Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Three Ghosts

Do you watch Christmas movies? Or do you avoid them? I watch them, but only in December, and then not after the Day itself. One must place some limitations upon even good things.

One show that I miss these days, but which I saw several times when I was young, is the half-hour animated version of A Christmas Carol. Do you remember it? I think it is one of the best versions of that story, in spite of its abbreviated length. I haven't seen it in many years, but I remember being impressed at the art work as a kid.

A Christmas Carol is my favorite seasonal tale. I first read the original story in about fifth grade when I purchased a paperback version of it from Scholastic Book Club; a volume which I still possess. I will seek out and watch almost any iteration of the tale that I can find. Even stupid versions; even sitcom versions.

Perhaps the best parody of it that I have seen is Blackadder's Christmas Carol, which I managed to record to DVD last night. In this version, Blackadder begins as the kind-hearted, generous soul that Scrooge became, and after a ghostly visitation decides that he has been played for a sap all his life and becomes decidedly miserly and ungenerous.

I haven't decided on a favorite movie version. The 1938 version with Alistair Sim is considered the definitive, but I don't think it's my favorite. I caught the version with George C. Scott again last night, and I thought it was better this time than the last time I saw it several years ago. George C. Scott is one of those actors who I have trouble seeing as anything other than George C. Scott. To me, he seems not to be his character, but is simply himself playing a character. The best actors make us forget who they really are, and for a short time we can pretend to believe that they are really the characters they are portraying. Last night he did seem to be more Scrooge than Scott. I suppose this is only a quirk of my own personality and perception, and not Scott's fault at all.

But if I were forced to choose right now, I think I would say that my current favorite is the version with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, a version I sadly did not see this year, though I looked for it. Bill Murray's Scrooged is also very good, but I didn't see it this year, either. I did catch an older musical version on DVD, though I haven't watched it yet. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe I'll make an exception this year and watch it the day after. I'm not a big fan of musicals.

This is a story that will undoubtedly continue to be used for untold Christmases yet to come, and I have to say that there is one actor who has not portrayed Scrooge, but who I would love to see as the character: Christopher Walken. Can you imagine Christopher Walken as Scrooge? I can. Although, I think I would place the story in modern-day America, probably New York City. And let's go ahead and make it PG-13. I believe it would work.

I don't know why I'm so fascinated with this story, except that I think that sometimes I could really benefit from a ghostly visitation or two, myself.


  1. My favorite is still the old one with Alistair Sim; it is the one I grew up seeing, and it always seemed to convey more of the spirit of the written story than any of the others, at least to me.
    I think Walken would be excellent as Scrooge; he would do best in one that was faithful to the original story.

  2. I would not set it in Dickensian London because I would not want to hear Walken trying to speak with a fake British accent.

  3. There were two animated "A Christmas Carol"s that came out one after the other when we were kids. The first one (1970) was an hour long, produced by Kenner, distributed on tape by MGM/UA. The second one came out in 1971, was produced by Chuck Jones, and starred Alastair Sim reprising his classic role. Every year we puzzle over which is which, trying to remember which style each was. One has the scariest Marley's ghost ever we seen.

    I did see the Patrick Stewart version again this year, and I agree it is the best color movie of the story yet. Ever see Henry Winkler in "An American Christmas Carol"? Ouch.

  4. I'm with you. The Patrick Stewart version is probably my favorite, right now. Great acting, and well presented. My favorite scene is when Stewart's Scrooge stops by to spend Christmas with his nephew and he humbly asks for forgiveness from his nephew's wife. Touching. Almost brings a tear to my eye.

  5. Brer, thanks for that clarification. I linked to the wrong one. The animated version I was remembering was the hour-long version, not the half-hour version with Alistair Sim. The scariest part of that version, to me, were the children under the GoCP's robes. No, I haven't seen the one with the Fonz, but I would watch it if I got the chance.

    Albatross: I think my favorite part is at the end where he learns how to laugh again. Very strange, when the wracking sobs eventually transform into laughter.

    P.S. I read the story again last night, the first time in many years since I have actually read it. It reminded me of some things I had forgotten, and I found at least two very quotable quotes.