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Pickwick Papers, The (1913)


Main image of Pickwick Papers, The (1913)
35mm, 2079 ft, silent, black & white
DirectorLarry Trimble
Production CompanyVitagraph Company of America
ScriptEugene Mullin
From the novel byCharles Dickens

Cast: John Bunny (Mr Pickwick), Arthur Ricketts (Mr Jingle)

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Stories from Dickens' The Pickwick Papers: 'The Adventure of the Honourable Event', 'The Adventure at the Westgate Seminary' and 'The Adventure of the Shooting Party'.

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The three-reel The Pickwick Papers, a joint production by the British and American Vitagraph companies, starred popular American comedian John Bunny and was filmed mainly on location in England (this apparently stemmed from Bunny's desire to play Pickwick in the authentic locations). Perhaps more than many of Dickens' other novels, The Pickwick Papers leant itself easily to adaptation, thanks to the episodic nature of the novel and the self-contained stories which feature within it (examples of the latter being Gabriel Grub, 1904, and A Knight for a Night, 1909). Only the first and third reel from the 1913 Vitagraph version - 'The Honourable Event' (featured here) and 'The Westgate Seminary' - still survive in the BFI National Archive.

Unfortunately, the adaptation is rather unadventurous, the story made comprehensible through the intertitles rather that the dramatic action. John Bunny's heavy features make for a dour Mr Pickwick, while only a fraction of Jingle's comic language and word-play can be conveyed in a silent film. The adaptation does, however, make good use of its outdoor locations, and was praised at the time by The Moving Picture World for using settings "that Dickens had in mind". The cab which features in the first episode was also apparently specially built from the only survivor of its kind, which is now in the British Museum.

Caroline Millar

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Dickens Before Sound'.

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Video Clips
Pt 1: 'The Adventure of the Honourable Event' (14:43)
Dickens on Film