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.
I was quite excited at the thought of Basil Rathbone as Scrooge, since he is such an intense actor that I thought he would be perfect. Sadly, however, this TV episode is so short, at only around 25 minutes (the Youtube video just keeps repeating it over and over), that he gets very little scope. He has almost no screen time as the unregenerate Scrooge – and spends most of the film standing meekly to one side while the succession of ghosts show him extremely brief scenes of past, present and future. The story is rushed through at a rate of knots, and I was disappointed to see that most of the social commentary is lost. There isn’t even time for ‘This boy is Ignorance, this girl is Want’ , a key moment which the 10-minute 1910 version managed to retain.
One aspect I did like was that this version has a narrator, in Fredric March, though again he doesn’t get enough time – but it does mean he can include one or two great lines which are usually lost from dramatisations. On a pedantic/obsessive note … March, cosily seated in a study where the walls are lined with old books, intriguingly announces at the start that he is sitting in the actual room where Dickens wrote the story. But Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol while living at 1, Devonshire Terrace, which was demolished in the late 1950s – and surely this can’t be a rare glimpse of that house, can it? I can’t believe the room was still full of Dickens’ books so shortly before the house was pulled down, and suspect this is the study in Gad’s Hill Place, which looked similar when I visited it some years back. But he only moved to Gad’s Hill some years after writing Carol. If anyone knows more on this front, please tell me.
Getting back to the TV adaptation, there is a lot of confusion about this version because there had also been an earlier TV adaptation, in 1954, with the same two stars, although that earlier version was a musical, starring March as Scrooge and Rathbone as Jacob Marley. Both short TV films were issued on VHS years ago and Amazon has lumped the two productions together, while the comments on the imdb also mix them up! Has anyone seen the musical? I hope to do so, but it got pretty bad reviews so I’m not holding my breath.