Friday, December 20, 2013

"A Christmas Carol" on the Silver Screen

Last night, TCM showed several film adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, starting with the Albert Finney musical and then moving on to the classic Alistair Sim version, the first sound version, the Reginald Owen version, and a Rod Serling adaptation.

As with all film adaptations of literary works, the different versions take liberties with the text: Scrooge!, the musical, adds a scene with Marley and Scrooge in Hell--Scrooge is to be Satan's clerk and finds himself wrapped in heavy chains in a ice cold office, colder than the office he kept for his clerk, Bob Cratchit.

Except for the rousingly ironic "Thank You Very Much", I don't think the musical numbers are that memorable, and the Ghost of Christmas Present does not reveal the boy and girl, Ignorance and Want before he departs his time on earth. Once he's transformed and converted, Ebenezer visits the Cratchit house to deliver the prize turkey and presents, all dressed up as Father Christmas.

The Reginald Owen version also shows Scrooge visiting the Cratchit house on Christmas Day--I think both of those changes are mistakes because it eliminates the tension and surprise on December 26 when poor Bob Cratchit arrives late to work and fears he'll lose his job.

The Alistair Sim version is excellent, including the young Ebenezer, George Cole, and includes that most Dickensian scene of the undertaker, housekeeper, and laundress selling Scrooge's few earthly possessions.

Truly, my favorite is the 1984 George C. Scott version, made for television (CBS). The cast is very strong throughout from the protagonist to Susannah York (Mrs. Cratchit), David Warner (Bob), Roger Rees (Fred, Scrooge's nephew), Frank Finlay (as Marley's Ghost), and another good younger Scrooge, Mark Strickson, who once played a Doctor Who sidekick (the Fifth Doctor).

Through the movie adaptations, the impact of A Christmas Carol continues.

God bless us, everyone!

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