Friday, 25 November 2011

Basil Rathbone as Scrooge (1954)

This rarely seen version of A Christmas Carol was broadcast on December 23, 1954, the fourth episode in the series Shower of Stars (1954-1958). The show usually took the format of a variety revue with celebrity guests such as Jack Benny, Shirley MacLaine and Ethel Merman, but occasionally there were plays like this one, starring Basil Rathbone as Ebenezer Scrooge. Fredric March is the narrator, and unknowns fill out the rest of the cast.

The story is heavily condensed to fill a mere 25 minutes. Sadly, the main victim is just about any reference to the injustices of Victorian London. The social concerns of "Ignorance and Want" were foremost in Dickens's mind when he wrote A Christmas Carol, so it's pleasing when an adaptation makes an attempt to set Scrooge's story in this context. It's almost entirely absent from this version, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, the chance to see Rathbone couples with the film's rarity to make it worth a look, even just to satisfy curiosity. Watch the videos below or click here to see the film on YouTube (in three parts).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Watch Scrooge (1935), starring Seymour Hicks

Scrooge (1935) is one of my favourite adaptations of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Seymour Hicks plays the miser with such gruffness, and yet he is thankfully free of the crude caricature Reginald Owen was to bring to the role in 1938. His final transformation is delightful, displaying an almost childlike innocence and joy.

Two versions exist, one lasting just over an hour and missing some of the key scenes that make this version so enjoyable. The version to watch is the full film below, which runs for just over an hour and 15 minutes.

See also Old Scrooge, a curious 1913 silent film which starred Seymour Hicks in the same role.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Old Scrooge (1913), starring Seymour Hicks

The 1935 film Scrooge, starring Seymour Hicks, is one of my favourite adaptations of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. It begins with such a bleak and gloomy atmosphere, much as the author described the scene in the book, and Hicks plays the miser with such dislikeable gruffness.

It was not Hicks's first attempt at the role on screen, however. In 1913, he played the part in a silent film, directed by Leedham Bantock. Its age certainly shows, but Old Scrooge is worth a look. It's particularly interesting to see how odd Ebenezer Scrooge appears in this version -- lanky, rather shifty. This was long before Alastair Sim's 1951 interpretation of the character, which in many ways defined how the character would be played by later actors and perceived by later generations.

Old Scrooge is notable for its prologue, featuring Charles Dickens in his home. His actual birthplace -- a house at number 1 Mile Terrace (now Commercial Road), Portsmouth -- is seen in the film.

Watch Part 1 of Old Scrooge below and the remaining four parts on YouTube: 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Many thanks to YouTuber dickenschristmas2011 for uploading this and several other versions of A Christmas Carol.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Tommy Steele on Scrooge: The Musical

Leslie Bricusse's musical Scrooge began life as a film, in 1970, starring Albert Finney. It's since been adapted for the stage, however, and has become a favourite for both professional and amateur theatre groups around the world.

In the UK, a highly successful touring production has seen a swathe of actors in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, including Eastenders star Shane Richie, comedian Michael Barrymore and fifties teen idol Tommy Steele. (This author also recalls the late Anthony Newley, who wrote the lyrics to Leslie Bricusse's tunes for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, taking on the part in the early nineties.)

Last week, Scrooge came to the Liverpool Empire. Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo talked to the star about his love for the city "and why Scrooge is the King Lear of musicals":
Consummate pro that [Steele] is though, even after nearly 10 years playing the cantankerous old miser of Dickens’s evergreen festive tale, the 74-year-old is determined to make sure he gives audiences the best show he can. "I love it," he enthuses.  
"The part is probably one of the best three parts I've ever had, and also it suits me because it's like an actor's King Lear isn't it?" The make-up is more Richard III of course.
Read the full article here.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Diagnosing Tiny Tim: What ailed Scrooge's little friend?

One of the country's favorite holiday stories contains a medical mystery that over the years has tested medical sleuths. 
A Christmas Carol, today best known as Scrooge, has transcended the boundaries of time since it was written in 1843 with its basic messages of good will to all mankind. And, now with the story easily available on video or DVD, it continues to remind us all to be kind to one another. 
But, as we move further into the 21st Century, for some fans of the Charles Dickens classic, it still leaves one question unanswered. What exactly was wrong with Bob Cratchit's youngest son, Tiny Tim? As the World Wide Web has grown, theories of what ailed Tiny Tim have spread.
The Symptoms 
Thanks to the Ghost of Christmas Present, we know that Tiny Tim would soon die. We know that Tiny Tim used a crutch, was very small, and very sick. ...
Read the full article at Newswise: "Diagnosing Tiny Tim: What the Internet's Medical Sleuths Say Ailed Scrooge's Little Friend, and One Doctor's Opinion"

A doff of the hat to @markwinter56 on Twitter!

Illustration: Bob Cratchit holds Tiny Tim in a
19th-century illustration by Fred Barnard