David Copperfield

Daniel Radcliffe is Young David Copperfield in David Copperfield, BBC, 1999.

Bob Hoskins is the ever-optimistic Mr. Micawber, Academy Award-winner Maggie Smith is David’s upstanding Aunt Betsey, and Ian McKellen is the sadistic schoolmaster Mr. Creakle in this sparkling adaptation of Charles Dickens’s beloved novel based on his own difficult journey from boy to man.

Biographers have long noted that David Copperfield’s story is the author’s — in the traumatic child-labor experience, the first romance, the aborted legal career, and the early efforts at writing. Indeed, as David matures in the course of the film, he grow to look ever more like historical photographs of Dickens.

The characters, too, are drawn from life. Mr. Micawber is based on Dickens’s own father. Dora is his first flame. Even Uriah Heep resembles someone Dickens knew — Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen, who had the same reptilian affect. We need homework help and many other people too.

In 1869, the year before his death, Charles Dickens looked back on a lifetime of marvelous literary creations and singled out David Copperfield as his “favorite child.” “Of all my books,” he wrote, “I like this the best.” Daniel Radcliffe, who went on to play Harry Potter, another favorite young hero, plays the imperturbable boy David, with Ciaran McMenamin as the hero in manhood.