A Christmas Carol

by Brad Nelson   12/24/14

Here’s a StubbornThings-like article from John Corry at The American Spectator on the various adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: Sing Praises to Alastair Sim’s “A Christmas Carol”.

His opinion, of course, is right on because he holds up the 1951 Scrooge production with Alastair Sim as the Dickensian gold standard. And he rightly praises the production with George C. Scott (a favorite of mine as well) and has appropriate criticism for the (in my opinion as well) entirely over-rated and subpar production featuring Patrick Stewart:

But he declaims his way through the part, and while Scott’s Scrooge is genuinely repentant when he meets Dickens’s ghosts, Stewart’s might just as well be Jean-Luc Picard meeting some Klingons.

I hope to get a chance to view the 1951 version sometime today.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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17 Responses to A Christmas Carol

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I’m dependent on what’s available from cable channels for the most part, though a local radio station (WHAS, which also carried Rush Limbaugh) played a 1930s radio broadcast featuring Lionel Barrymore. (Back in the 1990s, they sold a cassette tape of a version featuring various WHAS personalities, such as Limbaugh as the charitable solicitor. I played it every year until the tape went bad on me.) A few years ago there were several different versions (including one not mentioned in the article, the Mr. Magoo version that I had seen when I was young). I don’t always remember the different versions. (Incidentally, that was also the year I finally read the complete version, having previously read a Reader’s Digest condensation. Elizabeth has an annotated version.) One thing I do remember in one version is that when the Ghost of Christmas Past shows him the final separation with Belle, Scrooge tells him, “I almost went after her.” But that “almost” is why he is now alone.

    One incident I do recall from one I saw years ago — but I don’t know which version it was — added a scene in which Bob Cratchit, throwing snowballs with some kids, accidentally hits Scrooge and knocks off his hat. Scrooge fires him — and points out that the hat costs more than a week’s salary, so Cratchit owes him money. So when the Ghost of Christmas Present later shows him the Cratchits and Scrooge expresses concern over Tiny Tim, the ghost reminds him that doctors cost money and Cratchit has no money — not even a “situation” (i.e., job) now.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I have to agree that the 1951 version with Sim is still, by far, the best. Sim’s transformation is wonderful. I especially like the scene where he wakes up on Christmas morning and has the little boy in the street go for the turkey at the butchers’ shop.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    By the way, I recommend “The Bishop’s Wife” as another good Christmas movie. Cary Grant plays a wonderful angel.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here are a couple interesting notes about the 1951 movie at IMDB:

    The word “humbug” is misunderstood by many people, which is a pity since the word provides a key insight into Scrooge’s hatred of Christmas. The word “humbug” describes deceitful efforts to fool people by pretending to a fake loftiness or false sincerity. So when Scrooge calls Christmas a humbug, he is claiming that people only pretend to charity and kindness in an scoundrel effort to delude him, each other, and themselves. In Scrooge’s eyes, he is the one man honest enough to admit that no one really cares about anyone else, so for him, every wish for a Merry Christmas is one more deceitful effort to fool him and take advantage of him. This is a man who has turned to profit because he honestly believes everyone else will someday betray him or abandon him the moment he trusts them.

    And…

    Although this film is widely regarded as the best film version of Charles Dickens’ story, it is the only one which omits Scrooge’s famous line: “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart”.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One point I’ve seen made about Scrooge’s comment is that it shows a certain humor that perhaps indicates why the ghosts tried (successfully) to save him but evidently never tried to save Jacob Marley. There was always something there. The point about “humbug” also helps explain it — Scrooge always had a good side, but it was buried in bitter cynicism.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        As I think Corry says so very well about Scrooge in his article:

        So even when Sim’s Scrooge is at his most squeezing, wrenching and grasping, he is also both comic and pathetic, unlike, say, the upright Patrick Stewart. Dickens wanted us to pity Scrooge and not scorn him, and Sim makes that easy to do.

        Scrooge is such an interesting literary character in this way. In many ways he’s a caricature of the humbugged man. Great literature is full of iconic, larger-than-life characters whose exaggerated excesses bring clearly forth the traits that are to be an object lesson.

        But Scrooge is indeed still somewhat of a sympathetic character. He may be stern, even stingy, but not without wit and a certain kind of charm. My favorite lines from the story are:

        “Why do you doubt your senses?”

        “Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats.  You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.  There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      The word “humbug” describes deceitful efforts to fool people by pretending to a fake loftiness or false sincerity.”

      Humbug-deceptive or false talk or behaviour. A hypocrite. – Compact Oxford English Dictionary.

      Perhaps we should take up where Ebenezer left off. “Humbug” could be the response to every Leftist and many Libertarians whenever they come around spouting their lies and stupidities.

      It could also be applied in equal measure to RINO’s.

      How great would it be to see some reporter respond with “Bah, humbug” to some lying politician?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        On the other hand, it should be noted that Scrooge’s attitudes were those of a modern liberal — he refused to give to charity because he already spent plenty of tax money on the poor, and was quite concerned about the “surplus population”. He showed no signs of any religious feeling until the ghosts visited him. And his field seems to have been finance; he didn’t produce or market anything.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I think one should not forget the cinematography as well. The drab mood is wonderfully set by the black and white film.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Black and white is a wonderful art form. It was thought lost until The Police’s groundbreaking video, Every Breath You Take. It may have been the last time that a major band rediscovered just how effective minimalism could be.

        But I think the art form has been lost again. Now everyone just shouts.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          It’s hardly a Christmas movie, but black-and-white worked very well in Psycho — and, after all, tomorrow night TCM is running High Anxiety, which includes a superb parody of the shower scene (even to the black fluid going down the drain).

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    Merry Christmas…………all you guys and gals………….Glenn

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