Sun 8 Dec 2013
A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Fox Film Corporation, 1917. William Farnum, Jewel Carmen, Charles Clary, Herschel Mayan, Rosita Marstini, and many others. Scenario by Frank Lloyd. Director: Frank Lloyd. Shown at Cinevent 38, Columbus OH, May 2006.
This is a lavish, entertaining version of the Dickens novel, adapted and directed by Frank Lloyd (later director of the 1924 version of The Sea Hawk), which undoubtedly takes many liberties with the original to fit into a seventy-minute running time.
The most startling departure is the murder of Mme De Farge (certainly well-deserved but not canonical) but otherwise the story sticks to the familiar central plot of wrongs righted with new wrongs committed in the name of “justice,” and Sydney Carton delivering, as expected and anticipated, his famous curtain speech in intertitles.
The key roles of Charles Carney and Sydney Carton are both played by William Farnum, and played superbly, and the supporting cast is uniformly excellent The 1935 MGM version will probably always be considered the definitive screen adaptation for its typically lavish MGM production and casting, but this silent film seems somehow closer in spirit and style to the historical period.