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Tale of Two Cities, A (1958)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Jarvis Larry of Tellson's Bank is called to travel to France with Lucie Manette, whose father, Dr. Alexandre Manette, is to be released from the Bastille after eighteen years' imprisonment.

Sharing the carriage with Tellson when he receives this message is a cynical young English lawyer, Sydney Carton, whose misanthropic outlook has led him to drink. Carton is strikingly similar to a young French aristocrat named Charles Darnay.

Carton uses his likeness as a means of defending Darnay in an English court on charges of spying made by treacherous informer Barsad, suggesting that vital evidence could have been based on mistaken identity. Carton saves the French aristocrat from an indictment of treason. Carton confesses to Darnay's fiancée Lucie that he admires but asks that she keep his confession a secret.

Darnay risks a return to France to be met by the ogre-like Marquis St. Evermonde. Thanks to the bitter and vengeful Madame Defarge, Darnay is caught and taken to the Bastille by the revolutionary mob in Paris. He is condemned to die at the guillotine.

Lucie's hears of her husband's plight and pleas for help. Carton agrees to do what he can and travels to Paris. There he arranges to visit Darnay's prison cell. Carton drugs him and substitutes himself for the condemned man. Darnay is smuggled out of Paris to freedom and a reunion with Lucie by Jarvis. Meanwhile Carton is taken towards the scaffold to face the executioner.