A Tale Of Two Cities During the French Revolution, French national Lucie Manette (Dorothy Tutin) meets and falls in love with Englishman Charles Darnay (Paul Guers). He is, however, hiding his true identity as a member of the French aristocratic Evrémonde family, whom he has denounced in private. The Marquis St. Evrémonde (Sir Christopher Lee) in particular was a cruel man. Those he wronged have vowed to see the end of the family line at any cost. Lucie’s father Dr. Alexandre Manette (Stephen Murray) was imprisoned in the Bastille for eighteen years because of actions of the Marquis. Into their lives comes English barrister Sydney Carton (Sir Dirk Bogarde), who enjoys his alcohol to excess. Carton earlier defended Darnay in a trial on trumped up charges of treason. Carton doesn’t really like Darnay in part because Carton also loves Lucie, he realizing that that love is unrequited. But Carton does eventually learn of Darnay’s true heritage at a critical time
A classic film version of a classic novel
This is a classic film version of one of Dickin’s classic novels. Arguably his best novel (though the critics tend to dismiss it – it has a straightforward plot and structure), it translates into an exceptional film.
For those who don’t know the story, it concerns the fortunes of the Manette and St Evremonde families at the time of the French revolution. In a Romeo and Juliet type situation, Charles Darnay (alias St Evremonde) loves Lucie Manette, whose father Darnay’s uncle had wronged. Now living in London, neither can escape the terrible events in Paris, and they are drawn to a climatic conclusion as the guillotine falls on aristocrat and commoner alike.
Marvellous movie of one of the great books
This is my favourite Dickens book and my favourite Dickens dramatisation. I remember reading that there had been some doubts originally whether Dirk Bogarde matinée idol could manage this part. Instead it was presumably his first chance to show the inimitable quality of his acting. He is perfect in this part and I cannot imagine anyone else ever doing it better although I’d guess Ronald Coleman could equal it. I’ve seen one other, more recent version and although Carton’s actor had a good go at it, it totally lacked the amazing charisma Bogarde provided for what is one of Dickens’ most poignant characters – flawed, fascinating, cynical, damaged but wonderful.
It’s a crying shame this wasn’t filmed in colour since the producers did consider doing so and then didn’t. But the production and acting are so excellent that you soon don’t notice it isn’t colour as you become completely immersed in the movie. I suppose it’s always possible the lack of colour actually enhances the drama, and for me this story is the most dramatic and poignant of all Dickens – a work of pure genius.