A Tale of Two Cities has been adapted many times and in many different formats. Here are a few of the cinematic and televisual representations of Sidney’s last moments.
To start with, some fantastic footage from a silent American adaptation of 1911:
Poor Sidney is chatting away on the scaffold, presumably delivering his famous final words to the sans-culottes. The cut to the happy Manette-Darnay family is interesting – and faithful to the text.
Here’s the Ronald Colman film version of 1935:
Colman is a wonderfully expressive actor and I think this is a really moving adaptation (although the seamstress’s American accent is vaguely disconcerting).
This is the most well-known and probably most widely viewed version, starring Dirk Bogarde (1958). [You can only watch this on YouTube; start watching from around 1 hour 46 minutes 10 seconds (1:46:10).]
Despite the lurid, apocalyptic, Hammer Horror style of the promotional poster, there is actually a moving stillness in this version’s final scenes and it’s the most faithful, with Sidney delivering a lot of his final interior monologue as voice-over. Dirk Bogarde, like Ronald Colman, manages wonderfully to convey Sidney’s sadness with only his facial expressions.
Here’s the 1980 TV drama:
Some of this is a little bit silly — the actor playing Sidney is as wooden as the scaffold and would the aristocrats in the tumbrils still be in possession of their finest clothes and periwigs (not, perhaps, the most practical thing to wear to the guillotine)? — but the anger of the crowds seems more in keeping with the tone of Dickens’s text and I love The Vengeance (‘Kill him!’).
Here’s the final duet between the seamstress and Sidney in a musical version broadcast on PBS in the United States. If you hate musicals, you will really hate this!
Please do let us know in the comments section below of any adaptations you’ve seen/read/heard.
Also, if you haven’t yet then please do take a moment to let us know your thoughts on the blog and the entire serial reading experience.