Friday, February 10, 2012

Charles Dickens' Last Work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Old-Fashioned Charm

If you read many novels by Charles Dickens or see adaptations of his books you'll soon discover that he is a king of the mystery story! The twists and turns in his plots continually surprise and delight! 
In 1870 Mr. Dickens, the experienced writer, sat down to write a new murder mystery story which would not be solved in his lifetime.

I have not read The Mystery of Edwin Drood but have done a bit of research and am definitely adding it to my reading list!


History: The Mystery of Edwin Drood was published, like many of Dickens' other novels, in a monthly serial form starting April 1870. But by September 1870 only six parts of the twelve parts were published and the news that Mr. Dickens passed away in June meant that the story would not be finished. Just imagine how readers in that day would have felt - not only was the murder of your favorite serial story not to be brought to justice but the world had lost one of the greatest writers of all time!
It is reported that Mr. Dickens had put in a full days work on The Mystery of Edwin Drood when he passed away on June 9th, 1870. But he unfortunately left little idea as to how the story would end.
In 1898, twenty-eight years after Mr. Dickens' death, his son Charles Dickens Jr. and his good friend mystery writer Wilkie Collins collaborated on John Jasper's Secret: Sequel to Charles Dickens' Mystery of Edwin Drood.


Story: The Mystery of Edwin Drood centers around the life and death of the title character. Edwin Drood (called "Ned" by his uncle) is an orphan who lives with his uncle in the sleepy cathedral town of Cloisterham. Edwin is shortly to come of age, at which time he will follow his deceased father's desires to work as an engineer in his Egyptian firm and to marry young Rosa Bud. His uncle, John Jasper, is the choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral and although he seems to encourage his nephew's plans he has a darker side rooted in opium addiction and jealousy of Edwin's engagement to the pretty Rosa.
Rosa is a spirited young lady just about to finish her training at a school for young ladies. Although she and Edwin respect their two father's wishes that they would marry she also feels that their regard for each other is waning. When siblings Neville and Helena Landless arrive from Ceylon, Rosa and Helena quickly make friends and Neville falls in love with her. Edwin's discovery of Neville's regard for his fiancee leads to a confrontation which almost comes to blows but the young men reconcile their differences. The next day Edwin Drood mysteriously disappears and although his body is not found Neville is soon suspected of murdering him! With strange disappearances, midnight visits to graveyards, sinister lyme pits, jealous uncles and mysterious strangers The Mystery of Edwin Drood must have kept readers in 1870 on the edge of their seats!
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David Manners as Edwin Drood & Heather Angel as Rosa Bud

Having a great interest in the story I was quite pleased to find this black & white classic available for viewing on YouTube (Part 1 here). The story line seems to stick pretty well to the original work and they finish it with a sweet and interesting ending. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in a general idea of the story or old movies. It deals very generally with John Jasper's opium addiction (something I worry about in later films) and there no language, inappropriate scenes and only a bit of theatrical violence. Rosa Bud and the Landless siblings are interesting characters and there are some very sweet scenes.  

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The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1993)
This version isn't readily available but I did find a fan of the actor Robert Powell (he plays Mr. Jasper) who had put up this YouTube video with clips from the film. Overall it seems a bit over dramatic to me with it's creepy music and funny drawn out acting. But it is longer and does seem close to the book. I'd be interested in watching the whole thing.
An interesting fact is that the young actress, Finty Williams, who played Rosa Bud in this version is the real life daughter of talented actress Dame Judi Dench!
Stars: Robert Powell, Finty Williams, Jonny Phillips, Rosemary Leach.

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Hearing about the making of this film was what really got me interested in the story of Edwin Drood. This filming aired in January on BBC and will come to the USA in April 2012 on Masterpiece Theatre.
The talented cast is enough to make me want to see it but the fact that it's a Dickens adaptations is even better! According to this article from The Guardian Online this new adaptation is shown in two parts, the first part is from Charles Dickens' original work and the second part was written by modern day mystery writer Gwyneth Hughes.
I haven't seen it this adaptations yet but Abby at Newly Impassioned Soul has seen it and wrote this lovely film review that I encourage you to check out if you're interested. And I'll post a review as soon as I get a chance to view it. 

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Musical Version: Apparently there is a musical based on The Mystery of Edwin Drood which debuted in 1985 and was quite popular on Broadway. It is titled simply Drood and has different endings based on the audience's votes (during the play) of who they thought the murderer and the mysterious character Dick Datchery were!

I found this bit from Wikipedia's page on Edwin Drood intersting so I'm quoting it here:

"The first modern major theatrical adaptation was a musical comedy with book, music, and lyrics by Rupert Holmes. The production, originally known by the full name of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but re-titled halfway through its original run to simply Drood, was first produced in 1985 by the New York Shakespeare Festival, and then transferred to Broadway, where it ran for 608 performances (and 24 previews). It won five 1986 Tonys, including Best Musical, as well as Drama Desk and Edgar awards. The musical has since played successfully in numerous regional and amateur productions.
Because Dickens's book was left unfinished, the musical hinges upon a novel idea: the audience decides by vote which of the characters is the murderer. The musical's suspect pool includes John Jasper, Neville Landless, Rosa Bud, Helena Landless, Rev. Crisparkle, Princess Puffer, and Mr. Bazzard. Adding further interactivity, the audience also chooses either Rosa Bud, Neville Landless, Helena Landless, Rev. Crisparkle, and Mr. Bazzard to play the role of Dick Datchery since the cast votes that Edwin Drood actually was murdered and cannot be Dick Datchery. As well, one male and one female character are chosen to develop a romance together: Holmes wrote brief alternate endings for every possible voting outcome, even the most unlikely."


How neat is that! There was also a record album that allowed the listener to solve the crime themselves by choosing which song tracks to listen to!
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Quotes: As I was watching a clip from the 1993 adaptation I came across this line and so looked it up in an e-text of the book. 


"How beautiful you are! You are more beautiful in anger than in repose. I don't ask you for your love; give me yourself and your hatred; give me yourself and that pretty rage; give me yourself and that enchanting scorn; it will be enough for me." - John Jasper, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Chapter 19


It always makes me a bit  aggravated when men tell ladies they are prettier when they're angry and I've never thought that was really true. But if Dickens thought so perhaps it is true. How... aggravating! :)
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Are you looking forward to the new adaptation?

5 comments:

Rozy Lass said...

Just a comment about ladies looking prettier when angry. Perhaps it was thought that because when angry the person shows more spirit and passion than when demure and reserved.

Monique Elisabeth said...

Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. I had never heard of this story before, but it sounds so interesting. I hope I will be able to watch it in The Netherlands soon too. Have a fabulous weekend.

Miss Dashwood said...

Ugh, I hate the common "you're prettier when you're angry" line. So silly! But Rozy Lass makes a good point... maybe there is a reason behind it.
This story looks so interesting! I'll confess I've been wary of it because it doesn't have an ending, but maybe I'll try it after all.

Christine said...

I have read The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and I can tell you it is extremely maddening that it doesn't have an ending. The book keeps you on the edge of your seat, and then wham! it ends and you never know what happens.

I am really looking forward to watching the new BBC adaptation. I think it will be interesting to see if Gwyneth Hughes had the same ideas about the ending as I do.

And as for John Jasper, I hate him more than any other Dickens' villian, he is so incredibly creepy and evil, and puts up a front of being so nice.

But as for the angry, pretty ladies quote, my sister has commented on how some ladies are prettier when they are angry, so I guess it isn't only men who say that!

Melissa said...

As a fan of Brothers & Sisters, I am excited to see Matthew Rhys, who played Kevin Walker on the show.

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