The new Martin Scorsese film is the director’s first PG rated film in 18 years. Hugo is a handsome 3D kid’s flick featuring adventure, a broken robot, a toy store owner and one of the mainstays of central casting — an orphan.
There are all kinds of on-screen orphans, some lovable — The Jungle Book’s Mowgli, Harry Potter —some not — Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader — but few have been as memorable as Oliver Twist.
The youngster first captured people’s imaginations 173 years ago as the title character in Charles Dickens’s second book and debuted on film in 1908.
Since then there have been at least eleven adaptations of the story of an urchin who famously asked his cruel workhouse foreman for more gruel with the words, “Please sir, I want some more.”
The most famous version of the story has to be Oliver!, a splashy 1968 all-singing all-dancing edition, which film critic Pauline Kael said was one of the few film adaptations of a stage musical superior to the original stage show.
Oliver had it rough. Much rougher than Little Orphan Annie, the perky red-haired waif adopted by the über-wealthy Daddy Warbucks, but for the actress who played her in the 1982 movie Annie there were some unpleasant moments.
The curly red wig Aileen Quinn wore was so itchy that a specially designed comb had to be created to give her some relief, and in order to get Annie’s dog Sandy to realistically kiss her the prop master rubbed Alpo all over her face.
Still, Quinn says, “I just remember having the best time.”
Unlike our next orphans, Oliver and Annie were decidedly earthbound ragamuffins, but the movies have seen lots of alien children abandoned on our planet.
In Escape to Witch Mountain, Tony and Tia Malone’s psychic abilities made them standouts at the orphanage and the moniker Clark Kent was the name his human adoptive parent’s gave to Kal-El. You know him best as Superman.
Superman wasn’t the only superhero orphan, however.
The death of Bruce Wayne’s parents at the hand of the Joker prompted him to become the Caped Crusader. “You made me,” he grumbles to the parent’s killer in Batman.
Finally, Peter Parker’s parents were Richard and Mary, CIA agents killed in the line of duty.
Rumour has it they will appear in the 2012 reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, played by Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz.