Nicholas Nickleby

Synopsis: Young Nicholas and his family enjoy a comfortable life, until Nicholas' father dies and the family is left penniless. Nicholas, his sister and mother venture to London to seek help from their Uncle Ralph, but Ralph's only intentions are to separate the family and exploit them. Nicholas is sent to a school run by the cruel, abusive and horridly entertaining Wackford Squeers. Eventually, Nicholas runs away with schoolmate Smike, and the two set off to reunite the Nickleby family.
Director(s): Douglas McGrath
Production: United Artists
  Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 4 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
132 min

What happens when the light first pierces...

the dark dampness | in which we have waited?

We are slapped and cut loose.

If we are lucky, | someone is there to catch us...

and persuade us that we are safe.

But are we safe?

What happens if, too early, | we lose a parent?

That party on whom we rely | for only everything?

Why, we are cut loose again...

and we wonder, even dread...

whose hands will catch us now.

There once lived a man | named Nicholas Nickleby.

Unambitious in business...

he devoted himself | to the happiness of his family.

But he is not the Nicholas Nickleby | you have come to hear about.

That Nicholas Nickleby is here.

And here.

And here.

- Said your prayers? | - Yes.

I prayed that I should have this day...

the same day we had today, | all the rest of my life.

But someday you will find someone | who will have...

a greater hold on your affections than I do.

The most important journey of your life...

will be to find her.

Nicholas had a younger sister, Kate.

Here she is again.

And here.

Goodness, how it goes.

For their father, | these children were a divine burden.

Never had money meant less to him...

and never had he needed it more.

His wife said:


Since it was well known | that Mr. Nickleby's brother, Ralph...

many years his senior...

had made his fortune in London | by just this method...

so Nicholas Nickleby, | who had never speculated...


It is a particular sort of triumph...

that bankers | have made the word "speculation"...

synonymous with "adventure"...

when, indeed, it means only | that one may gain a great deal...

or one may lose a great deal.

Alas, for Mr. Nickleby, it meant the latter.

Four stockbrokers | took villa residences in Italy...

and 400 nobodies were ruined.

Eliminating all he had saved...

as well as any wish to earn it again...

Mr. Nickleby took to his bed...

until he surrendered | to the one certainty of life...

which no amount of speculation | can prevent.

What shall we do?

Here is Nicholas Nickleby again.

19 years old...

and head of his family.

Come here.

Said he would join me at the tavern.

Turnips and carrots!

Mind your back, miss.

Please, Mr. Nickleby, do you wish my father | to go to debtor's prison?

Where your father sleeps, Miss Bray, | is of no concern to me.

Father tells me the interest | is what makes the debt so unmanageable.

- Could you not stop it? | - Tell him...

to repay the loan. | That will stop the interest right away.

You must bear up against sorrow, ma'am.

I always do.

Mine was no common loss.

It was no uncommon loss.

Husbands die every day.

And wives.

Brothers also.

Yes, and puppies, too.

Ma'am, you did not mention | what my brother's complaint was.

We feel he died of a broken heart.

Pooh, there's no such thing.

Indeed, if you have no heart to break.

In your letter, you said | the creditors had administered...

and nothing was left for you?

We tried to sell the house...

but no one seemed to want | a little home like ours.

So you spent what little remained | coming all the way to London...

to see what I could do for you?

It was your brother's dying wish...

that you might do something | for his children.

How is it, when a man dies | without property of his own...

he thinks he has the right | to dispose of others'?

What a feckless, inconsiderate man.

Our father, your brother, had a noble heart.

Which beats no more.

You, girl...

you haven't been brought up | too delicately...

to apprentice at some boarding school, | have you?


I will try to do anything | to gain me a home and bread.

Now that I think of it, I know a dressmaker | who may have some work.

You, boy, have you ever done anything?


Noggs, where's the morning paper | I left on my desk?

- On my desk. | - Bring it to me.

"Bring it to me."

Stop parroting me.

I wish I was a parrot. I'd fly away.

I wish you were a parrot, too. | I'd wring your neck.

- Read that. | - What is it, Nicholas?

An advertisement.

"Education at | Mr. Wackford Squeers' Academy."

Oh, no.

"Dotheboys Hall, at the delightful village | of Dotheboys, in Yorkshire.

"Youth are clothed, boarded and booked...

"instructed in all languages, | living and dead...

"mathematics, orthography, | the use of globes and single stick.

"Diet unparalleled. | An able assistant wanted.

"Annual salary 5.

"Master of Arts preferred."

I'm not a Master of Arts.

That can be got over, I believe.

But it is such a long way off.

If I am fortunate enough to be appointed, | what will become of those I leave behind?

It will be my immediate care | to place your mother and sister...

in some sphere of life | in which they may become independent.

I will not forget what you have done | for me this day, Uncle.

Nor shall I.

Any chimneys to sweep?

There he is. He's the man with one eye.

Though the popular prejudice | runs in favor of two.

- Is this one inch milk and the rest water? | - Aye, sir.

Here's richness.

When I say "one," you may take a drink.

When I say "number two," | the boy next to you may take it...

and so on, till all five boys | have been nourished.

But work fast. | We leave when the coach horn blows.

Number one.

Number two.

Number three.

Number four.

Number five.

Out you go.

Subdue your appetites, | and you've conquered human nature.

Yorkshire coach leaves in five minutes!

Wait by the coach in a straight line.

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Douglas McGrath

Douglas McGrath was born on February 2, 1958 in New York City, New York, USA. He is a writer and actor, known for Emma (1996), Bullets Over Broadway (1994) and Infamous (2006). He has been married to Jane Read Martin since June 3, 1995. They have one child. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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