with Alicia Mayer

Mitzi on the set of David Copperfield

My grandmother Mitzi Cummings with Madge Evans, Frank Lawton and Roland Young on the set of MGM film, David Copperfield, in December, 1934.

As a child my step-father read a number of classics to me, including David Copperfield. I also watched the old movie on several occasions. I was not only a totally G-rated kid (Mr Rogers’ biggest fan) I was particularly fond of the old B&W movies. They were safe, beautifully made, the stories always ended on a high note, and well, I guess it was clear early on that I was a throw-back to the audiences my family made films for.

As a young teen I did get dragged to Jaws and An American Werewolf in London – and I have spent a lifetime trying to get over them. Not only were the old B&W films visually a stark contrast to those technicolor nightmares, but for me they were perfect worlds.

So its no wonder that photos like this one of my grandmother Mitzi with some the cast of David Copperfield, make me wish I could do the improbable and not only travel back in time, but do so while not messing up the generational continuum. After all, I need my grandmother to marry my grandfather a few years after this picture or I can’t be here writing this post!

All other personal connections aside, who wouldn’t love this photo with Frank Lawton staring adoringly at my beautiful grandmother; Roland Young wryly observing it all; while beautiful Madge Evans, the uber professional, sits calmly doing what she should be doing – posing for the camera. This photo, along with my grandmother’s reportage, would have featured in an issue of Variety or Photoplay. Though with the hilarious expressions, I wonder if it ever was published before now – 78 years later.

As I share each one of Mitzi’s photos I’ve gotten closer to why they matter to me so much – they are one dimensional bridges to their moving counterparts. Is it any surprise at all that Eadweard Muybridge is a hero of mine?

David Copperfield, released in 1935 was directed by George Cukor, produced by David O Selznick and the screenplay written by Howard Estabrook, with Hugh Walpole and Lenore Coffee. It starred WC Fields, Lionel Barrymore and Freddie Bartholomew and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture (losing out to Mutiny on the Bounty), Best Film Editing, and Best Assistant Director.

The classic movie:
David Copperfield

The original Charles Dicken’s novel:
David Copperfield

Copyright Alicia Mayer 2012.

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