Three Scrooges, Part 5: Gone Hollywood

Three Scrooges, Part 5: Gone Hollywood
                Thought of the Blog: Except for the Ghost of Christmas Present, neither of the other Ghosts show Scrooge any events of Christmas Day itself. They should be called the Ghost of Christmastime Past and Yet-To-Come. Ghost of Christmas(time) Past shows Fezziwig’s Christmas Eve party, and the novel does not say specifically when Fen visited Scrooge at the Boarding School or the day he broke up with Belle.
                As for the Christmas Yet to Come; if all that happened on Christmas Day itself, that Christmas of 1844 was particular busy – Tim Cratchet died, Bob Cratchet bought a plot of land, Scrooge died, the news of his death made it to the Exchange (which was open), his tombstone was prepared, his belongings were looted and sold at Old Joe’s (Old Joe being “open” Christmas Day was probably the one thing most realistically “open” that day…). As with Past, the events of Yet-To-Come were most likely events close to Christmas Day, without being on the day itself.
                “A Christmas Carol” from 1938 was released by MGM. This film features June Lockhart’s first movie (she was one of the Cratchet litter). Also, Scrooge was originally cast with Lionel Barrymore instead of Reginald Owen. Barrymore recommended Owen for the role when he could not do it due to illness. The movie is known more for those facts than anything having to do with the actual film.
                Obviously it had been filmed many times before, but this was the first time “Holllllllll-ywood” (with all the phrase implies) had a stab at it.  Some parts of the novel missing here include Belle and Old Joe and the opportunists selling Scrooge’s possessions at Old Joe’s.
                Gene Lockhart plays Bob Cratchet.  Such a portly Cratchet hardly portrays the gaunt scratching existent Dickens implies, but he makes a fun Cratchet. Plus he later played the judge on “Miracle on 34th Street”. If we (the collective we) had known, we would have demanded he have a bit part in “It’s a Wonderful Life” to complete the Christmas movie trifecta!
                Scrooge seems completely converted by Fezziwig’s party. “I do love Christmas, I do!” It is a good movie with most of the important elements. It airs every year and although eclipsed by the 1951 version, it stands on its own.
                It is a merry film – as you would expect from an MGM release during the Great Depression. Very accessible and a nice film to introduce the tale to children – its not too scary.  Unfortunately it seems to be blocked off of YouTube – I can’t find the movie in its entirety.
                I thought you would all appreciate that I never mentioned Tiny Tim’s line “I’d like to stroke it.”
                Vincent Price seems an odd choice to narrate “A Christmas Carol”. Strike that – he is the PERFECT person to narrate “A Christmas Carol”. He was the king of the macabre and the star of two of my favorite creepy movies – “The Conqueror Worm” and “The Last Man on Earth”.
                He narrated a 1948 television presentation of “Carol”. I have no other info about the broadcast – on which network it aired or whether it was part of an anthology series. It is just over 25 minutes long and contains most of the standard bits. It leaves out the two solicitors, Belle was mentioned by the Ghost of Christmas Past but not shown, Fezziwig’s party was omitted, as were the ghostly visit to Fred’s party and Old Joe and the opportunists. To save time, Fred and his wife joined Scrooge at the Cratchets’ to help deliver the turkey. An odd moment: Scrooge said he had met a friend at church that Christmas morning who was a famous surgeon. The surgeon agreed to help Tiny Tim back to heath. Scrooge attending church that morning was in the novel. But a friend? Scrooge? And a surgeon to boot?
                The History Channel’s otherwise excellent “History Unwrapped” said this was a TV special from 1958 after it showed a few brief clips. It took me some hours and help from Facebook friends to find the facts. At first I thought the star was Lionel Barrymore, but Scrooge was instead played by the similar-looking-and-sounding actor who also appeared in “Father of the Bride” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”.
                The special effects are non-existent – no double exposures or fades. The ghosts either walk onto the set or open a curtain to reveal themselves. This doesn’t detract from the story.  The actors playing the ghosts are youthful – Present looks like George Reeves.
                Wouldn’t Vincent Price have made a great Scrooge?
                Type in “Vincent Price Christmas Carol” on the You Tube search engine to see this quick, enjoyable version.
UNSEEN SCROOGES (version I have not seen but will review anyway, oh like that’s never been done by professional critics…)
                Henry Winkler’s “American Christmas Carol” from 1979. I remember watching this but have no memories of it. Here is Henry Winkler at the height of his Fonzie fame showing us his acting chops. I’d have been 15 when it aired and probably got quite bored with it as, at the time, I did not care to see Winkler’s acting chops. I wanted more Fonzie…
NEXT: Santa Mouse
Copyright 2012 Michael G. Curry

2 thoughts on “Three Scrooges, Part 5: Gone Hollywood

  1. I remember 'American Christmas Carol' pretty vividly, given the number of years ago it first aired. It was a good Scrooge take, and Ghostly flashbacks showing Scrooge trying to get his mentor in furniture craftsmanship to take up the faster, cheaper assembly line method with a shoddy but cheaper product sticks…as does the eventual outcome of what were surely Scrooge-backed business practices and techniques contributing to the Great Depression's woes in his elder years. If you must take Scrooge out of the original time/setting, doing so with an historical focus and making him actually part of the era this way is a decent way to do it.

  2. Being set during the Great Depression makes sense. Any American version would have to be set during the 1880s or later when real-life robber barons in need of a ghostly visit like Morgan and Rockerfeller walked the earth…

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