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Oliver Twist (1948)


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!

A thunderstorm rages as a pregnant woman stumbles across fields and along lanes to reach the shelter of the parish workhouse. Here the woman gives birth to Oliver Twist, but is so exhausted she dies soon afterwards. Oliver grows up an orphan in the workhouse. Unfairly, he is seen as a stubborn, belligerent boy by the Beadle, Mr Bumble. While still young, he is apprenticed to Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker. Exploited and unhappy, Oliver resolves to run away.

In London, he meets the streetwise Artful Dodger. The older boy introduces Oliver to a gang of juvenile delinquents. In a disused house, they are looked after by their charismatic leader, an old man named Fagin. Fagin ensures the boys are taught how to commit petty crimes - chiefly pick-pocketing. The boys walk the streets of London by day practising their trade. Bill Sikes, also taught by Fagin as a boy, is now a burglar and is a frightening presence in the hideout. Nancy, his kind girlfriend, is a mother-figure to many of the boys.

Oliver learns to pick pockets, but on one of his first attempts he is arrested. At the police station a wealthy old gentleman, Mr. Brownlow, takes pity on the boy and speaks up for him. The gentleman takes custody of Oliver, planning to educate and care for him.

Bill Sikes finds out where Oliver is living and immediately senses an opportunity to rob the Brownlow house. Sikes plans to force Oliver to let them in. He kidnaps Oliver and returns with him to Fagin's hideout to plan the robbery. Nancy tries to return Oliver to Mr. Brownlow, only to be brutally murdered by the enraged Sikes.

The attempted robbery fails. Sikes then drags Oliver over the rooftops of London as he is chased by the police and a torch-carrying mob. Sikes falls and dies, while Fagin is subsequently imprisoned. Oliver is saved and soon returns to Mr. Brownlow. He discovers that he is the lost grandson Brownlow has been seeking for so long.