David Copperfield
Release Date
17 October 1911

David Copperfield (1911)

Drama, Short
(Reel One) The film starts with the time Aunt Betsy, an eccentric spinster, flattens her nose against the windowpane before she enters the Copperfield home, over which the stork is hovering. Aunt Betsy, in anticipation of a birth, had set her mind on a girl, because she abhors boys. When it is therefore announced that the stork has brought a boy, she vanishes from the house "like a discontented fairy." David's mother is a helpless young woman, impractical and unassertive. She married an elderly gentleman, who dies before David is born. Eight years after David's birth, she is flattered by the attentions of Edward Murdstone, who is ardent in his courtship because the widow's money is such a tantalizing incentive. David shows his dislike for Mr. Murdstone. His mother marries, however, while he is absent on a trip with Peggotty to her brother's house at Yarmouth. Here he meets hearty fish folk, among whom he finds little Emily. With the marriage of his mother to Murdstone begins a series of hardships which finally end when his mother dies. After his mother's death, Mr. Murdstone places him in a bottling factory, but David runs away and finds refuge with his Aunt Betsy. (Reel Two) This picture shows David already grown to manhood at an inn at Yarmouth. Here he meets Steerforth, a chum of his boyhood days, at the Salem House. David invites Steerforth to come with him to visit his friends at Yarmouth. They arrive just when the announcement is made of the engagement of little Em'ly to Ham. David is enthusiastic and congratulates the seemingly happy couple. He then introduces Steerforth, who is attracted by little Em'ly's simple beauty. At the first opportunity he makes love to her. Little Em'ly sees in the suave Steerforth her ideal and eventually he is able to induce the misguided girl to elope with him to Italy. Before leaving she sends a note to Ham, which wrings the heart of her faithful lover. In Italy, the caddish Steerforth tires of Em'ly and deserts her. Little Em'ly then finds herself adrift. Later, after a long illness, broken in spirit and mind, she arrives in London, where Mr. Peggotty and David find her and provide for her future. In the meantime Steerforth sails for England. The boat in which he sails is wrecked off the coast of Yarmouth. Ham sights the wreck and in an attempted rescue is drowned. Steerforth's body is washed ashore. Whimsical fate brings the bodies of Steerforth and Ham side by side. The last scene closes with David, hat in hand and bowed head, standing between the bodies of two of his friends. (Reel Three) Uriah Heep, the humble creature, loquacious Mr. Micawber, eccentric Aunt Betsy, Mr. Wickfield, the lawyer: Dora, the "Doll-wife;" lovelorn and sighing Agnes, and the others, all move about in a sphere totally Dickensonian. The scenes are set in Mr. Wickfield's home, and his office, the homes of Aunt Betsy and David, and the church in which David is married to Dora. The different incidents chosen for reproduction help to bring out forcibly the characteristics of the chief actors. The picture introduces the irrepressible Mr. Micawber, who is always waiting for something to "turn up." It covers the period of the story where David and his Aunt Betsy come to the office of Wickfield and Heep in a business transaction. Heep, the humble creature, is portrayed with almost startling realism. Threaded with the machinations and forgeries, of Uriah Heep and his final undoing through this sagacity and suspicions of Mr. Micawber, are David Copperfield's love affairs. David is much attached to Agnes and Dora, but Dora's doll-like face and childish manners captivate him and he marries her. The marriage, however, does not turn out a happy one, for Dora is a poor housekeeper with little mentality and less adaptability. Dora dies shortly after her marriage, and on her death-bed she asks Agnes to marry David. Agnes is in love with David from the very first, and when he returns from a trip abroad, after the death of his wife, he learns of Agnes' love for him and he marries for the second time. - Written by Moving Picture World synopsis
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