Thanks very much to all those who have been following my Dickens in December season this month – I hope all those celebrating have had a good Christmas, and would like to wish everyone all the best for 2013. I’ve enjoyed posting about Dickens and discussing films of his work with all those who have commented, even though, once the festivities kicked in, I haven’t quite kept up my original intention to post every day!
Over the month, I’ve been running a poll in the sidebar asking people to vote for their favourite adaptation of A Christmas Carol. There is no doubt at all about the winner – the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim, originally entitled Scrooge in the UK and known as A Christmas Carol in the US. Out of 39 people who voted in the poll, 24 (nearly 62%) went for this version. I’m preparing a review of this great film at the moment – after finally managing to see it in black and white rather than in the horrible colorised versions favoured by TV – and will be posting it in the next couple of days to finish off the month.
The second most popular version in my poll was a long way behind Sim’s performance – Scrooge (1938) starring Reginald Owen, which got 4 votes ( just over 10%). A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C Scott got just one vote less at 3 votes (nearly 8%) - I haven’t seen this version as yet but aim to do so next year!
The modern version Scrooged (1988), starring Bill Murray, got 2 votes, while the musical version, Scrooge (1970), starring Albert Finney, the Patrick Stewart version, A Christmas Carol (1999) and the animation starring Jim Carrey, A Christmas Carol (2009) got 1 vote each. The other versions I listed got no votes, but one person did vote for “a different version – or none of them, just the book!”
I was slightly saddened that the 1935 British Scrooge starring Seymour Hicks got no votes, since for my money this is an excellent adaptation which looks forward to the Sim portrayal. Maybe the problem is that not enough people have seen it – I’d say it is definitely worth looking out next time you feel like an older Carol. Anyway, thanks to all who took part in the poll and who have supported my Dickens season.
The 1935 British film Scrooge, directed by Henry Edwards and starring Seymour Hicks in the title role, was the first sound version, but has tended to be overshadowed by Hollywood productions. However, I’ve just watched this version and really enjoyed it – Hicks was a celebrated actor, who was well-known for his portrayal of Scrooge on stage and had already played the character in an early silent movie, Scrooge (1913), later rereleased in 1926 as Old Scrooge. In the 1935 talkie version, he goes slightly over the top at times, especially towards the end of the film when he dances with glee. But, when playing such a larger-than-life character, there is nothing wrong with that. And this version does create the dark, cold atmosphere of Victorian London very convincingly, with a strong focus on the social message of Dickens’ novella.
I haven’t got time to write a full posting tonight, but will just give links to a couple of fascinating very early Dickens adaptations, really just fragments, both dating from 1901. The first is thought to be the very earliest Dickens film in existence, and was recently rediscovered in the BFI’s archive in London after having been wrongly labelled in the past. Entitled The Death of Poor Jo, and only a minute long, it shows the death of the crossing sweeper from Bleak House. Thanks to Gina from Dickensblog for reminding me about this clip!
The second is Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost, a very early version of A Christmas Carol – only about half of the film survives, making three-and-a-half minutes of footage, but it covers quite a lot of the story through a series of brief scenes. I was impressed to see that even in 1901 the adaptation includes some special effects, such as Marley’s face appearing in the door knocker, and the spirits standing between Scrooge in the foreground and the scenes from Christmas past appearing in the background.
I’ve finally discovered how to post a poll on my blog, so there is now one in my sidebar asking for people to vote for their favourite film/TV version of A Christmas Carol. Please do cast your vote and also leave a comment if you would like to.
Following on from the early silent version I wrote about yesterday, I’ve now also seen a rather obscure TV version featuring two great cinema actors, which is currently available on Youtube. It is an episode from the series Tales from Dickens, hosted by Fredric March for the British-based Towers of London Productions and starring Basil Rathbone as Scrooge, and was originally shown in either 1958 or 1959 – opinions on the exact airdate seem to differ between websites. Possibly it was shown on different dates in the UK and the US.
A Christmas Carol has probably been filmed, staged and adapted more than just about any other literary work. As my ‘Dickens in December’ season carries on, I’d be very interested to hear which adaptations of this great tale are other people’s favourites – my own, out of those I’ve seen to date, is probably the Alastair Sim version, though I do also love the more recent Patrick Stewart film, which my family often watches at Christmas.