Thursday, December 25, 2008

Comparing 'A Christmas Carol'

Watching the 1951 Alastair Sim version of 'A Christmas Carol' has been a holiday tradition in my family since I was old enough to remember it, and now we watch the movie with Emma every Christmas too. But there are other versions, and though I'll never admit that any of them is as good as the Sim version, they often have their strong points, and I've started watching them whenever I can as well.

I just rediscovered this very useful site which offers a scene-by-scene pictorial comparison of 13 film versions, ranging from the serious and authentic (Sim, George C. Scott) to the ridiculous (Mr. Magoo, Mickey Mouse). It's interesting to see how some scenes from the original story are retained in a few versions - the phantom hearse, for example - and what is trimmed out.

I recently found that an animated version I saw on TV when it first aired in 1971 is available on YouTube in its entirety. It's a VERY abbreviated version of the story, dashing from scene to scene, but it has some startlingly creepy animation, as you can see by the pictures in the list above. Marley's Ghost is really scary, with a mouth that gapes open like a Victorian railway tunnel, and the two children, Ignorance and Want, are portrayed the way I think Dickens must have imagined them (and in a way that live action performance could never match).

An interesting thing is that Scrooge is voiced by Alastair Sim himself - I don't know if I realized that when I first saw it; I certainly didn't remember it, and was surprised to hear that familiar bottom-of-the-well voice echoing out as me when I watched this again. Sim was a Scot, and has a very obvious Scottish accent - but who ever thought of Scrooge being Scottish? You don't - you think of THAT VOICE being just the voice of Scrooge. Sim makes the role so much his, that we forget entirely that he has an existence outside the role, that doesn't match up with the character; I've never once noticed that Young Scrooge has a perfectly English accent, which somehow turns into a Scottish brogue when he becomes an old man!

If you want to watch it, here is Part 1:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Blogger Priscilla said...

Merry Christmas
What a terrific site!
I used to read it to my classes each December. Stretching it out so that the last chapter would be read the last day of school. the children always just loved it.

7:50 pm  
Blogger Dr. Alice said...

I love the version with George C. Scott as Scrooge, and I seem to recall one (a musical?) with Alec Guinness as Marley. He was quite effective, tying his lower jaw up with a strip of cloth when he was through lecturing Scrooge.

4:38 pm  

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