Charles Dickens and Show Biz

A Chronology

1819 When only six or seven, Charles Dickens writes a play, now lost, called Misnar, The Sultan of India
1822 Charles Dickens is given a toy theater, and with other ten year old friends, produces and acts out roles in skits and plays.
1834 While still a shorthand reporter, Dickens acts in and directs an amateur theatrical production of Clari, The Maid of Milan.
1836 Dickens's first major book, Pickwick Papers, is issued in monthly parts.  Before the parts issue is completed, the playwright W. T. Moncrieff publishes a play, Sam Weller, or the Pickwickians, A Drama in Three Acts, which was first performed on April 3, 1837.
1836 Dickens writes The Village Coquettes, A Comic Opera in Two Acts, the music by John Hullah.  The Village Coquettes is first performed on Boxing Night, 1836.
1836 Dickens writes The Strange Gentleman, a theatrical adaptation of his short story The Great Winglebury Duel.  The famous actor J. P. Harley stars in the title role.
1838 An early adaptation of Oliver Twist by the playwright George Almar is first performed.  Dickens attends a performance and is so distressed, he lays down in the audience box in dismay.  Nevertheless, the play has a long and successful run.
1838 The first dramatization of Nicholas Nickleby, written by Edward Stirling, is performed on November 19.  Stirling dedicates the play to Dickens.
1842 Dickens makes his first visit to America.  He is wined and dined wherever he goes.  In Boston he is given a dinner by local dignitaries.  There, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes sings his own composition, The Stars Their Early Vigils Keep, in Dickens's honor.
1845 Dickens assembles a group of amateur actors to stage a performance of Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour.  The performance is to aid Dickens's friend Leigh Hunt.  Dickens has the starring role of Captain Bobadil.
1847 Dickens arranges with Albert Smith to write a play based on Dickens's Christmas story, The Battle of Life.  The play is performed at the Lyceum, London with Mr. and Mrs. Keeley in the cast.
1848 Dickens and his group of amateur actors produce and perform The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on March 15 to aid the endowment of a curatorship at Shakespeare's house.
1851 On May 16, Dickens and his amateur company, "The Guild of Literature and Art," perform Bulwer Lytton's Not So Bad As We Seem for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  Dickens is cast as Lord Wilmot.
1853 Dickens decides to embark on a new career of giving public readings of his stories.  On December 27, he gives a reading of A Christmas Carol at the Birmingham town hall.  He continues to give public readings in Britain and America.  One of his final readings is on January 25, 1870.
1857 Dickens and his friend Wilkie Collins write a play, The Frozen Deep.  The play is performed in January with Dickens and Collins in the cast.  Also in the cast is a young actress, Ellen Ternan, who becomes Dickens's mistress.  Dickens and his wife Catherine separate the following year.
1860 A Tale of Two Cities is first performed at the Lyceum Theatre, London on January 30.
1864 Dickens meets Adah Isaacs Menken, who performs at Astley's Theatre, London, in Mazeppa.  Menken dedicates her book of poems, Infelicia, to Dickens.  Menken performs Mazeppa throughout England and America, including Maguire's Opera House in San Francisco.
1870 Despite failing health, Dickens begins to write The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which is only one-third completed at his death on June 9. 
1899 The Only Way, a dramatization of A Tale of Two Cities is produced.  It stars Sir John Martin-Harvey as Sydney Carton.
1905 Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree produces Oliver Twist at the Majestic Theatre, London.  The playwright is J. Comyns Carr.  Tree is in the cast as Fagin
1913 Vitagraph films Pickwicker, starring John Bunny.  Bunny becomes the first comic star of American silent films.
1922 Child actor Jackie Coogan stars in a silent film version of Oliver Twist
1935 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer releases David Copperfield with an all-star cast, including W. C. Fields as Micawber, Lionel Barrymore as Peggotty, Roland Young as Uriah Heep, Freddie Bartholomew as David, and Edna Mae Oliver as Betsey Trotwood.
1935 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer releases A Tale of Two Cities starring Ronald Coleman as Sydney Carton, Basil Rathbone as St. Evremonde, and Edna Mae Oliver as Miss Pross.
1947 Universal Pictures releases Great Expectations, generally considered to be one of the best films ever made based on a Dickens novel.  It stars John Mills as Pip, Francis L. Sullivan as Jaggers, Alec Guinness as Herbert Pocket, and Jean Simmons as Estella.
1960 Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! opens with Clive Revill as Fagin and Georgia Brown as Nancy.  The 1968 film version of the musical wins an academy award for best picture. 
1967 The foremost impersonator of Charles Dickens, Emlyn Williams, gives readings of Dickens's novels on stage and television.
1970 National General Pictures releases Scrooge, a musical version of A Christmas Carol.  The film stars Albert Finney as Scrooge, Alec Guinness as Marley's Ghost, and Dame Edith Evans as The Ghost of Christmas Past.
1986 The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the Solve-it-Yourself Musical opens on Broadway
2005 On April 12 The New York Times publishes an article regarding plans for a "Dickens World" in Chatham, England.
2005 On September 23, Tri-Star Pictures and R. P. Productions release Oliver Twist in New York and Los Angeles.  The film is directed by Roman Polanski and stars Ben Kingsley as Fagin.  Kingsley won an academy award for best actor in the 1982 film Gandhi.