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Oh yes, July 14th and all that… And since we were discussing Dickens, and mentioned A Tale of Two Cities, I thought I’d put here a very, very old and very compressed silent version of Sydney Carton’s story:

Yes – the whole tale in little more than twenty minutes… Well, it was thirty minutes, originally – because this 1911 ATotC was released as a three-reeler*, but only this two-reel version survives. Still, who knows, maybe the complete one will turn up someday… These things keep happening, don’t they?

Meanwhile, it is always fascinating to see how screenwriters worked back then, with the need to cram several hundred pages of plot and characters into a handful of minutes. True, sometimes they relied on a reasonable certainty that their audiences already knew the story – and this might well be one such case – but we can’t tell for sure, because we still miss one third of the adaptation as it was originally conceived by Eugene Mullin.

For one thing, who knows whether the half-hour version would still have one little title card informing us that it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…?

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* Three weekly one-reel installments, actually – and wouldn’t Dickens have loved that!

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