I doubt anyone’s getting up this morning to read my blog, but here we go anyway with some of my favorite adaptations.
First, the musical — SCROOGE (1970) has a grumpy Albert Finney lashing out at clerk Michael Crawford, nephew Freddie Jones, ghosts Judith Anderson, John Gielgud and Kenneth More plus random orphans and charity solicitors (“I hate people/And I don’t care if they hate me!”) before waking up Christmas morning to realize everything’s changed (“I think I’m going to like Christmas.”). One I’m fond of, particularly the black humor of Christmas Future “You will be to Lucifer as Bob Cratchitt was to you.”
Next, the animated musical — MR. MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1962) has Magoo (Jim Backus) return to Broadway to play Scrooge, dance and sing (“Pounds and tuppence and shillings and bob/Give them away and nobody will rob — you.”) before almost literally bringing down the house. A surprisingly good score makes this one a success “A hand for each hand is the way it was planned/Why won’t my fingers reach?”
Then the Reagan-era Scrooge — A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984) boasts a great George C. Scott performance as a naturalistic Scrooge, a hard-headed businessman rather than Finney’s over-the-top miser; I particularly like the handling of Christmas Future where Scrooge clearly grasps that he’s dead but goes into denial. The emphasis that the people Scrooge condemns to the workhouse and debtor’s prison are hardworking, deserving poor is an obvious response to Reagan’s baloney about welfare queens and young black men living high on your tax dollars, but it certainly hasn’t lost its relevance. With Michael Gough as a fundraiser, Roger Rees as Fred (here Scrooge isn’t complaining his nephew is poor, simply that he didn’t marry rich) and Edward Woodward as Christmas Present (“Perhaps in the sight of heaven you may be more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.”). “The dealings of my trade were but a comprehensive drop of water in the ocean of my business.”
The definitive Scrooge remains A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951), with Alistair Sim constantly disgruntled these annoying spirits won’t let him go back to his nice warm bed on Christmas Eve, let alone forcing him to witness the tragic turning points of his past and the ominous trends of his future. Always a pleasure. “A man’s deeds foreshadow certain ends, but if the deeds be changed, must not the ends change also?”
Then came the 1960 Twilight Zone episode “The Night of the Meek,” with Art Carney (who could do so much more than just Jackie Gleason’s sidekick) as a drunken department store Santa wishing that for just one Christmas, the meek could truly inherit the Earth. And then he finds a bag which seems able to give people whatever the gift is they want most … The sense of genuine poverty in the show’s background is typical of the series’ aesthetic, and the story leaves me in tears every time (not hard at Christmas. Scrooge I am not). And I love that even the officious store owner who fires Carney at the start gets a Merry Christmas instead of coal in his stocking. “That’s why I weep — and that’s why I drink.”
Courtesy of the BritBox streaming service I watched THE VICAR OF DIBLEY: The Christmas Lunch Incident in which the Reverend Geraldine (Dawn French) finds herself invited to four different lunches on the big day, and of course everyone would be offended if she didn’t eat a hearty meal … It’s a stock set-up but damn, it made me laugh, particularly touches like a child explaining why Baby Jesus is so special (“He’s named after a swear word!”). A Britcom I really must watch in full sometime. “Like Mary, the Spice Girls were virgins.”
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