Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bah, Humbug and All That

If he wrote "A Christmas Carol" today, Charles Dickens might take flak for insidiously promoting a welfare state that could lead to higher taxes and SCHIP programs for the likes of Tiny Tim.

But after more than a century and a half, Scrooge and his ghosts will be all over TV this week without protest, except from lovers of the classic who feel strongly about the dozens of movies based on it.

Christmas eve, TCM will be showing the 1938 MGM version, which ranks high in memory, with an asterisk to protest liberties taken with the plot, including Bob Cratchit heaving a snowball at Scrooge and being fired before the holiday (always a touch of Andy Hardy in the Louis B. Mayer era).

You'll have to check local stations or Blockbuster because no network showing is scheduled for arguably the best, a 1951 darkly beautiful British tour de force with Alastair Sim, a grand actor who was born to play Scrooge, or for my Yuletide guilty pleasure, the 1970 musical with Albert Finney.

With an undistinguished score (we're not talking Stephen Sondheim here), the singing and dancing somehow seem just right for a tale to lift our hearts and make believing children of us all. Peopled with great actors--Edith Evans, Kenneth More and Alec Guinness as the campiest Jacob Marley ever--it's a thing of visual beauty, culminating in a joyous scene of dancing, bell-ringing celebrants against a snowy background that is pure Breughel.

There have been "Christmas Carols" by all the icons of pop culture from Mickey Mouse and the Jetsons to Star Trek's Patrick Stewart and the Muppets and, in 2009, there will be a live action-computer graphic version with Jim Carrey as Scrooge and all three ghosts.

So take your choice and Bah, Humbug and Merry Christmas to all.


GiromiDe said...

I just recently caught the 1970 musical version on HDNet Movies. I believe "Thank You Very Much" has been used in some ad campaigns over the years, but I had no idea it came from this musical. Connecting those dots was an unexpected treat.

I find it amazing that prematurely aged Finney looks almost like the Finney of today. Did I amazing? Creepy.

Unknown said...

Each holiday season my sister and I watch numerous versions of "A Christmas Carol" on DVD. My personal favorites, not in any particular order, are the Alistair Sim's version, the Patrick Stewart version, and the Michael Cane and the Muppets version.

Speaking of Dickens, I made a prediction on another blog about some the institutions that feature prominently in his stories - the workhouse, the poorhouse and the debtor's prison. I see them making a comeback in the next decade or so.

It's all too easy to imagine Blackwater running them. Some shrewd and soulless moguls will recognize the opportunity the current raping of the middle class. I can see them being marketed as "lifestyle budget communities".