After his father's death, the young David Copperfield is brought up by his mother and his stepfather, the cynical Mr Murdstone. When David's mother dies, Murdstone sends him to work in a warehouse. David runs away to London where he meets the eccentric Mr Micawber, before taking refuge with his aunt in Dover.
In 1942, the film maker Sergei Eisenstein commented on the "cinematographic" nature of Dickens's work: "We read his works in our childhood, without ever thinking that a large part of his irresistible charm was due not only to the exciting adventures his heroes experienced as children, but to that spontaneous childlike skill for story-telling, equally typical of Dickens and of the American cinema." Cukor produces a sensitive interpretation of this most autobiographical of Dickens' novels, bringing in all the best actors the studios could provide.