'_ novelty

discovers Eddie Gibb.

smart Jonas Chuzzlewit.

with wonderful characters.’


Martin Chuzzlewit, the BBC’s latest literary adaptation, has found plenty of humour in Dickens,

‘I didn’t want minimalist TV acting,’ comments director Pedr James, and he didn’t get it. Martin Chuzzlewi! is a big, brassy production full of larger- than-life characters, from the unctuous Seth Pecksniff, played with Oliver Hardy-like pomposity by Tom Wilkinson, to Keith Allen’s menacing, street-

This production of one of Charles Dickens’ lesser- known novels required memorable characters to help straighten out the kinks in the convoluted plot-lines, which often rely on the most outrageous coincidences to knit the story together. David Lodge’s streamlined adaptation uses humour and irony as a way of quickly establishing the characters’ driving motives. This lightness of touch is in contrast to the BBC’s dark and brooding adaptation of Bleak House made nearly ten years ago. ‘lts themes of greed and selfishness are obviously relevant to modern life,’ explains Lodge, ‘but to my mind, the main reason for adapting it is it’s a great comic story

At the heart of the piece is Old Martin Chuzzlewit, played with a true actorly bearing by Paul Scofreld, the bellicose head of a family of chizzlers and ne’er do wells who circle round the old man looking for a chance to nab a slice of his fortune. ‘Money has poisoned my family and friendships,’ he says bitterly from his sick bed. Chuzzlewit’s only trusted companion is the young and beautiful Mary Graham, paid a retainer to stick by him during the last years of his life on the understanding that she should not expect to be mentioned in his will. Only by withdrawing the carrot of inheritance does the cranky old Chuzzlewit feel able to have a normal

human being.


relationship, albeit a fiscally-based one. with another

Leading the pack of familial vultures is cousin Pecksniff, who tries to engineer a reconciliation between Old Martin Chuzzlewit and his disinherited grandson, also called Martin. Pecksniff aims to marry off one of his daughters to the young Chuzzlewit as soon as he has been welcomed back into the family fold, thus securing his own share of the Chuzzlewit

While similarly underhand angles are being worked out by other members of the Chuzzlewit clan, one beacon of goodness and straight-dealing shines out; Peckinstaff’s assistant Tom Pinch. Described by Dickens as ‘an ungainly, awkward-looking man’, on the inside Pinch is a saintly figure by whom the others’ badness can be measured. ‘1 am neither a comic or tragic character,’ says actor Philip Franks. who plays Pinch with wide-eyed innocence. ‘He carries the terrible torch of love for the heroine [Mary Graham] without ever telling her or being

Philip Franks as the saintly Tom Pinch rewarded. He is unselfislmess in a story driven by sellishness.’

On set. Franks was the Dickens scholar. having studied the writer’s work at university and appeared in the BBC’s Bleak House. ‘l’m not going to name names here but i know at least three of the leading actors never read the novel.‘ says Franks. who made up for it by reading Marlin ('lruzzlen'ir three times. ‘David Lodge is quite critical of Dickens and maybe that’s no bad thing. He’s not reverential about him at all and he’s certainly very alive to the comedy of it all.‘

Mar/1'21 (Tlmzzleivit is not being shown in the customary Sunday tea-time Dickens slot, but is still a lavish drama in the best traditions of BBC literary adaptations. If there is any advantage to living in a country with a poverty-stricken tilm industry. it’s that it enables such a magnificent ensemble cast to be assembled for television.

Martin Cliuzzlen'it begins on .‘i’lmiduv 7 /\"oi'enzl)er at 9pm.

Dunne roving

‘lfe’s trying to be Truman Capote but he doesn’t have his talent or his taste.’ Years of rubblshlng evidence presented by flat-footed prosecutors have honed defence lawyer Leslie Abramson’s mastery of the pertinent put down. Her target is Dominick Dunne, journalist, whose coverage of celebrities-on-trlal - William Kennedy Smith, clans von Below - have raised concerns about his powerful influence on the due process of law.

You’d think a lawyer might be more concerned about judges or juries or

possibly even rival law firms, but Abramson seems to have those eating out her hand. During the trial and retrial of the Menendez brothers, charged with the brutal murder of their mother and father In the family’s Hollywood home, Abramson came to regard Vanity Fair’s special correspondent as her special enemy. Donne’s coverage of the trial, which went well beyond straightforward court reporting, saw the lournalist uncovering new evidence and fanning his own opinions about the brothers’ guilt. ‘A lot of people feel that Dominick did a better job than the prosecutor,’ says Donne’s editor at Vanity Fair.

Dorninlck Dunne has become the kind

her killer’s history of abusive relationships was withheld from the jury, while every sordid detail of Dominique’s life were picked over. ‘Any sort of slander can be heaped on the life of the dead person,’ he says. His work since then seems to be an attempt to redress the balance.

With Americans going 0.J. daft, Dunne’s next commission to cover the Simpson trial for Vanity Fair looks likely to elevate the reporter to near mythical status. To the metropolitan chattering classes, it will be his verdict which is awaited with most anticipation. (Eddie Gibb)

Omnibus: The Trials of Dominick Dunne is on Tuesday 8 November at 10.20pm on 8801.

of celebrity journalist who is mentioned in the same breath as Roman Mailer, Tom Wolfe and, of course, Capote. Abramson’s catty remark is not the only mention of the C-word during Dmnibus’ absorbing profile; Dunne concedes Truman was a ‘great dancer’. But his admiration surely runs deeper than that, with Dunne’s writing career uncannin mirroring Capote’s rise as society’s favourite writer which followed his book In Cold Blood about the killing of a family.

What clearly motivates Dunne was his own involvement in a murder trial - that of his actress daughter, Dominique, who was killed by her lover. Dunne was outraged to find that

82 The List 4—17 November 1994