Christmas Carols, 2011

In addition to the Sim classic version mentioned in the previous post, here’s a few more I’ve caught this year (the varying quality is the reason for the “hardly ever” in the previous title).
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a condensed 25 minute version that ran on TV in 1949. On the plus side, it has Vincent Price narrating; on the down side, the entire cast is flat, stiff and dull.
A Christmas Carol is a 1935 British version starring Seymour Hicks as Scrooge. Perfectly competent, but not in the caliber of the Scrooge version (Hicks doesn’t pull off Scrooge as well as Sim does).
Scrooge is Albert Finney’s 1970 musical version, which I personally like a lot (my friend Ross, a Scrooge expert, is much less impressed). Certainly Finney’s performance isn’t first-rank, but it does boast a fine cast——Dame Edith Evans as Christmas Past, Kenneth Moore as Christmas Present, Michael Crawford as Cratchett and John Gielgud as Marley. It also offers one of the blackest Christmas Futures, as Scrooge thrills to see the debtors who borrow money from him celebrating something wonderful he’s done——unaware that they’re celebrating his dropping dead. This is also one of the most romantic versions——Scrooge still screws up and loses his love, but it pays more attention to Belle than any other version I know.
Speaking of actors, it’s worth noting that the Sim Christmas Carol (1951) has a lot of British talent too, including Macnee’s Marley, Miles Malleson as a rag-and-bone man and Ernest Thesiger as the undertaker. It’s also noteworthy for being the only one where Marley truly looks like he’s having a tormented afterlife.
Bill Murray’s Scrooged is interesting for having a genuinely happy Scrooge figure——as a TV producer, Murray’s obsession with his television world is certainly not healthy for him, but he enjoys his life in a way most Scrooge’s don’t. That said, I’m inclined to agree with Ross this doesn’t date well (the humor of using Mary Lou Retton and the Solid Gold Dancers in a Christmas Carol special is no longer as funny as when I first saw it), and Murray’s suffering is comparatively mild (he has a loving mother in Christmas Past and he actually has people mourn his death, neither of which is true of Scrooge, who dies alone). Still, it has a strong cast including Murray, Carol Kane’s violent Present, Karen Allen as the Lost Love (and this is one where the hero does get the girl back) and Bobcat Goldthwaite’s Christmas Past cabby.
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is an animated TV special feature Jim Backus’ short-sighted Magoo character——though the premise (Magoo performing Scrooge on Broadway) allows them to work the jokes about Magoo’s nearsightedness into the framing sequence and play the Carol straight. This works surprisingly well as a musical——I love the songs——and squeezes a lot of plot into a single hour of running time.
WKRP in Cincinnati: Bah, Humbug! is the best of the many sitcom adaptations of Scrooge. Arthur Carlson, head of a small radio station, decides to stiff the staff on bonuses in order to upgrade the equipment and impress his mother, the station owner. But after he eats one DJ’s pot-laded brownie, he has this dream … If you only watch one sitcom Christmas Carol episode, make it this one (and then watch the rest of the series. It’s that good).

2 Comments

Filed under Movies, TV

2 responses to “Christmas Carols, 2011

  1. Pingback: A Little Bit of Christmas | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Enter: the Legion of Scrooges! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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