Tuesday, December 24, 2002


Last year at this time, I wrote about a dreadful TV adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic (1954, with Fredric March). This year, I felt the need to re-visit an older version, from MGM, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge. The CAROLS with Alistair Sim (1951) and George C. Scott (for TV, 1984) are more well known and certainly both Sim and Scott make great Scrooges, but the Owen film has its own charms and shouldn't be overlooked by Scrooge fans. This one is short (around 70 minutes) and much lighter in tone than the dark 1951 film and the elaborate and occasionally heavy-handed version from 1984. I won't rehash the plot, but some differences should be pointed out. Owen plays Scrooge with much less heft than is usual; here, he seems more human and less "evil," though that could also be because the art direction is less dark and bleak. This lessens the impact of the transformation scene at the end, but Owen is still fun in the part. Most of the major setpieces from the original story are here (and much of the usual dialogue, too, about prisons and workhouses and being boiled in your own pudding), but there have been some revisions to the familiar plot. The movie opens with Scrooge's nephew engaging in some banter with the Cratchit children, who are playing sliding games down icy sidewalks; Scrooge fires Cratchit on Chrismas Eve because he playfully knocks Scrooge's hat off with a snowball; the subplot involving Scrooge's fiancee is missing completely. Gene Lockhart's real-life wife Kathleen and daughter June (later Lassie's "mom") have roles as Cratchits, and Anne Rutherford, Polly in the ANDY HARDY movies, is the Ghost of Christmas Past. As usual, Tiny Tim is a little too sweet and big-eyed, but overall, this is a well-paced and light-toned version of the classic that is sure to keep you in the Christmas mood.

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