Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

Revolution is in the air in France as the poor starve in the streets and despicable aristocrats such as the Marquis St. Evremonde (Basil Rathbone) live lives of decadent opulence. When his nephew, the earnest Charles Darnay (Donald Woods) emigrates to London and marries the daughter of a doctor persecuted by the aristocracy, Evremonde sees that he is outed a traitor.  At his trial, he is defended by Sydney Carton (Ronald Colman), a wastrel living an empty life. Now, feeling an affection for his new group of cohorts and especially for Darnay's wife Lucie (Elizabeth Allen), Carton sees an opportunity to make a humanistic sacrifice when the Revolution spirals out of control and encumbers all involved. "A Tale of Two Cities" is a glorious adaptation of one of Charles Dickens most beloved novels. Produced by David O. Selznick at MGM, wonderfully captures the best of times and worst of times of the classic novel. As Sydney Carton, Ronald Colman gives a wonderfully brooding and completely affecting performance. He is given strong support from a slew of familiar players which includes Basil Rathbone, Reginald Owen, and especially Edna May Oliver who is a hoot as Lucie's wisecracking servant and Blanche Yurka as the insanely vengeful Madame De Farge. The production values are all top notch and are particularly spectacular in scenes involving the storming of the Bastille, the peasant's kangaroo court, and the mob lined guillotine sequence. "A Tale of Two Cities" is a remarkable achievement in that it brings a classic work to the screen in both literate and rousing fashion.