Three Scrooges, Part 4: The Sound of Silence – some silent movie versions
Thought of the Blog: Whither Dick Wilkins? Scrooges’ fellow apprentice who liked Scrooge very much. Is he still alive? In business for himself? Has he ever visited the man who thinks him his best friend? How would Scrooge react of Dick, instead of Fred invited him to Christmas dinner? Would Scrooge have been so curt or glad to see him (glad for Scrooge that is)?
Bit of a change of format here as I would think most silent film versions of “A Christmas Carol” to be quite rare…
1901 – only 3-1/2 minutes exist, but it tells nearly the whole story. Marley shows Scrooge his past, present & future with sophisticated special effects for its day.
1910 – ten minutes, but packs more into the story than most hour-long specials. It even includes mankind’s children Misery and Want (instead of Ignorance and Want). As sometimes is the case in version of the novel, here Scrooge goes to Cratchet’s house to present the goose and give him a raise. Here, as in Patrick Stewart’s version, Cratchet wields a weapon to protect himself from the obviously crazed Scrooge (in this case a fireplace shovel). In this version, as in the 1951 film, Scrooge makes his nephew Fred a partner. These are the only two versions I have seen this happen. Scrooge also give Fred enough money to marry his beloved fiancé (in most versions, they are already married).
1923 – Russell Thorndike plays Scrooge in this silent version of “A Christmas Carol”. My copy is on a DVD and it is in desperate need of restoration. At times the copy is so bleached you cannot see the faces or costumes of the actors – only their outline. Actually, that would make a better ghost effect than the double-exposure see-through (the height of special effects at the time) that they used here.
This version runs 27 minutes and the beginning hits all the highlights – Scrooge barking at Cratchet about the coal fire, Fred, the businessman (singular) visit, the “You’ll want all day tomorrow, I suppose”. Marley does not appear until 12 minutes in!
As usual in these short silent films only a few segments of the novel are used (only his break-up with Belle is shown in the past and the Ghost of Christmas Present appears, lectures Scrooge and leaves without showing Bob’s dinner or Fred’s party) and the sets are sparse at best.
Uniqueness of this movie? The Ghost of Christmas Past is only two foot tall, Ghost of Christmas Present is basically Father Christmas. Tiny Tim, the lynchpin of most adaptations, is nowhere in the film! No Tiny Tim? Scrooge does attend his nephews’ party at the end and there is a brief scene with Topper wooing Fred’s sister-in-law (in a much less eely fashion than in the Patrick Stewart version). Topper yes, Tiny Tim no?
A nice aspect of the silent movies is the costuming – Cratchet is dressed in near-rags and Scrooge’s suit is threadbare.
With his black Edwardian suit and longish white hair this Scrooge reminds me of William Hartnell’s Doctor Who. (An aside – the television show “Doctor Who” has also done a Carol adaptation – and a good one – but sentimental me was hoping for an appearance by a former actor appearing as a Doctor-Who-of-Christmas-Past. Rumors always abound of Peter Davidson appearing (Doctor #5), which would have made the perfect opportunity. A Doctor-Who-of-Christmas-Yet-To-Come would have featured a future regeneration, but his features stealthily hidden).
NEXT: Gone Hollywood
Copyright 2012 Michael G. Curry