Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christmas Carol (1938)

Grumpy old man is grumpy ... blah blah Ghosts blah blah Spirit of Christmas. Ok, one more time.

It's impossible for me to not compare this Hollywood version to the 1935 edition I just finished, so I won't try. Here is a slightly more complete retelling with an apparently larger budget. Still sparse on the effects, but they did manage some green screen and wire work to show Scrooge and Ghost fly. But despite the more details, as well as a few new ones, the run time is just about as short: 69 minutes. This was done by cutting some key dialog. No "boiled in his own pudding", no "more gravy than grave about you", no "Long past? No, your past", some of my favorite lines.

A worse sin still is the actors rushing through the dialog they kept in. Dickens' prose is wonderful, meant to be savored, and doing this for the purpose of limiting the runtime is nothing short of an abomination. They try to build more of a relationship between Bob Cratchit and Nephew Fred. Additionally Cratchit is fired on Christmas Eve, not just grumbled at. Also Scrooge calls in the police when he first sees Marley's ghost. I can't imagine what purpose that scene served.

Scrooge (Reginald Owen) looked like an outcast from Whoville, with a foolish tuft of hair atop his bald head. He is not at all intimidating as the unrepentant miser. Also, The Ghost of Christmas Past (Ann Rutherford) was too hot, not a frequent complaint from me. The GCP is described in the story like an indistinct angel, both male and female, both old and young. The only pronoun used in it's regard is "Him". Casting a very distinct, very attractive young woman was a choice I take issue with. Rufferford would later play Scarlett's sister.

The Cratchit's were a family affair. Bob played by veteran character actor Gene Lockhart, his wife by real-life wife Kathleen, and even a daughter was played by future Lost In Space mom June. Leo G. Carroll played the ghost of Marley. Fans may remember him from Tarantula and a bunch of Hitchcock films.

This version of A Christmas Carol was not terrible, but it could have been so much more. Acting styles and rushed dialog kept the audience from taking the story too seriously. And it really irks me when a certain YouTube lists channel declares it the third best Christmas movie all time when it's not even the third best version of A Christmas Carol! But to give it credit, the sets and dramatic effects were improved from the previous version. And at least they titled the film after the story. AMRU 3.

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