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Dickens' London (1924)


Main image of Dickens' London (1924)
For Wonderful London, 35mm, black & white, 806 ft, silent
DirectorFrank Miller
DirectorHarry B. Parkinson
Production CompanyGraham-Wilcox Productions

A guided tour of the locations associated with Charles Dickens and his literary creations.

Show full synopsis

This episode of the popular Wonderful London series aims to show the viewer authentic sites in the city associated with Dickens the man and the London backgrounds for his fictional creations.

The film, despite being rapidly and cheaply produced, is interesting for several reasons. It shows locations associated with Dickens that have changed (or not) since it was filmed in 1924, and it uses superimposed 'ghostly' Dickensian characters in a way that is unusual in a production of this type. Perhaps best of all for film historians and Dickens fans alike, it incorporates footage from an otherwise lost Dickens adaptation - the 1911 Thomas Bentley/Hepworth production of Oliver Twist. One very short scene shows Bill Sikes escaping over the roof from the house in Jacob's Island, while there is also a tiny fragment of the death of Nancy scene.

Both these clips were used to supplement the lack of anything to see 'on the ground' in that riverside area, which had presumably been extensively rebuilt since Dickens' day. Several sites in the film look much as they do today - the Old Curiosity Shop is almost identical and even then bore the legend 'immortalised by Charles Dickens' that proclaimed it the authentic site from the novel. The characters of Little Nell and Grandfather are seen emerging from the shop, followed by Dickens himself.

The actors have been superimposed with a good deal of skill. It is a clever way to help the viewer to visualise the characters in their 'real' location. The Law Courts - settings for Bleak House and The Pickwick Papers - have barely changed, but other locations have changed utterly: the site of the famous blacking factory where the young Dickens was put to work is completely overlain by the railway coming over Hungerford Bridge to Charing Cross.

The film's intertitles urge the viewer to get out and see these locations before they all disappear, illustrating this plea with a shot of a building being demolished to one side of St Mary le Strand (where Dickens' parents were married). A final sequence in the film sees the various Dickens characters (Quilp, Little Nell, Sam Weller, Fagin and the Artful Dodger, with Mr Pickwick driving) going for a ride on a motorised double decker bus.

Bryony Dixon

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (12:01)
London's Contrasts (1924)
Dickens on Film