My son asked me to buy him a copy of A Tale of Two Cities for his Grade 11 English class today. Do they not use libraries anymore? However, with the selfish reason of wanting to read it after him and add it to my classics library, we went out tonight and bought it (plus I got a Grande Tazo Chai from Starbucks, so it was a win/win). It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
While sipping my Chai latte, I had a conversation with my husband about whether or not our son should be allowed to watch the movie first or whether he should at least try reading the book first. I love to watch the film version of these classic novels first and then go and read the book, so why not let our son? Of course, the main reason would be that he might use the film version to write his essay and not read the book at all, or not very thoroughly. But I thought I would look into the versions available on film first.
On the left we have the American version from 1980, clocking in at 162 minutes and starring Chris Sarandon (Susan's ex and the bad Prince Humperdinck from the classic Princess Bride. This one seems to have fairly good reviews, and got a respectable rating of 6.7 from IMDb. It also stars Peter Cushing, Nigel Hawthorne and Alice Krige (Lady Russell in the 2007 ITV Persuasion). Comments on Amazon and IMDb are OK, but not overwhelming.
Here we have the UK/French version from 1989. Slightly longer at 197 minutes and by most accounts slightly more true to the book (not always a good thing but usually so), this one is slightly higher rated at 7.3 on the IMDb scale. Comments seem to be either loving or hating this version. Hmmmm....
This brings me to one i didn't really consider at first. The 1935 version with Ronald Colman seem to be beloved and one of the best films of the 1930's. It is rated 7.9 at IMDb which is very high for that site. At 126 minutes it is the shortest of the 3 but seems to be highly praised for how well it condenses it.
When I started writing this I thought I would get the most recent version, but this classic from 1935 is the one I will order.
Now I will have to see how he does with the book. I think I may save the film for when he gets part way through the book and his interest starts to flag. I look forward to curling up with him on a cool rainy afternoon in October and watching a classic book in classic film form. And then I get the book after him!