Three Scrooges, Part 12 (the last): Leftovers, a potpourri of Carol adaptations and one final thought…
I was lucky to have caught “Carol for Another Christmas” when it aired on TCM. It had only aired once before on ABC in late December of 1964. It was a politically-charged version of Carol starring Sterling Hayden as Scrooge (he played the police chief Michael Corleone shot in “Godfather”). He played the Scrooge-ish Daniel Grudge – a multi-millionaire whose son was killed on Christmas Eve during WWII. He was against all foreign entanglements (paraphrase: every twenty years or so we send our boys ten thousand miles across the planet to help solve other people’s problems”) as well as any aid to the poor and oppressed (“tell the poor and oppressed that the hand-out box is closed for good and you’ll see less poor and oppressed” – paraphrasing again). His son, named Marley, appears but does not speak.
Grudge is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past (played amazingly well by Steve Lawrence), Present (Pat Hingle – I remember him as Commissioner Gordon in the 80s and 90s Batman movies) and Yet to Come (played by Robert Shaw, who as usual steals every scene he is in).
Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, it was his only television work, and written with Rod Serling’s usual heavy hand; the movie is a 90-minute lecture against isolationism. In a post-apocalyptic future, Grudge’s Butler Charles was put on trial for “treasonous Involvement” by Imperial Me (played with sinister glee by Peter Sellers).
Probably the rarest “Christmas Carol” adaptation of all! And no wonder – it was hard to sit through even with the objective eye of looking at rare television. In today’s politically charged air it is almost unwatchable.
“Bah, Humbug! The Story of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol” from 1994, This was a dramatic reading based on Dickens’ own scripts ala Patrick Stewart’s one-man shows. This was performed at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Ironically named after JP Morgan – the very embodiment of Scrooge later in the century.
Robert MacNeil introduced the reading. James Earl Jones performed all of Scrooge’s lines and Sheen all others. Very commendable job by both actors – I think both would make great Scrooges in their own productions. I chanced upon this on PBS one afternoon and had not seen it since.
Laurence Olivier’s reading of “A Christmas Carol” aired on the radio in the early 1950s. It is not a reading – the consummate actor plays every part except the ladies (Mrs. Cratchet) and Tiny Tim. Echo chambers are used for the ghosts.
Scrooge is played straight, but the ghosts, particularly the Ghost of Christmas Past, bring out the old ham in Lord Olivier…
It lasts 30 minutes and races through the story. Nothing is added and much omitted (youthful Scrooge, Belle, Fred’s party, etc.), but it’s Laurence Olivier! A good, quick listen. Available on CD, I found it on YouTube.
Thought of the blog: So whatever happened to Tiny Tim. I have a theory; stay with me here.
Despite his salvation, Scrooge likely had about ten years left to live. During that time, his financial support nursed Tim to health. Tim’s gentle nature and history led him to wish to work with children or even aspire to be a physician. His second father would have encouraged it.
Unfortunately, when Scrooge died, all his estate would have gone to Fred. Scrooge would have made some provision for the Cratchets, which makes sense. But Bob isn’t known for his financial acuity. Likely by the time Tim comes of age the money is long gone to establish Peter and provide dowries for his sisters.
Tim takes his fate with stoic grace and takes a job at a local clerk or shopkeeper.
By the 1870s Tim will have lost his parents. The charitable giving of Fred has likely stopped – he supported the Cratchets but now it is their descendents and extended family. Fred helps when asked, but not to his detriment. Fred has a kind soul, but money only goes so far. Tim hears that a lot lately, especially from Peter and his brothers-in-law.
Tim is alone. He remains unmarried – potential brides are put off by his poverty and his physical condition. Although cured, he still walks with a cane and his hand is still withered. The local east-end streetwalkers have sympathy on his sweet nature and offer him solace. “I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there.”
That is how he caught syphilis.
Tim was nearly fifty when the last stages of the STD rampaged through his system – a system still weak from the malady of his youth. Like his second father, a cold bitterness set in. Added to his coldness came the mental imbalance from the STD.
At least Scrooge had the solace of being a “good man of business” and sat on a sufficient, albeit unused, accumulation of wealth. Tim had no such solace. His financial future was taken by his many sisters four decades ago, just as his health was taken by fallen women. What does his Bible, his only refuge, say? “…the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you. “
His father’s house is gone. His second father’s house is gone. All that are left are the harlots…
Purge the evil, he thinks, yes, they must die. This is why in the late 1880s, Tiny Tim, his senses marred and warped by his bitterness and disease, committed some of the most heinous crimes still reviewed and examined to this day.
Thus, it is my belief that Tim Cratchet was, in fact, Jack the Ripper.
Copyright 2012 Michael G. Curry