Three Scrooges, Part 11: Personal Best (my favorite versions)

Three Scrooges, Part 11: Personal Best (my favorite versions)
               Thought of the blog: How much do you think Scrooge donated to the solicitors that Christmas morning? In George C. Scott’s Carol movie, it is obvious they are mouthing “a thousand pounds” that would more than likely have been just over $150,000 US. Back payments indeed!
               “A Christmas Carol” starring George C. Scott as Scrooge was a made-for-television film shown on CBS in 1984. It was the first serious attempt at a Carol movie in thirty-three years. All previous adaptations were animated features, musicals or a spoof/homage from current television programs.  As such it was the first serious adaptation to be filmed in color.
               This is without question my favorite version. The acting and characters are superb. The scenery is beautiful. Its flaws are small and insignificant compared to the majesty of the film.
               Uniqueness: it’s loyalty to the original story makes for very few scenes that are not in the book, but they exist. Changes were had because of Scott’s tinkering with the character to reflect his “motivation”. They make sense: borrowing from 1951’s “Scrooge”, he was the younger child, Fen the older (Scrooge’s mother died in childbirth and his father holds him a-grudge).  We get to see Scrooge’s father for the only time in any other adaptation (Scott standing defiantly behind his younger self sends a shiver down the spine – staring down at the man who made him what he was.
               Missing: not much. No trip to the miners/lighthouse/ship is the only part I can recall missing other than Dickens’ asides. The debate between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present about closing the bakeries on the Sabbath is missing (only “Disney’s …” includes it to date). Too bad, it would have given the Ghost played by Edward Woodward another reason to snarl at Scrooge.
               There is so much to love about the movie – not just the beauty of the settings. The Ghost of Christmas Present’s verbal bitch-slapping of Scrooge to mind his tongue when discussing the poor and destitute was the dramatic highlight. Rather than cringe, Scrooge smirked and nodded, conceding the point.
               Scrooge meeting Fred’s wife for the first time says, “I was in love once, can you imagine that?” “Yes, yes I can,” she says quietly. Scrooge then addresses his nephew, “You will forgive me but I see the shadow of my sister in my face.  … God forgive me for the time I’ve wasted.” A moving scene.
                Cratchet, mourning Tiny Tim, holds his youngest daughter and cries, “my child; my little, little child”. If that does not bring a tear to your eye, you have no soul.
               Scenes of poor families living under a bridge and cooking scraps found on the street is not from the novel, but aptly placed.
               His descent into coldness was realistic; his conversion was realistic. That was Scott’s point in tinkering with the “motivation” of Scrooge – these were not caricatures or archetypes, these are (or at least should be) real people.
               The book says Scrooge was not a man of humor, but Scott imbues Scrooge with a sharp intelligence and humor, wicked though it may be. “You’re devilishly hard to have a conversation with,” he tells Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
               The cast is perfect – although Bob Cratchet could have looked a bit less robust. Tiny Tim looked, well, tiny. And cute as a button.
               The film is a joy to watch. A joy.
                The television show “WKRP in Cincinnati” aired for three years on CBS. It was a documentary about the inner workings of a radio station disguised as a sit-com.  IMHO it was the best thing ever to air on TV.
               They did two Christmas shows – one was a Carol spoof. Mr. Carlson played the Scrooge character refusing to give out Christmas bonuses. He is visited by cast members Jennifer (Loni Anderson never looked more beautiful than in this episode), Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid having contagious fun) and Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman’s genuinely creepy Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come).
               The humor was, as always, character-driven, well-written and funny.
               Ironically I find the third visit the most melancholy. Fever shows Carlson the future of the radio station. There was Herb Tarlek sitting at a desk while the automated computer behind him broadcasting generic music (Christmas music) with presumably generic DJs.
               If you’ve listened to the radio lately, you’ll know that despite Carlson’s conversion, the dark future happened anyway. Most radio stations nowadays are composed of the sales staff and a computer tech.  It was the only Christmas Carol in which Scrooge did NOT change the future…
UNSEEN SCROOGES (version I have not seen but will review anyway, oh like that’s never been done by professional critics…)
               “A Christmas Carol” – an Australian 1982 animated feature. I have not yet seen the movie, but it received glowing reviews. It is called the most complete and accurate depiction of the novel done to date. Wow! I’ve got to YouTube THIS…
Next: Leftovers (a potpourri of Carols that didn’t quite fit…)
Copyright 2012 Michael G. Curry

One thought on “Three Scrooges, Part 11: Personal Best (my favorite versions)

  1. You review excellently well, sir. I wonder you don't go into Parlee-ment. 😉 You know my affinity for the Scott version, and you certainly selected many of my reasons for loving this version dearly. Of all the WKRP I've seen, the Carlson-as-Scrooge episode I may have missed…it doesn't sound familiar. YouTube here I come… 🙂

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