Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Christmas Carol Revisited

My interest has been piqued this year concerning the real story behind the Charles Dickens classic novel, A Christmas Carol. I conducted a bit of research and found that the “ghost story of Christmas” was born out of Dickens humiliating stint as a child factory-worker following his father’s imprisonment for unpaid debt. Dickens was from a higher class than the other workers and became the recipient of their degrading jeers. This period allowed Dickens to see first hand the horrible conditions the people of London faced on a daily basis but the part that caused him to suffer the most emotional damage was the plight of the children of the poor. He decided to publish a political pamphlet about the difficulties of the poor man’s child, but decided against it. This pamphlet would become, A Christmas Carol.

Over the years I’ve seen numerous cinematic depictions of A few of my favorites have been:

1979 An American Christmas Carol. Dickens’ Victorian London becomes America’s Great Depression. Mr Benjamin Slade (Scrooge) as played by Henry Winkler is the remaining owner of S&L Finance, after the death of his partner Jack Latham, (Marley). On Christmas Even Slade and his assistant, Thatcher make rounds repossessing goods from people unable to make their payments. After firing Thatcher, Slade is confronted by his dead partner and three spirits; all those he has repossessed from that day. As in the original story, the ‘Scrooge figure’ is confronted with the reaction to his future death and finally sees the true meaning of life, love and the Christmas spirit.

1983 Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Scrooge McDuck of course plays the part of Scrooge. Mickey Mouse plays the part of Bob Cratchit, and Goofy is the ghost of Jacob Marley. The ghosts respectively were: Past, Jiminy Cricket, Present, Willie the Giant, and Future, Pete the dog?

1988 Scrooged. This hilarious depiction of A Christmas Carol introduces Francis “Frank” Xavier Cross, a ruthless television executive, played by veteran actor, Bill Murray whose corporate climb has lost him the love of his life played by Karen Allen and his only brother James, played by Murray’s real brother John Murray. Bob Forsyth plays the part of Frank’s dead and decaying mentor who of course represents Jacob Marley. The ghosts are played by; Past, David Johansen/Buster Poindexter, Present, Carol Kane and the Ghost of Christmas Future was a television faced apparition with a body made of ghouls. One of the best parts of this film has to be the character of “Cratchit” played by Alfre Woodard as Frank’s assistant, Grace.

1992 The Muppet Christmas Carol. Michael Caine plays Scrooge in this Muppet depiction of the classic tale. Kermit and Miss Piggy play the parts of the Cratchit parents with their tiny frog son playing the part of Tiny Tim. The best part about this version is the delightful music that seems to stick with you long after the film is over.

Which brings me to my final pick and the sole reason for writing this blog in the first place…

2009 Disney’s A Christmas Carol. This animated, 3-D version stars the voices of Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman and Bob Hoskins to name a few. Carrey steals the show with his portrayal of Scrooge, young and old and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. As you can see, I’ve seen my fare share of depictions of the story, not withholding the BORING ones starring George C. Scott and Patrick Stewart. (Please forgive me if these are your favorites.) But this version knocked my socks off. I’ve read several reviews from the “professionals,” some good, some bad. I’ll stick with the opinions of the four critics who saw the movie with me, a seventeen year old boy and girl, a nine year old boy and girl, and of course me, a woman of a certain age, tee hee. It was one of those movies where people clapped loudly at the ending, where tears were shed and hearts were touched. It stuck true to the original text…yes I checked. Sure someone had some fun with a bit of unnecessary cinematic magic in the form of a couple races through the streets and skies of London, but hey, you have to please the kids too. I would not, however, recommend this film for very young children as the scenes with the ghost of Jacob Marley were extremely frightening—even for me.

So in closing I will say, Disney’s animated portrayal of this classic novel has given me a forever appreciation of the genius of Charles Dickens. And I will add this comment; if you, or someone you know needs a touch of Christmas Spirit this year, take them to see this video and be blessed. And heed the words of Tiny Tim, “To remember upon Christmas Day, the One who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see. And God bless us, everyone!”