Film Review and Rating / Synopsis

(Please note the films reviewed on this site contain plot summaries and may contain SPOILERS.)
  • Oliver Twist (1922) - Plot Summary - Silent film based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens which brings to the screen the familiar tale of the poor orphan boy Oliver Twist (Jackie Coogan). Opening title cards : "Among the public buildings in a certain English town there was a workhouse ...." -- "Here was born the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the beginning of this tale." A young woman has been found on the street and brought into the workhouse where she gives birth to a baby boy and then dies, no one at the place knowing who she is or where she came from. The unwanted baby becomes a workhouse orphan who has been given the name Oliver Twist by Mr. Bumble, the workhouse beadle. Cut to nine years later where the overworked and hungry workhouse boys draw lots to see who will ask for more gruel. Oliver "wins", and is made to go up to the "cook" ladling gruel out of a giant pot and timidly ask that classic line "Please sir, I want some more". He is soundly scolded and sent to confinement in his room to be sold for a reward in the morning. Poor hungry Oliver falls asleep dreaming of "food, glorious food". Next day a local undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry, is enticed by the reward being offered to take on Oliver as an apprentice. Oliver doesn't get on too well in his new life with the undertaker, where he is forced to sleep with the coffins. After getting in a fight with a workmate who likes to torment him, he is locked up to be returned to the workhouse next day - but he makes his escape and hits the road. Little waif-like Oliver makes the long trip to London on foot and on arrival meets the cockney youth known as "The Artful Dodger" who helps him out by bringing him to the rooms of a "respectable old gentleman" who gives free lodging to boys. The "old gentleman" is an aged scoundrel named Fagin (Lon Chaney) who teaches outcast boys how to steal, using them to do his own dirty work. Instructing Oliver on how to pick a pocket, Oliver thinks it's just a game until he's out on the streets with two of the boys who end up picking a wealthy old man's pocket - and as they run off poor Oliver gets the blame! The old man, Mr. Brownlow, takes Oliver home to live with him after a witness reveals the truth about the pickpockets - but Fagin's evil henchman, Bill Sikes, wants tiny Oliver to help him commit a house burglary, and Oliver gets kidnapped back to Fagin's and forced to help with the crime! Will the truth of Oliver's parentage ever be found out, and will young Oliver ever get away from those creeps and back to Mr. Brownlow?!

    Review - After child star Jackie's Coogan's rising popularity since his success in the Charlie Chaplin film "The Kid" from 1921, the lead role in a film version of "Oliver Twist" seems like an obvious choice for the adorable young actor, and it's really an ideal role for him at this point in his career. Young Jackie's portrayal of Oliver is a good match to the original text description of Oliver in Charles Dicken's novel which is "Oliver Twist's ninth birthday found him a pale thin child, somewhat diminutive in stature, and decidedly small in circumference. But nature or inheritance had implanted a good sturdy spirit in Oliver's breast." Jackie Coogan brings a great charm to all his roles, creating characters that are sympathetic and interesting. In this film, he brings the perfect innocence and likeability to his portrayal of the character - with his big brown expressive eyes and waif-like presence, he dominates the screen even alongside the great Lon Chaney, heavily made up to appear as the old miscreant Fagin. Fagin's makeup and appearance is also a good match to the description of the character from the novel: "a very old shrivelled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair. He was dressed in a greasy flannel gown, with his throat bare;" - I just love Lon Chaney, a genuine master of disguise! This is an excellent adaptation of this story, very entertaining and well done. The version I saw of this had an organ score, which was acceptable. Rating - * 9/10 stars *

    Director: Frank Lloyd
    Film Genre: Historical / Period Melodrama
    Film Runtime: 107 minutes



Links / Resources




film review Jackie Coogan as Oliver Twist

RATINGS KEY:

10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed





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