“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously”. This is how the character of David Copperfield, the alter ego of one of the most popular authors of English literature, Charles Dickens, introduces himself to the world.
In the preface of the 1867 edition, the writer himself says: “Of all my books, I like this the best […] but, like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield”. After all, the novel is also considered to be a fictionalized autobiography of Dickens, given the presence of a lot of elements inspired by the life of the nineteenth-century author in the story.
Like many of his works, it first came out in monthly installments published in a magazine he owned. It took a year and a half of publications to make David Copperfield’s entire story known, from May 1849 to November 1850. The novel tells the character’s entire life, from his birth to his adulthood. With his love of reading and writing, a troubled childhood and a fantasy-filled inner world that continually clashed with the harsh reality of the industrial revolution, Copperfield has entered the hearts of so many. Sigmund Frued has recognized it as his favorite book, while other important figures such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Franz Kafka have publicly declared their appreciation for the work.
Screenwriters and directors from all over the world have always wanted to put their hand on the great story of David Copperfield, one way or another. From small screens to big screens, and also in theaters, Dickens’ alter ego keeps living through an infinite number of versions and reinterpretations of the original work. Among the first to bring it to the screen was George Nichols, who made a silent short film in 1911.
In 1969, instead, behind the camera there is Delbert Mann, who for the film David Copperfield hires several famous actors such as Richard Attenborough, better known for being the old billionaire John Hammond in Jurassic Park, and Santa Claus in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street.
Even Daniel Radcliffe, before he became famous for interpreting the wizard Harry Potter, had taken on the role of the nineteenth-century character for a two-part miniseries that aired in 1999 in the UK and that was directed by Simon Curtis.
The latest version is a 2019 film by British director Armando Iannucci titled The Personal History of David Copperfield. It was released in theaters in the UK on 24 January 2020. In the United States, the initial release date was 8 May 2020, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, it was postponed to 28 August 2020. In other countries such as Italy it began to be distributed starting last autumn.