It’s the night before Christmas and what could be more appropriate than a look at the iconic Christmas eve work, Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’. This will be a short blog, as who wants to spend time reading when they could be eagerly awaiting the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future?
What is Christmas without at least one viewing of the perennial Christmas classic? Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most famous characters in all of English literature, and justly so. The book itself, published to wide acclaim in 1843, has never been out of print and helped solidify Charles Dickens’ reputation and fortune.
Since the advent of film, the ‘Christmas Carol’ has seen dozens of versions of the Christmas Carol – everything from ‘An American Christmas Carol’ starring Henry Winkler (better known as the ‘Fonzie’ on ‘Happy Days’) to the Muppets. Those that grew up with the old 1951 black and white Alastair Sim version are often rather dismissive of later versions, holding this to be the gold standard to which all others are compared. While I have a great fondness for this version, the acting does strike me as being a little dated.
For a Scrooge that really knows his humbugs, I like the English-American movie made for T.V. 1984 version starring George C. Scott. For great songs and lots of fun you can’t beat the ‘Muppets Christmas Carol’ with Michael Caine as our favorite reformed curmudgeon.
‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ is quite wonderful in a different sort of way. Starring Dan Stevens (he played Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey) in the title role, this film is about Charles Dickens and the creative process he used to produce his great masterpiece. Just before writing ‘Christmas Carol’, Dickens had suffered the financial impact of having his last two books flop. He was in dire need of money and stretched to the limits by his parents and memories of the black time in his childhood when he worked in a boot-blacking factory. Inspired by some of the characters he meets on his travels around London, he slowly creates the plot of his great Christmas book. It’s rather fun having his characters sitting with him in his room while he’s writing. They offer criticism and complaints about the way he’s writing their parts. Christopher Plummer is particularly wonderful in this respect. He plays the role of Scrooge, from the embryonic idea into the fully formed character succumbing to a desire for redemption – but not without a fight along the way. In many respects, Plummer is best Scrooge of the lot.
Whatever your taste for the Dickens’ classic, there’s a version out there for you. And, at this particularly apt moment, let’s remember Tiny Tim’s Christmas message: “God Bless us everyone.”