Movies to Get You Psyched for Dickens Fair


Reenacting Charles Dickens’ version of a Victorian Christmas is something of a holiday tradition around the U.S., and in Northern California, we take it to the extreme with the long-running Dickens Fair. Take the concept of a Renaissance Faire, move it forward in time about 250 years to the mid-19th century, populate it with hundreds of characters from Dickens’ stories (A Christmas Carol, obviously, but add everyone from Nicholas Nickleby to Oliver Twist), and set it perpetually on “Christmas Eve in London” and that’s basically what Dickens Fair is. This year, I am the sole Frock Flicker on the cast, and so I decided to compile a list of flicks that get me in the mood for The Great Dickens Death March of Christmas Spirit.

Desperate Romantics (2009)

2009 Desperate Romantics

Serious eye-candy for everyone.

This miniseries focuses on the original three members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Edward Millais. The costumes are decent for the late-1840s, even if the writers played around with the historical timeline quite a bit, so don’t expect a whole lot of adherence to accuracy when it comes to when a certain painting was painted — everything that happened over a 20 year period is more or less crammed into a single timeline that runs, near as I can tell, for about two years in the series. That said, it stars Aidan Turner as Rossetti and the writers capitalized on that fact by giving us plenty to appreciate in his, ahem, body of work, so I’m willing to forgive just about anything.

How can I watch? If you’re in the states, Desperate Romantics episodes 2-6 are on YouTube (episode 1, irritatingly, is only available on Daily Motion). Otherwise, you can buy the season on iTunes for $16.99.

Shameless Dickens Plug: If you happen to find yourself at the Dickens Fair, check out the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood at the Adventurers’ Club, and join in one of the drawing studios or take in an artistic performance, both of which are open to the public at certain parts of the day. Tell Rossetti that Mme. Sand sent you. ;)

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)


Frog and Pig 4 EVER.

Trystan has sworn that she’s going to be covering this one in the near future, but I couldn’t leave it out of my list. The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of my favorite retellings of Dickens’ classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s discovery of the true meaning of Christmas. I won’t spoil the costume analysis for Trystan, but I will say that every time I revisit this film, I’m always surprised at how good the costumes are.

How can I watch? It’s available for streaming plenty of places. Check for particulars.

Shameless Dickens PlugMultiple narrative threads from A Christmas Carol are woven through the fair — indeed, the fair is set up to be a live-action performance of the novel (and populated throughout with characters from many other Dickensian stories providing “subplots”, if you will).

The Young Victoria (2009)


Young, beautiful royals in love. Awww.

Another one that I’ve been meaning to do a post about for years. Young Victoria focuses on the early years of Victoria’s reign, largely set around her marriage to Albert, and ever so briefly touches on the Bedchamber Crisis of 1839. Even if 1830s fashion isn’t your thing, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Sandy Powell’s costumes are fabulous.

How can I watch? You can rent it on YouTube for $2.99, among several other subscription streaming services.

Shameless Dickens Plug: The young Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their court make regular appearances at the Fair. Bring the little ones and have their portrait captured with the queen!

Impromptu (1991)



This one is personal to me, because it’s the genesis of my obsession with George Sand, one of the historical figures I play at Dickens. What does George Sand have to do with Dickens? Pretty much nothing, but who cares when you get to dress like a boy? You can read all about my thoughts concerning Jenny Beavan’s costumes here.

How can I watch? Amazon Video has it available for rental for $3.99.

Shameless Dickens Plug: You can find George hanging out at The Bohemian absinthe lounge every morning until noon. evil grin


Have you been to the Dickens Fair? What movies get you in the mood?

12 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    Wassail and masses of the ‘green fairy’ to you, Sarah. I love Dickens Fair and enjoyed it immensely when living in Cali, but now I’m in Louisiana and have the joy of Mardi Gras and Tiger football.

    Your movie choices get me in the mood for Christmas and thanks for that. I love the Pre-Rafs and my favourites are Burne-Jones and Morris.

    Sandy Powell’s costumes for Young Victoria are gorgeous, but don’t forget the BBC Victoria and Albert with Victoria Hamilton and I believe Colin Firth’s younger brother.

    BTW wasn’t Judy Davis in a Georges Sand movie?

    Happy Thanksgiving

    • Becky Nankivell

      That last pic *is* the inimitable Judy Davis! Judy Davis! Judy Davis! … sorry … as Georges Sand in Impromptu. Click thru to the Frock Flicks post on that one for more lusciousness.

  2. ladylavinia1932

    I had a problem with the women’s hairstyles in “DESPERATE ROMANTICS”. It seemed as if the filmmakers were repelled by the idea of having the women’s hair pinned up in this production. I found it annoying.

    • Sarah Lorraine

      I’m pretty sure that the idea was to evoke the portraits of Lizzie, with her hair flowing everywhere. It’s not historically accurate, obviously, but I get why they did it.

  3. Kathleen

    Every year!
    For me, the location has always been a stronger costuming influence than the theme itself. Pretending 19th century at the Cow Palace in San Francisco has always felt more Old West than Londontown, no matter how many times someone says ” ‘appy Christmas” ;) …maybe it’s the hay and sawdust??
    With that, I usually gear up for Dick-Faire with anything from Tombstone, The Missing, The Quick & The Dead, to Back to the Future 3 & episodes of Brisco County Jr….and I dress as a historical figure, too!

  4. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    I participate with my local SCA Barony at the Dickens Festival at Port Jefferson. I play a ladies maid and will be in the artisans tent demoing candle making.

  5. fusilier55

    I miss the Dickens Faire so very much. In my day it was on the wharf which was great. the fog would actually roll into the building!

  6. ladylavinia1932

    That said, it stars Aidan Turner as Rossetti and the writers capitalized on that fact by giving us plenty to appreciate in his, ahem, body of work, so I’m willing to forgive just about anything.

    What was his performance like?