbet88onbet88onbet88onbet88onbetonbetonbetonbetqh88mu88Nhà cái uy tínpog79vp777vp777vipbetvipbetuk88uk88typhu88typhu88tk88tk88sm66sm66me88me888live8live8livesm66me88win798livesm66me88win79pog79pog79vp777vp777uk88uk88tk88tk88luck8luck8kingbet86kingbet86k188k188hr99hr99123b8xbetvnvipbetsv66zbettaisunwin-vntyphu88vn138vwinvwinvi68ee881xbetrio66zbetvn138i9betvipfi88clubcf68onbet88ee88typhu88onbetonbetkhuyenmai12bet-moblie12betmoblietaimienphi247vi68clupcf68clupvipbeti9betqh88onb123onbefsoi cầunổ hũbắn cáđá gàđá gàgame bàicasinosoi cầuxóc đĩagame bàigiải mã giấc mơbầu cuaslot gamecasinonổ hủdàn đềBắn cácasinodàn đềnổ hũtài xỉuslot gamecasinobắn cáđá gàgame bàithể thaogame bàisoi cầukqsssoi cầucờ tướngbắn cágame bàixóc đĩa开云体育开云体育开云体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育亚新体育亚新体育亚新体育爱游戏爱游戏爱游戏华体会华体会华体会IM体育IM体育沙巴体育沙巴体育PM体育PM体育AG尊龙AG尊龙AG尊龙AG百家乐AG百家乐AG百家乐AG真人AG真人<AG真人<皇冠体育皇冠体育PG电子PG电子万博体育万博体育KOK体育KOK体育欧宝体育江南体育江南体育江南体育半岛体育半岛体育半岛体育凯发娱乐凯发娱乐杏彩体育杏彩体育杏彩体育FB体育PM真人PM真人<米乐娱乐米乐娱乐天博体育天博体育开元棋牌开元棋牌j9九游会j9九游会开云体育AG百家乐AG百家乐AG真人AG真人爱游戏华体会华体会im体育kok体育开云体育开云体育开云体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育欧宝体育ob体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育开云体育开云体育棋牌棋牌沙巴体育买球平台新葡京娱乐开云体育mu88qh88