Oliver Twist (1922 film)

Oliver Twist is a 1922 American silent drama film adaptation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, featuring Lon Chaney as Fagin and Jackie Coogan as Oliver Twist. The film was directed by Frank Lloyd.

Oliver Twist
Film poster
Directed byFrank Lloyd
Produced bySol Lesser
Written byCharles Dickens
Walter Anthony (titles)
Based onOliver Twist
by Charles Dickens
StarringLon Chaney
Jackie Coogan
Music byJohn Muri (new score: 1975)
CinematographyGlen MacWilliams
Robert Martin
Edited byIrene Morra
Distributed byFirst National Pictures
Release date
  • October 30, 1922 (1922-10-30)
Running time
74 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)


During the 1830s, in a country workhouse somewhere in England, a very young woman outcast of unknown history dies giving birth to a boy. Nine years later, the boy in particular who has been given the unlikely name of Oliver Twist by the cruel parish beadle Mr. Bumble, after losing out in a secret draw with the other orphan boys, gets into trouble with the workhouse authorities for daring to asking for more supper - if you can call one pathetically small bowlful of gruel a supper. As a result, Mr. Bumble apprentices him off to Mr. Sowerberry, an uncaring undertaker who mistreats the boy so badly that one day he rebels for the first time in his life, then runs away to London to seek his fortune. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Bumble is summoned to a private meeting with a sinister man calling himself Monks who inquires information about Oliver, and easily bribes the greedy official into yielding him a gold locket that was the only thing of value found on Oliver's mother after her death, as well as the only proof that she along with her son are actually from a wealthy family. Monks charges Mr. Bumble to remain silent about their transaction and goes on to London to track Oliver down.

As for Oliver himself, on the road to London he is befriended by a cocky street urchin calling himself the Artful Dodger, who offers to take the orphan to his home which turns out to be located in one of the filthiest London slums. There the Dodger and several other boys like him are living under the care of an odd and seemingly benign old Jewish miser named Fagin, who gladly takes Oliver in. Little does the innocent orphan suspect that his newfound benefactor is in reality a crafty minor crime lord, who has taken all these boys to order to train them to steal and to pick pockets for him and his brutal, thieving partner in crime Bill Sikes. Fagin subtly introduces Oliver to the world of crime, getting him to participate with the other boys in a deceptively innocent game in which they each have to pick handkerchiefs and other articles out of the old man's many great coat pockets without him feeling anything. Oliver succeeds on his first try, and Fagin rewards him with a coin. Shortly afterwards, Oliver meets Sikes' doxy Nancy who takes an instant liking to the boy on sight. Eventually Oliver gets caught in his first pickpocketing mission, even though it is the Dodger and another boy who steal a handkerchief from a kindly old gentleman. At his trial however, the victim Mr. Brownlow takes pity on the boy and arranges for him to be released into his custody.

At Mr. Brownlow's home located in one of the wealthier sections of London, Oliver experiences true kindness for the first time in his life. Unfortunately fearing exposure, Fagin and Sikes have him tracked down and kidnapped through Nancy, who immediately regrets her part in the abduction. During all this Monks finally tracks Oliver down to Fagin's den and hires Fagin and Sikes to help him prevent the secret of Oliver's parentage from coming to light, and keep the boy with the gang. Nancy gets wind of their scheme though, and at the risk of her life arranges a midnight rendezvous at London Bridge with Mr. Brownlow, whom she informs about Monks and of his plans for Oliver, and arranges with him to rescue Oliver from the gang's clutches. But her efforts are discovered by Fagin and Sikes, the latter brutally murdering her for interfering. After a thrilling rooftop chase, Sikes accidentally hangs himself and Fagin is arrested by the police while Oliver is happily reunited with Mr. Brownlow, who successfully tracks Monks down. Monks confesses Oliver is his long lost half brother, and the true heir to a vast fortune left by their late father. Oliver forgives Monks and persudes Mr. Brownlow, who has become his guardian, not to turn him to the police. His quest for love has ended in fulfilment.


Film preservation

The film was considered lost, until a print surfaced in Yugoslavia in 1973.[1] The print lacked intertitles, which were subsequently restored by Blackhawk Films with the help of Jackie Coogan and Sol Lesser.

Coogan was at the height of his career during the filming, having played the title role in Charles Chaplin's The Kid the previous year.[2]

Chaney was at the height of his career as the silent film's "Man of A Thousand Faces", playing the title role the following year in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and three years later The Phantom of the Opera.

DVD release

On June 30, 2009, a Region Free DVD of the movie was released by Alpha Video.[3]

See also


  1. Dickens on Film ON TOUR literature.britishcouncil.org Archived 2014-03-01 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Napolitano, Marc (2014). Oliver! A Dickensian Musical. Oxford University Press. p. 15.
  3. Oliver Twist (Silent) DVD info, Oldies.com
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