A Christmas Carol (1941)
Being one of these heathen young’uns, I know diddly-squat about radio and audio productions from before the brain drain of TV. This whole experience with “A Blorbmas Barol” has actually been very helpful in teaching me some of the history of audio in the US, and especially helpful to garner an appreciation of fine performances, fine atmospheres, and delightful recording fuzzies or lackthereofs. Case and point about my blindness though--this half-hour version, which hosts Ronald Colman as Scrooge, is wildly famous and extremely fondly remembered, but is one I’ve sadly not heard of before! In reading the descriptions of both the production of the Decca record, and the retrospective review of it from a YouTube description, I’m very excited to listen in!
From Wikipedia: “In 1941, Ronald Colman portrayed Scrooge in a famous American Decca four-record 78-RPM album of A Christmas Carol with a full supporting cast of radio actors and a score by Victor Young. This version was eventually transferred to LP and in 2005 appeared on a Deutsche Grammophon compact disc, along with its companion piece on LP, Mr. Pickwick's Christmas, narrated by Charles Laughton. (The Pickwick recording had originally been made in 1944.) The Ronald Colman A Christmas Carol is slightly abbreviated on both the LP and the CD versions; on the LP, this was done to fit the entire production onto one side of a 12-inch 33 RPM record. With the greater time available it was hoped that the CD would have the complete recording, but Deutsche Grammophon used the shorter LP version.” Wikipedia’s section on “Adaptations of ‘A Christmas Carol’” also notes that Mr. Colman reprised the role of Scrooge in a radio performance on December 24th, 1949, for “Favorite Story” based out of Los Angeles. That adaptation is completely identical to this popular record, but has a different supporting cast!
Rather than repeat all the points of the YouTube description’s review, which has some neat cast and historical info, here it is copied and credited to the reviewer:
“Review by: albertatamazon
“ "Carol" was recorded in October 1941, and released in November of that year, a sobering thought considering the fact that Pearl Harbor was soon to be attacked, ushering the United States into World War II. "Pickwick" followed three years later, in November of 1944. Both were later included on a single 33 1/3 RPM LP, one of the most popular Decca albums ever made, selling well into the late 1960's. The LP version of "A Christmas Carol", however, omitted two characters (the charity collectors) heard in the 78 RPM version, and that moment has not been restored on this CD. (Ferdinand Munier, who played one of them, is erroneously credited as appearing on this album. He does not.) The sound is quite good, especially for recordings made before the age of real hi-fi, though, of course, it is not stereo.
“Both stories are beautifully done. In "A Christmas Carol", renowned film actor Ronald Colman stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, and while he would have seemed miscast if he had ever done a film version of the story, he is quite excellent on records, his beautiful voice not only acting the role of Scrooge, but, in a very imaginative touch, narrating the story to the listener in character, as if Scrooge were reminiscing about his misspent life. He makes no attempt to sound "old", but is nonetheless completely convincing - better than Laurence Olivier is in his recorded version (and I, an Olivier fan, once never imagined I'd say that).
“A further testament to the excellence of this production is that, although it is only twenty minutes or so long, each actor convinces completely in his role, and the story never seems rushed, because director George Wells has known exactly how to edit it. The supporting cast includes few familiar names, although all were noted screen character actors of the period; the most familiar names are Hans Conried (Captain Hook in Disney's animated "Peter Pan") as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Gale Gordon ("The Lucy Show"'s Mr. Mooney) as a speaking Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.”
Now I’m quite excited for this! And quite perturbed moving forward, because it sounds like Sir Laurence might not’ve done as great-- but that’s for another day! Another Christmas! Another time; right now, we’ve got a wonderfully celebrated half-hour to hear. And it’s especially celebrated by the 24 comments, which, as it seems with all of these adaptations, remember this one as the quintessential “my parents/my family listen to it every year!” What a wonderful introduction that makes you feel that simple Christmas joy.
Wasting no time, the record spins up with a few polite bells and a lovely little acapella choir of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” which is sung so softly (and the audio is aged enough to be softer) that it’s an absolute heaven to hear--
In a brilliant move, we hear a bit of random shuffling and then a sharp voice interrupts the opening choir mid-word-- “Get away. Get away I tell you! I want none of your singing here-- now get away, before I take a stick to you; get away, all of you!” The murmurs of the shocked and hurt choir leave and strings dramatically stir us properly into the story. I have never seen or even thought of incorporating the traditional “here’s our first Christmas ditty to open the record” as the actual song being sung at Scrooge’s window, and it’s such a shock that it works magnificently!
Our first impressions of Colman as Scrooge echo well the review: he’s not at all an old man, but making the role his own in a way that works. You get the impression he’s much younger (just a few years after Belle’s spurning!), and rather that business-school, humourless, stiff-collared type, sitting back in his chair with a straight back and a soulless, unimpressed gaze.
But, interestingly, after our strings stir us up, we hear Mr. Colman again, saying how it was he who sent those children scampering out on Christmas Eve, speaking with softer, weary remorse! Scrooge as the narrator for his own tale is nothing new--why, Bransby Williams did it back in our first audio adaptation covered--but here it seems more honed to a purposeful art, as if all of this is a recollection instead of a present journey. Scrooge tells us how it’s 1843, and how fog pours in on this Christmas Eve through every chink and keyhole into his counting-house (a line from Dickens I find wonderfully atmospheric), and how his clerk was working away while Scrooge didn’t approve of his work ethic--as ever. In performing as narrator, it’s interesting to note that Scrooge seems to lapse back into his former character to set the mood for us listeners, though he’s already a reformed man. But it’s more dramatic this way than reading through this narration disapprovingly!
Fred blusters in, and Scrooge barks at him to close that door! and keep the heat in, an addition that I’ve seen in only this adaptation so far. “What right have you to be merry? You’re poor enough” is met by Fred chuckling more and more, through “What right have you to be sour? You’re rich enough.”
Like--Fred barely makes it through the lines, knowing what an outstanding serve that was. You can just tell he’s trying not to whip out a pair of sunglasses and put them on in slow motion while AC/DC shreds out a screaming riff behind him.
Ever the businessman, Scrooge barks at his nephew sharply that this is an office, and they get into their usual back and forth, though with a few additions to trim material and make it a bit more digestible, unlike bits of beef or underdone potato. “Come; have dinner with us!” “Thank you, nephew; I’ll starve first,” is precisely what I’d expect from a guy who graduated from (unnamed but you know either one I’m referencing; I went to BU and work at MIT) School of BUSINESS!
(I’m not sure I ever mentioned why I like yelling BUSINESS! like that: it’s a running gag on a horror YouTube channel I watch called Dead Meat. It’s from a ridiculously low-budget Thanksgiving film that became utterly hilarious due to this running gag and general stupidity; here it is!)
Scrooge expects once more that Fred is there for a gift, and mentions incidentally that Fred has a child--though it might be a metaphorical “don’t you want something for them?” After another sharp reply from Scrooge about leaving with the same Christmas Spirit he came with, Fred is ushered out with surprisingly less resistance than normal, but we are trotting along into the rest of the story. “Humbug!” is snapped with all the same sharp syllables as each other sharp word from Mr. Colman’s Scrooge mouth!
For once, Bob Cratchit actually introduces the charity collector as someone FROM CHARITY, making sense why Scrooge is immediately distasteful of them. Not in keeping with exact book dialogue, but in keeping with somewhat reinventing the character with the same purpose as the book, Scrooge answers very snidely that “Mr. Marley’s ‘liberality’ was matched only by my own.” A lot of Scrooge’s lines have been extremely good at being biting--instead of being the crabby old man scoffing everyone off, he’s able to sneer and jest in cruel fashion, being younger and more energetic for repartee.
The charity man, who seems ever so slightly doddering, hasn’t yet realized what a viper’s nest he’s stumbled into. Snakes… why’d it have to be snakes?! Er-- sinners… why’d it have to be scraping, grasping, covetous old sinners?!
Colman’s more youthful Scrooge doubles down on the jests and the cruelty by asking in very mock-horror if the prisons and workhouses are gone, and expressing relief at their continuation in that same tone of voice of “yes dear; very good--you did tell me a new fact that the sun is yellow, mhmmm.” The charity man doesn’t come off as a complete idiot this time for asking if, after hearing all this, Scrooge wants to be anonymous, because Colman delivers the “Nothing” line very evenly compared with other, biting versions. But then, having stepped too far, the charity man gets his ankles bitten all to hell by Scrooge and his venomous fangs. Careful! Curing his poison’ll cost more than 15 shillings a week!!!
For once, I really can’t get a read on ol’ Bobbert Cratchit. I can’t tell if he’s trying for a British accent or if it’s his normal voice; I can’t tell if he’s meek or relaxed. I can’t-- ope, nevermind, he’s got the day off! And out we go into the night-- into the dark.
The strings are wonderfully full and Christmassy, giving Mr. Colman’s reminiscing narration a backdrop so pleasant you forget for a moment that he’s talking about “why did my chambers seem so much darker than before?” Perhaps, I think to myself, it’s because we’ve wandered past Marley’s wonderful jump-scare, which he’d worked so hard on and was looking forward to all the year round! But also, I mean--
Haven’t we all just stepped into our house and been like, “oh, no, it’s dark and massive and spooky and there’s empty rooms but are they really empty?”, and freaked ourselves out before?
In a hair-raising change that skeeves me the heck out in my mind’s eye, Marley doesn’t wander up the stairs after a long ceremony of bell-ringing and chain-clanking--instead, in the shadows, “shining with a sickly bluish gleam--its eyes were staring into mine; two dead eyes--staring out of a dead face!”
That’s a BUSINESS! student all right.
Marley, content with Blair Witching it in the corner like Walt did after showing me the film when I went to get more Goldfish crackers from the basement (I’m still bitter!!!), starts to speak with a similarly unnerving voice. It’s not quite “Return the Slab” but it’s got that whispery, inhuman longing wistfulness to it that’s excellent, especially paired with the light music. Scrooge apparently didn’t even recognize Marley--at least, couldn’t comprehend it was he, and then realizes it with a horrified, “but you’re dead!”
Book dialogue meshes in well, talking about how someone’s spirit must go forth in life or suffer to do so in death, and as it continues, we hear clanking as he slowly advances. I’m amazed Mr. Colman’s Scrooge isn’t cowering like Mr. Welles’s, but then again he’s a man of BUSINESS! Is this chain’s pattern strange to you? Money-boxes, keys-- (oh God the effect cut out! Jacob wait, we can hear you’re just a guy; hold on! Dammit George, get that effect back on--) “I think you know this pattern.” (Okay; it was overadjusted but we’ve got her steady again. Good job, George!)
Come to think of it, Marley sort of sounds like Gabriel Woolf’s Sutekh in “The Pyramids of Mars,” which is an all-timer if you haven’t seen it.
(Nitpicky: this is the only time I remember Scrooge saying, “You were always a good man of business, Marley,” instead of “Jacob;” what, are you business folks not allowed to be informal?!)
Marley’s voice echoes further and further as he tells Scrooge of a chance to unshrivel his soul, and to look for the first Spirit when the Clock Strikes One. Remember… Remember!.. I bring Christmas’s gift of redemption… to all miser-kind…
I gotta say, for the first time, the church-bells tolling “one” are mighty unimpressive! Quasimodo took the night off; his replacement ain’t a quarter as enthusiastic as he was, sadly.
Ronald Colman narrates the book description of Christmas Past, so it comes as a surprise that the ghost’s voice is that of a firm man (who sounds almost kind of snooty, due to the accent of being an impressive spirit!). But then, it would work to have the description of a tiny child with such a deep voice, as contradictions. I think that emphasizing that description saves it from being like, “oh, it’s just Tom doing his ghost voice”, like some of the other Christmas Pasts of KAC Posts Past.
It does dance the line between atmospheric and over-the-top a wee bit, though.
Against howling winds, Ronald Scrooge sees himself, young in the school and reading, daring not to cry (we don’t get to see his Arabian Nights friends just yet)--and there, another Christmas when they’re older! Fezziwon’t be here, dang it; skipping ahead merrily we see Belle, as Colman pleads to be taken back--even furtively interrupting with a whisper--but Belle says her goodbyes. Another idol has displaced her, a golden one. Ah, Belle: again we see that there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away!
Belle’s lines are brief, but they are spoken with great care, as if she’s painfully realizing it as she’s saying it, but trying to keep calm. It’s well done, in a role that I never quite know how to interpret--for all the Belles I’ve seen (the one ringing on Scrooge’s chamber walls, the one in the church, etc.), there’s never a definitive “here’s my favorite way the role is played.” It lends itself to melodrama easily, and I like the quieter versions, but it’s also such a difficult thing having that “Acting I Breakup Scene” as your only real impression!
Yes, I took an acting class at film school; yes, we did a breakup scene.
Chumbawamba Past wants to show Scrooge the next scene, describing Belle’s current life (I’m realizing she’s never actually named here!) and her kids and her home and her happiness and instead Scrooge howls it away: “Haunt me no longer!”, and goes back to sleep among the violins.
In a nice little change, our next ghost doesn’t wait for him to intrude into the large, merry room, instead saying, “WAKE UP, MAN! WAKE UP! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present! Look upon me, man; know me better!”, in a voice that’s as laughing as it is exasperated. Our narration fills out his large frame in our mind’s eye--the usual huge giant, holding aloft a glowing torch. “I stared at him-- more in wonder than in fear--” and he looked at me-- and I looked at HIM-- AND HE LOOKED AT ME-- AND I LOOKED AT HIIIIM--
This is a very wonderfully jolly Spirit, and sounds so personable I can’t possibly keep a smile off my face! It’s such a pleasant voice and feeling of “here’s a big bear-man friend.” And, especially pleasantly, each Spirit seems to be sailing overhead with Scrooge, showing him the world below; Present does so as our choir from the beginning hums “Silent Night”, which is one of my favorite carols, being so soft and calm.
Absolutely exquisitely, the Spirit asks him what he sees, so Scrooge narrates that he sees all those from that montage, oft-forgotten by films but surprisingly rarely forgotten in audio (makes sense; the budget’s more compatible now!), doing it as a “I see miners with their families,” and the Spirit, “Yes; and there, look; a ship on the sea, too!”, to fill up our cast of the world. Intriguing that it comes here, at the start of this section, rather than after seeing the Cratchits, or seeing woefully-forgotten Fred.
“And two sailors on that ship, joining hands!” Awww, good on them! You might say I… ship them.
Well, Dickens himself rose from the ground to tell me one more pun like that and I’ll keep my Christmas by losing my situation.
“Yes, all this I see!”, says Scrooge. “Yes--and all this,” the Ghost of Christmas Present continues, “is the Spirit of Christmas!”
That little section alone highlights that important point mentioned at the end of the Russell Thorndike article, about how and why that Christmas Present montage is so important. It’s truly summed up right there!
Ah! And Bob’s house is called “miserable!” Get wrecked, Bobby.
“A wife and children?”, Scrooge remarks. “I never knew--” Bob had game!
Intriguingly, Bob has only five children here, one of them apparently having been disappeared from existence since the Tiny one remains the Tiniest. Probably Martha (why did you say that NAME?!?!?!?! No, I’m not above repeating a joke; it was a silly movie moment, and ridiculous to stop an entire “I’m gonna kill this guy” fight over “oh he’s got the same named mom as my mom!), since Bob’s already home for once, having beaten the rush hour crowds back home from church with a child some may call… Tim.
Speaking of Tim, he gets to advocate for himself about wanting people to see him, which sometimes comes off as, “well, I’m better than everyone!”, but here he’s such a young child and speaks with a good amount of childish innocence that it works, especially when he pauses to meekly ask if Sunday is God’s day and his parents, audibly proud of him, agree. In an odd way, the more milquetoast a Tim is, the more I seem to like him--as if giving him too much to say or do or act sort of gets in the way of, “BUT LOOK HOW HOLY HE IS!”
Though, just as I say that, this Tim has an actual amount of character added to him by talking excitedly about, “someday I’ll throw away this crutch and never ever walk on it again!”, because, “Feel his arm, Mother! He’s stronger every day!”, Bob says.
“A poor feast… A goose no larger than your hand might cover! But the Cratchits are not hard to please,” Christmas Present tells us. Their pudding is similarly tiny but well-enjoyed, and Bob seems like a really nice, happy dad here. Tiny Tim’s “God Bless Us, Every One!” is almost shouted, oddly enough, as such a happy exclamation ya just can’t keep in!
We go on without a toast this time, much to Mrs. Cratchit’s approval, and more than that, we go with Tiny Tim yet again singing! The boy’s voice is pleasant, fading into the incidental music’s caroling while Scrooge asks if Tiny Tim will live. It’s-- not as convincing to me, to be honest, and in an odd way I sort of wish there was more emotion for this scene, rather than where it’s sometimes over-emotional. Maybe it’s just the edge of “he’s a harder businessman”, but the way it was done just didn’t captivate me this time. We do get closer to Christmas Present full-on losing it on Scrooge though, as he throws his own words back at him and Scrooge doesn’t immediately drop it--so instead, Present doubles down with the “are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”, in a voice that’s-- not quite biting, but maybe getting close to it!
And then-- Present-- fades out?
Oh, so no Fred?
Ignorance and Want being ignored and unwanted is just par for the course; I’m quite befuddled though by this lack of nephew. Maybe, considering it’s got to be on a shorter runtime and we might see or hear of going to Fred’s dinner at the end, then it’s fine to just cut him here? It does sort of lend more credit to the whole “Scrooge is thought of as an arse and nobody wants him” angle though before Stave IV. But I digress!
Our usual Elder Goth Yet To Come drifts closer down the empty road (just like the book, yay!), obscured under its black robe save for a thin white hand--
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come…”, a deep voice, echoing back and forth between my ears, intones. Most other times, I’ve had fault with Yet To Come’s voice--and I still think, if it were to speak, it would work best with a whisper--but wow, the echo effect and the intonation of that first line are so spot-on for being eerie and powerfully commanding that I don’t mind it one jot here! “I will show you the shadows of things that have not happened… but will happen in the time before us,” is a line I just heard in the Orson Welles’ version if I’m not mistaken, and the tense strikes me as being very good at purposely not committing to “this is or isn’t real.”
Colman at first sounds blasé about it, but then we can hear the shudders in his voice! And quick enough, the Ghost says, “COME…”, and we’d better do as it says, with a voice like that!
The Spirit does keep speaking, more and more, in an echo of how Christmas Present would verbally direct Scrooge onward. It’s a change that services the character for this adaptation, but I’m glad the films don’t have this ghost talk much, because it does give it a mellower feel--as if the rising tension’s faded somewhat in act two, and we (“You said he was cured of his disease of acute film-making! Get the strait-jacket again! Hold him; he’s wriggly, talking about these darn screen-writing techniques--”)
Neatly, Scrooge gets to go to the XCHANC which he doesn’t recognize, as it wasn’t yet built! I just thought that was a cool little addition for making it definitely “years to come.”
The businessmen are chortling bastards, as well they should be. Graduating from business schools, grumble, grumble.
Oh my gosh, we get to go to the room with the dead guy on the bed! FINALLY! Oh, I’ve missed you, Covered Corpse! Scrooge gets creeped out, and I do too, hearing the Spirit insist, “REMOVE THE SHROUD…”
In what is very much a change, Scrooge actually does?! I mean, I know this guy’s voice is from Domino’s and all (don’t worry about it, Dad, some people will get it; in-joke) but he never learns he’s the dead guy here!!! Not even in the new Netflix “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol”, where the audience learns it!!! And, by God, when we cover that 2022 movie, I have thoughts about it.
But seriously--it’s such a weird thing to have this not be the end of things! The whole point is he sees how unmourned and unloved he is and he changes! Where’s the tension now, we’re still going?!
For some reason, we are still going, and go to the graveyard, where-- who’s that, kneeling in the fresh-turned earth? “Why-- it’s Bob Cratchit!” and he’s got-- A NEW CAR!!! YAAAAAH, COME ON DOWN AND WIN YOUR PRIZE! Wh-- oh. Uh, wrong kind of surprise, sorry.
In an odd but not unpleasant inversion, Bob gets to speak to Tiny Tim’s grave instead of going home to tell the missus about it. You always get the sense that he’s hopelessly bereft in the graveyard, and then composes himself when he gets home--but here, he’s still doing his best to try and be composed. “You’ll like it here, Tiny Tim!.. You can throw your crutch away at last! And you won’t be alone, either,” because I’ll add more bodies, Timmy…
No, Bob just promised to go every Sunday to visit, which is wildly, vividly upsetting, no matter the version. And he’ll feel that tiny weight upon his shoulder, which isn’t a Konaki-jiji, but just a sad remembrance, and Bob’s really selling it all with the trembling voice and, please Spirit, can I at least go home? This is bumming me out, man.
I knew I shouldn’t have complained, when those Tim actors looked so full of life!
Intriguingly, this is the one time so far we’ve gotten a definitive age for the Little Tim! He’s born 1838; expired at 7 years old. This is also the only time where, because this is seen after Scrooge knows, “oh no, I’ve died”, that Scrooge’s redemption explicitly comes more from wanting to help Tiny Tim instead of himself! (Though, even the way he asks for redemption seems almost BUSINESS!y: “Let me have one chance! It was promised me if I altered my life!” in your end of the bargain!) Now, on with the “I will keep Chrimmis in my heart, and…”, which Ronald Colman does very well, and which gives us a surprise of “Tell me I may sponge away the writing on that gravestone!”, referring, for once, not to himself, which works nicely!
The dire strings becoming… jingle bells, jauntily, on the other hand…
Scrooge’s joyous turn is more one of deep-seated relief, as Mr. Colman is on the calmer end of emotions throughout all this. Not that it’s not a wonderful performance, just one that isn’t as highly emotive as Barrymore or Welles! Or Williams, for that matter, way back in 1928 if memory serves for when that was recorded!
The Walk-er! boy gets his due (more than Fred) and narration takes us out, as Scrooge “goes to dine with my nephew and his family; a rare treat I discovered!” Rare, you say? Yes. Quite!
The charity-man gets his due, and Bob’s salary is raised up and up and up and up and soft violins thrum, with Scrooge telling us pleasantly of how Tiny Tim didn’t die, and in fact how Scrooge is going to see Tim at dinner--for it’s another Christmas, now--and how wonderful it is to keep Christmas (and God) and God (and God) in our hearts! Christmas Bless Us-- uh--
Ohhhh Chriiiiist the Looooord!
I can see why this one was celebrated so much!
There’s changes aplenty, first off. In fact, it’s almost stranger to interact with the characters here that aren’t altered in some fashion. But many become slightly different or at least expanded upon figures who keep well with Dickens’ book. Christmas Yet To Come is, maybe even more than Scrooge, the largest difference in character, being less of an ill omen as much of just another harsher instructor Spirit. It’s not a change I mind, but I think if the voice was any different, I would--and I think, honestly, I do in fact mind it some, because there’s far less tension to the scenes now, and more an emphasis on the emotional desolation of them. Again, I find myself thinking how this version does the opposite of what so many others might do: instead of playing up the scares and losing the emotion, we play up the emotion but lose the scares.
Tim gets an expanded personality to have an actual desire, for once, besides food, which becomes, “hey, I want to walk!”, which makes perfect sense and, because of how the actor delivers it, doesn’t have the same overexcitement or ego you start to get in other adaptations of, “look, I’m so great and devout!”
Scrooge is definitely the most changed, though, as a result of not being the old miser character. Scrooge, in being younger, comes off as much more level-headed and much harder to redeem--not necessarily by any sense of, “he’s done terribly things more than other Scrooges” (2019), but just by having more overall resilience and stamina than someone decades older than him. It’s odd seeing what scenes were cut for time, and especially which ones were changed around; both Stave III and Stave IV effectively have their beginnings and endings flip-flopped, so that instead of Scrooge’s journey highlighting him emotionally, Tiny Tim and the Cratchits are highlighted as the crux of it all. It makes sense when you think about, “this is a younger guy, probably tougher to break down;” what would get through to him beyond the typical “this is your wasted life?”, if he hasn’t had as much life to waste?
Well, the death of a very good child that he is explicitly told he could’ve prevented, unlike in other versions where it’s just heavily inferred. That innocent weight passes onto him now, and that’s what gets through.
Overall, it’s a very well-done production! It’s not long, and it’s nice to listen to. I didn’t much remember Stave I and II by the end, but I remember I did like Marley, so there’s that! Stave III and on I think are great. And, I absolutely agree with what’s been said regarding the omissions:
The pacing of this is immaculate. Nothing overstays its welcome, and very little feels rushed. Yes, we could’ve had more book scenes included, but what’s there feels like it was meant to be there.
A welcome, wonderful surprise of an adaptation! Listen here, and enjoy.
And, for the sake of not going insane, I’m DOUBLING UP! Because it’s Ronald Colman, and effectively just a new performance of the same script with a different cast, I’m going to include a link to the 1949 performance here, and any notes I have on it below:
(Behind the scenes, 5 hours have passed; I’m back from housesitting my parents’ house while contractors help stop a leaking issue, and am back home where my damned dog decided after getting all worked up from seeing me home to eat too quick and has thrown up 6 times in 20 minutes. So a lot’s riding on you, “Favorite Story” adaptation. I’m either going to be unjust and cruel as a certain miser or redeemed to Christmas joy in thirty minutes. To quote the opening of Stingray: “Anything can happen in the next half-hour!”)
Oh, huh, Ronald Colman was the host of “Favorite Story”! I literally am too annoyed to remember if I said that or not.
The choir’s not as pure and sweet but it’s still an okay choir.
Fred sounds like a NERD! Like ME! HA! Wait..
Colman sounds less obviously younger here--an undefined middle age that makes him less strictly BUSINESS! and more generally Scroogy to me.
Fred’s an accountant. He’s gotta be. Like a 1940s, glasses-wearing accountant. Sounds like a nice guy though!
Case and point about his Scroogyness, he’s crabbier to the charity-man.
Marley’s got an almost Irish twinge to his accent! He’s lower energy, but still good.
It’s slightly odd that this is a version where Scrooge doesn’t precisely recognize his younger self at the school!
Belle sounded like a young Shirley Temple kind of gal at first before it clicked she was just a 1940s gal. Are we sure she’s not named Betty Boop?
Oh there’s a small “we will return!” break!
Our narrator is a very stereotypical radio announcer man. It’s fun to hear!
CornOnTheCob Present sounds kind of like a very… normal… guy. Like, you’d expect him to be working on a construction site with a huge lumbering grin in the best jolly way.
About Tim: “His crutch supports his body. His Spirit stands alone!”
Speaking of Tim, he’s got an almost Mouse voice. It’s so high up. Like Mrs. Cratchit. Maybe they all drank helium. Tim is borderline overline cutesy. It’s not bad, though!
“I regard this pudding, I say children, I regard this pudding as the greatest success since our marriage, heheh!” So I guess get dunked on, kiddos! Sunglasses whip out, AC/DC plays. If it’s AC/DC, would it be ACC/DC to be festive?
Tiny Tim will sing “just one tune before he’s off to bed”, or off to dead! Duh Duh DUhhhhh Present is a bit more angry at Scruuge about the prisons and surplus.
Yet To Come sounds kind of Palpatine-esque sometimes-- not bad. 1940s Palp. Just bordering on NYEHEHEHEHEH, but enough to still be spooky scary.
No XCHANC this time D: where will I go to xchanc?
“Why is no one there to mourn me in my deathbed” is striking me as weird now, because, now that I think about it, there’s no indication people know he’s dead yet. There’s no sense the body’s been found--or, if it has, what time it is. Maybe they’ve gone to get the hearse; maybe they’re out at work, Ebby! It’s a dramatic moment that seems to slip when I apply logic, which is disheartening, but nonetheless good and dramatic.
“Not a tear shed?! Alone in the dark, forever!” I’d be upset if I had to watch “Alone in the Dark” even once, not just forever-- “ALONE, NYEHEHEHEH!”
“Bob Cratchit at the graveyard, why?” A line I forgot to highlight from ‘41 which is good: “Why? Death has passed his humble house, and laid a wreath upon his steps.” Dang it, Pharaoh, why couldn’t you have let his people go?
One of Bob’s first lines, right before “and you can throw your crutch away,” I thought in ‘41 was, “There’ll be no more games,” which struck me as odd. It’s, in fact, “There’ll be no more pain,” which makes much more sense. T_T
Bob loses it way more in this one as I had thought based on the book. It’s heart-breakingly good.
Colman’s turn to redemption is… dramatic, but in my opinion not the most believable, just because it’s not as anguished as you’d imagine trying to save a 7 year old’s life would be.
All in all, I don’t think I’d say it’s better than the earlier Decca record, but it’s nonetheless quite a pleasant listen. It’s not as dynamic, I think is the best way of putting it; I like the Spirits and Scrooge from ‘41 more, but I think I like Cratchit’s emotions here a bit more. Apples and oranges; a pleasant half-hour!
I’m really glad these recordings exist so that something that was so well-loved, and such a well-made piece of audio, could be preserved to listen to once more here! It did in fact cheer me up from a hurling dog, which is… high… praise?
What's that, you say? You just can't get ENOUGH of ALL these different versions of the story? Why can't you just get ONE reading of the ENTIRE tale, just as old CD wrote it? Fear not, bibliophile, your prayers have been answered, by Neil Gaiman, no less, in conjunction with the New York Public Library. Well, why are you still here reading THIS - GO, ALREADY!
(Oh, and the article also mentions CD's macabre letter opener, a story we broke way back on December 12th, 2019 - click below for the whole tale)!
We'll leave you with this Happy Holiday HoHoHo of a school principal FILLED with Christmas Cheer - how much? I'm so glad you asked! She greets her charges every day as a full size, living Elf On The Shelf in different situations every day. Cute - or creepy? You decide!
Just for the record, in fourteen years of doing the K.A.C., we've never done the history of said Elf - no, don't panic, we're not doing one THIS YEAR EITHER! 😂