Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's a Wonderful Christmas Carol


I'm going to be very traditional and choose "A Christmas Carol" as a favorite film for the holidays, though "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Amahl and the Night Visitors" are also contenders.

My choice of the particular film versions "A Christmas Carol" may be a little different, though. I love “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.” I remember first seeing it as a very small child; I probably remember it from the first time it aired (no, I am not going to tell you the year.) I don’t know why this particular version appealed to me so much. Part of it may have been seeing a funny character whom I already knew and loved (Mr. Magoo was right up there with Top Cat and Beany and Cecil) doing something so different and serious. I know the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be scared me more than a little. I also liked the catchy music. "Ringle, ringle, coins as they jingle. . . "

Sorry, I told you earlier that I can't sing.

I was utterly delighted this year when a DVD copy of this show was added to our collection. I’ve already watched I once so far, and may view it once or twice more as I address Christmas cards, just to get into the mood.

My other favorite version is the one with George C. Scott as Scrooge. It’s better-rounded than many. The tendency is to cut out large parts of the story to focus on Tiny Tim and Scrooge. This one looks more at Scrooge’s life as a whole: we see the devotion between Ebenezer and his sister, his failed romance with Belle, and – most importantly—the social conditions of the time. The Crachitts aren’t the only ones in need, and Scrooge’s limited outlook isn’t confined to mistreating one employee. It’s his entire life that needs re-evaluating, from his relationship to his dead sister’s son to his view of himself as a clever, practical man who should be respected, not realizing that others see him in an entirely different light.

Although he didn’t physically resemble Ebenezer, Scott managed to make that role his own. The most difficult part of the story is to have a Scrooge who is both believably hard and grasping and believably transformed. The supporting cast was also unusually fine. Edward Woodward is a very robust Ghost of Christmas Present, just as one would expect from “The Equalizer.” He and Scott have a great rapport, and their scenes together almost steal the movie. David Warner is another excellent piece of casting. He gives Bob Crachitt a lot of depth. Crachitt is usually such a colorless character, a total doormat. In this version, we see him as a stronger character, willing to endure dreadful working conditions in order to feed his family. The Crachitts are a devoted couple, still very much in love. Mrs. Crachitt (Susannah York) isn’t the shrew she is in some versions though she still has a bit of a sharp tongue. Instead, she’s a woman who loves her husband and resents the way his employer treats this good man.

Finally, there is Ebenezer’s nephew, a character often overlooked in filmed versions. He’s a sprightly, good-natured fellow, very much like his mother. He shares a name with one of my favorite cats, so I noticed every time Fred was mentioned which was fairly often.

So warm up the DVD/VCR player, make some hot chocolate and gather the family around for a trip back to Victorian London. I would join you, but I’m still working on my Christmas cards from 2005.

Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol DVD MR. Main

A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott Video 1944 Family or Video 6169 Family, both Main

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