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Prompted By Rewatchable Movies

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Most decent movies are worth a re-watch or two. Movies are complex beasts. When you are caught up in the plot, you can easily miss twists, tricks and techniques that actors and directors use to make the work more interesting, instructive or cohesive. Or just plain fun. One example, from a TV show, is the performance of Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone episode “Printer’s Devil.” Meredith was a masterful character actor; pay close attention to the scene with the waitress. I’d love to know how much of that performance was stage direction or script, and how much was just Burgess at the top of his game.

Movies are complex beasts.

But this is about a rewatchable movie.

There is one that I simply can’t estimate with any accuracy how many times I have seen it, because I have tried to see it every year since I was a kid. It’s “Scrooge,” the 1951 adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sim in the title role. I try to watch it every Christmas. Unfortunately, when the house is full of loud, tipsy, fish-stuffed Italians and the people they love, parking your butt in front of the TV in the basement on Christmas Eve is both bad form and damned near impossible. One of the few solaces of our solitary Christmas of 2020 was that I got to spend time with old Ebenezer again after over a decade’s absence.

Carol simply sparkles with great moments, lines and performances. Sim was amazing, his fear and loneliness, his reluctance to be saved from himself, are at turns both touching and frustrating. The film hews pretty well to the source material, so you can hear such Dickensian gems as “Man of the worldly mind, do you believe in me or not?”, “Bear but a touch of my hand, and you will be upheld in more than this,” “There’s more of gravy than of grave to you!” and, my favorite, “Business!” Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

If I ever get to act, I want to play Jacob Marley. He gets most of the really juicy lines, and I have the majority of the part memorized already.

The cast is also sprinkled with a few faces that may seem familiar, although they are all younger here than when I got to know them.

I am unsure why A Christmas Carol is my most re-watched film; there’s quite a number of films with great writing, stellar performances and the ability to inspire, or at least give hope. It’s a Wonderful Life, for instance. I have seen that one quite a few times, and it’s even a Christmas movie. It may be because I have for as long as I can remember been entranced by the Christmas Carol story itself.

It was probably the 1965 Mr. Magoo animated Carol that was my very first introduction to Ebenezer and Tiny Tim. And I still find that version fun to watch (“Winter Was Warm” is one of the loveliest songs of lost love ever, and damn to hell any version where that is cut out to jam in a few more commercials!)

But the Magoo Carol is truncated, and, well, cartoonish. The bones of Dickens’ tale are there, but it’s basically a comedy.

I have a theory that your favorite Dr. Who is the first one you see (Tom Baker was the best and I’ll duel with sonic screwdrivers any Dalek-lover who dares disagree!). It is quite possible that the 1951 Carol, which has been aired many times since I was born, is the first story I ever heard or saw that caused me to experience inspiration and introspection and a desire to be a better, kinder person.

I’ve been watching it ever since.

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre

A lot of things have happened in my life, but now I am mainly in it for Gina and the mountain biking.


Tags: film, movies, rewatching, Scrooge
Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Laurie Levy says:

    It is such a classic, Dave. I have also seen the stage version several times with my kids.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    So many versions of A Christmas Carol, Dave. I confess, I’ve not seen this one, but I’m sure it is great. Truly a good one to remind us of what’s important at that time of year.

  3. Thanx Dave for reminding me how great a writer was Dickens, and how good are so many of the film adaptations.

    Among other films we’ve watched and rewatched this Covid year was David Copperfield. Would I watch it again? Barkus is willing!

  4. Marian says:

    Great story, Dave, and you’ve inspired me to rewatch this movie when Christmas comes around. I really like that it sticks to a lot of the original Dickens.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    I loved how you reflect on the fact that a movie about inspiration, introspection and the desire to be a better, kinder person, caused you to do exactly that with your life, and with this review. And I am impressed with how well you remember the lines and details of various films. I’ll have to look for the classic Scrooge version come next Christmas, assuming it will show up yet again.

  6. Suzy says:

    I’m not a big fan of Christmas movies in general, although that Dickens guy certainly did have a way with words. Based on your recommendation, maybe I’ll check out Alastair Sim in Scrooge.

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    I had forgotten this. Back in Dickens’ time, “Humbug” had a very specific meaning. It denoted insincerity, particularly pretending to virtue that one does not actually possess. So, Scrooge isn’t really dismissing Christmas per se, nor the idea of being kind to humanity in general, when he uses the word. He is decrying the hypocrisy of people who think that being greedy and dismissive all year can be counteracted by being generous for a day or two, or simply by mouthing the platitudes. He views himself as merely the only honest person around.

    Also, in the novel, Scrooge is probably not nearly as old as all the movies make him. What with Belle having not-yet-grown children, the average age of marriage being pretty young, and Fred being just newly wed, Book-Scrooge is probably in his 40s.

    Also 2…the maid, in the scene where Scrooge goes to Fred’s house. A tiny scene, and a very obscure actor, that you may never forget. Adorbs, as the kids say.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_FLHkHNaHI

  8. John Shutkin says:

    A great choice, Dave, as you have described it beautifully. It may call for a re-watch by this reluctance re-watcher next Christmas.

    I also much appreciated your insights about movies generally. There really is much to be said about re-watching movies (and not just “The Sixth Sense”) to figure out everything that was in there that you missed the first time around. I am streaming a course on great novels, and the teacher of that course makes much the same point about them. So, to come full circle from my own story this week, I may re-read “Tom Jones.”

  9. Dave, I meant to comment sooner but, as Cratchit says, “I am behind my time”. Scrooge is a must see each year for me. Truth be told, I also watch the George C Scott and Patrick Stewart renditions, but they are not as good. I also refuse to watch the colorized version of the 1951 classic.

    Re the dialogue: if memory serves a good deal is verbatim from the written story. Well done!

  10. It’s been some time since I last saw that version…now I must rewatch. Also want to see if I can find that Twilight Zone episode. Really appreciate your in-depth evaluation and insights, Dave!

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