Oliver Twist, Jr. (1921)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |  
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Modernizing any classic story is a questionable pursuit, and few are successful (the musical West Side Story, which took Romeo and Juliet to the rough streets of 1950s Manhattan comes to mind). It's especially dangerous with most of Charles Dickens' tales, since the atmosphere of nineteenth century London is so important to plot and character development. Not only did the makers of this picture try to place Oliver Twist in 1920s America, they cast the more than six-foot tall Harold Goodwin to play the orphan! Even though he is supposed to be 17 in this version, he looks older than that, and far too strapping to be pushed around by anyone at the asylum from which he runs away, much less by the aged Fagin (Wilson Hummell). According to Dickens, Oliver's size was why Bill Sykes wanted to use him as a burglary partner; the reasons for G. Raymond Nye, as Sykes, to use him here are less clear. But the storyline remains otherwise faithful (sort of) to Dickens -- Oliver is shot and recovers at the home of a kindly old gentleman. He is also befriended by Ruth Norris (Lillian Hall), who serves as a romantic interest -- something the original Oliver was too young to have. The rest vaguely resembles Dickens' tale -- Nancy (Irene Hunt) saves Oliver by blowing the whistle on the gang and is killed by Sykes for her efforts, and Oliver is united with his grandfather, the kindly old gentleman. And, with the typical Hollywood-style flourish, he also wins Ruth, who forgives him his brief criminal past.

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Keywords

criminal, friendship, identity, orphan, pickpocket, robbery