A Christmas Carol

"Why show me this if I am past all hope?"

I'm a sucker for a good redemption story, and Dickens knew his stuff. So it may not be an original or modern choice, but A Christmas Carol is my favorite holiday movie. And not just any old adaptation. There's only one that I watch nearly every year, and that's the 1984 version originally made for television that stars George C. Scott.

There's something magical about this movie. It's moody, misty, cold and dark, and the production values are excellent. But in my opinion, what elevates this particular version is the cast. George C. Scott was a brilliant actor, and his Scrooge so... well, Scrooge-y that it's hard to believe he could ever find redemption. His most unfeeling lines ("Then let them die, and decrease the surplus population") sound as if he believes them with all of his Grinch-like heart. And yet, we can totally believe his transformation. I particularly love how his joyous laughter looks and sounds like an evil cackle. He's wonderful.

Even better, the entire supporting cast is as good as Scott is. I am particularly fond of Edward Woodward, who dominates the screen as the immense, be-robed Ghost of Christmas Present. Some of the best lines in the movie are his, mostly because of his exceptional delivery. "Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?" he gleefully sneers as he throws Scrooge's words back at him. Other strong performances include the always wonderful Susannah York as Mrs. Cratchit, and Roger Rees, my favorite diplomat from The West Wing, as Scrooge's long-suffering nephew Fred.


Best of all, David Warner breathes life into the thankless role of Bob Cratchit and manages to make a caricature into a real person – so much so that he's my favorite part of the movie. (You have to love an actor who can pull off Bob Cratchit and Jack the Ripper. That's range, people.) One of my favorite movie moments ever is near the end (I don't have to add spoiler space, do I?) when Scrooge tells Cratchit, who thinks he's about to get fired, "Therefore... I am going to... double your salary!" Scrooge laughs maniacally. David Warner's face in this scene is priceless.

I thought about why I love this story while writing my review, and it came down to this – that it's never too late to change for the better, that even the smallest act of charity can change someone's life. And most importantly, that even when everything appears black, there's always hope. Cliched, yes, but there's a reason a cliche is a cliche, right?

So it's not perfect. The tiny actor who played Tiny Tim looked the part but sounded like he was reading his lines off a cue card. George C. Scott was an American, and his British accent occasionally came and went. But that's the worst I can say about this production. You'd think a made-for-television movie nearly thirty years old would have disappeared from the public consciousness a long time ago, but it's still available. I'm not the only one who loves it.

I'm a bit blue this year, and this site and all of the contributing writers and faithful readers always, always, always make me feel better. So best wishes to all of you, no matter what you celebrate, and may 2013 be a great year for us all.

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

Sooze said...

Oh, Billie, I hope your blueness fades...I don't comment a lot, and when I do, I don't have much to add to the conversation - but know that you and your fabulous writers are running the best blog around (IMHO) with the most clever and entertaining posts, along with witty and thoughtful responses from your readers (even though I don't understand french!) - and it brings a smile to my face every day!

Juliette said...

A Christmas Carol is definitely a movie to watch when blue - I personally go for the Muppets version, but any version works. Hope it helps :)

Angie Fiedler Sutton said...

This was the first "Christmas Carol" adaptation that was made 'during my time'. I was in elementary school, and we for some reason had gotten a whole lot of promotional materials around it for one of my classes, that included interviews with the cast and crew. This means that this was probably one of the first times it dawned on me the stuff on TV was 'made', if that makes sense? (It also included the now infamous 'how much would the 12 days of Christmas cost in today's world?', but we had to figure out the math.)

As a result, this one will always have a special place in my heart, and to this day I still remember how terrified I was of this Christmas Yet To Come.

Judy Booth said...

Other than the old black and white film this is my next favorite. George C Scott just oozes scrooginess