February 24, 2017


Nicholas Nickleby – 1947 | 108 mins | Dramas | B&W


Plot Synopsis

Nicholas Nickleby

Alberto Cavalcanti‘s last Ealing film was a version of Nicholas Nickleby, it appeared soon after the accomplished David Lean film, and its comparative failure is in some part due to the choice of book. Great Expectations is a much more dramatic story, with a clear narrative line easily disentangled from the usual Dickensian plot-padding; Nicholas Nickleby, on the other hand, presents a bewildering parade of minor characters throughout its meandering length, and indeed much of the attraction of the book lies in the detail of the picaresque narrative, so that any process of selection and eliminad to alienate its devotees. Although John Dighton‘s screenplay did its conscientious best, it must have proved an immensely difficult novel to adapt to a screen time of 108 minutes.

The eponymous role was taken by Derek Bond who had played an officer in The Captive Heart and who gave a bland but not unlikeable performance that at least provided some continuity through what amounted to a succession of cameos. Some of the casting was distinctly odd – Cyril Fletcher glimpsed as Mantalini, Sir Cedric Hardwicke as a genteel Ralph Nickleby, the villainous usurer into whose hands Nicholas and his mother and sister fall on his father’s death. The film is perhaps at its best in the early sequences, showing life at the appalling hellhole of a school, Dotheboys Hall, which is presented with a certain amount of passion; but after Nickleby has left with Smike and joined the ranks of the theatrical Crummles (Stanley Holloway), it becomes anaemic. Nicholas Nickleby plainly represented an attempt on the part of Ealing to pursue another kind of cinematic subject, with a nod in the direction of England’s greatest novelist.

ExtractŠ George Perry: Forever Ealing.

Production Team

Alberto Cavalcanti: Director
Michael Relph: Art Direction
John Croydon: Associate Producer
Gordon Dines: Cinematography
Ernest Irving: Conductor
Marion Horn: Costume Design
Leslie Norman: Editing
Ernest Taylor: Make-Up Artist
Lord Berners: Music
Michael Balcon: Producer
Hal Mason: Production Supervisor
John Dighton: Script
Eric Williams: Sound
Stephen Dalby: Sound
Lionel Banes: Special Effects
Barbara Barnard: Special Effects


Derek Bond: Nicholas Nickleby
Cedric Hardwicke: Ralph Nickleby
Mary Merrall: Mrs Nickleby
Sally Ann Howes: Kate Nickleby
Bernard Miles: Newman Noggs
Sybil Thorndike: Mrs Squeers
Alfred Drayton: Wackford Squeers
Vida Hope: Fanny Squeers
Patricia Hayes: Phoebe
Fay Compton: Mme Mantalini
Cyril Fletcher: Mr Mantalini
Stanley Holloway: Vincent Crummles

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