Before we get to the main meat of the day, let's pop back to yesterday's Kringle's Khristmas Kuties Kwiz and give you the answers, both who our contestants were and what roles they played in the various adaptations of A Christmas Carol.
Going by number, we had:
1). Eva Marie Saint, who played Belle in the 1947 TVM (TV Movie) version, with John Carradine as Scrooge. Also with David Carradine!
2). Robin Wright, who (as Robin Wright Penn) did the voices for both Fan and Belle in the 2009 Jim Carrey animated version. The photo I chose is ALSO from an animated film, the 2007 CGI version of Beowulf (which, BTW, is WILD in 3D)!
4). Jane Krakowski, who portrayed the Ghost Of Christmas Past in the 2004 TVM of A Christmas Carol: The Musical (oh, yes, it's a thing ...).
5). Jill St. John, who (as Jill Oppenheim) played Missie Cratchit in the 1949 TVM of A Christmas Carol, hosted by Vincent Price and featured in our December 12th, 2013 K.A.C. entry - you can watch it in full here:
6). One of our harder photos ... Bonnie Franklin, best known as divorced mother Ann Romano raising her two daughters (Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli) in the 1975 - '84 Norman Lear sitcom One Day At A Time. As far as our Kwiz is concerned, she played Martha Cratchit in the 1954 TVM version.
7). On to the menfolk! The One, The ONLY Edward Woodward as the Ghost Of Christmas Present in my STILL all-time favorite version of the story, the 1984 TVM with George C. Scott as Ebenezer. Sergeant Howie is BACK, and this time the shoe's on the other foot, bucko! NO ONE does repressed rage better than Brother Woodward - most of the Ghosts Of Christmas Present are pretty disgusted with Scrooge; his version looks like he'd be quite pleased to 'Equalize' the old miser into one of those narrow alleys between the buildings and give him a few good WHACKS with that flaming torch of his! Plus the single most horrifying renditions of Ignorance and Want you'll ever see in any version. Recommended.
8). Another hard one - Jesse L. Martin as The Ghost Of Christmas Present in the aforementioned 2004 TVM of A Christmas Carol: The Musical. Known to younger audiences for his Detective Joe West character on CW's The Flash, he also can belt out the tunes (check out 2005's RENT).
9). Do I even have to tell you who this is??? This photo made me laugh out loud when I first saw it, and I just said, "PERFECT!" Of course it's Nicolas Cage, who lends his voice to that door-knocking, deceased dragger of chains Jacob Marley in the 2001 animated re-telling of the tale, Christmas Carol: The Movie.
10). The inimitable Tim Curry, who has done more than one version of the tale, but here we're highlighting the 1997 animated video version wherein he voices Scrooge.
11). Another semi-difficult photo. Andy Serkis, motion capture artist extraordinaire, who portrayed the Ghost Of Christmas Past in the darkest, bleakest, most triggering version of the tale you'll ever see, the 2019 mini-series. Out of 400+ versions, this is the only one I would issue a strong warning about before you watch it.
12). The One Photo That Made My Year: Fourteen years I've been doing the K.A.C. - 14 YEARS, and I never knew about this until now! Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present Magenta herself, Patricia Quinn (!!!), two years out from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in the 1977 BBC TVM of the classic tale, as The Ghost Of Christmas Past. This one I need to track down STAT - the pictures from this are phenomenal!
13). Our final photo is seriously Expert Level. If you got this, my Victorian hat is off and I salute you. A VERY young Joel Grey, who played The Ghost Of Christmas Past in the Patrick Stewart-led 1999 TVM version.
And there you have it - thanks for playing!
Back we go to our main feature, as Justin von Bosau takes up the reins again and is our guide for the next stop on our ghostly journey, with Orson Welles putting on the nightcap(s) as The Old Miser. This fine Scrooge is made of sterner stuff - no namby-pamby redemption for him! or IS THERE? Read on!
A Christmas Carol (1938)
Didn’t we just cover radio from 1939 and beyond?!
The Spirits can bend time-- of course they can; they can do anything!
After deliberating on whether or not to include Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of Lionel Barrymore’s traditional Scrooge-reading, I originally gave up completely because I couldn’t find it; everything redirected to the 1939 Campbell’s Chunky Soup version! But, lo and behold, the moment I start researching that version and give up hope, this recording drops into my web browser, Jacob Marley be praised! And, since I wanted to focus just on Lionel for the previous article, I thought it best to let him have his day and focus on this version afterwards to be an addendum and a comparison, rather than lump it in and distract from Mr. Barrymore’s traditional performance.
(I’ve looked for the John Barrymore version, and would subject myself to yet another article branching out, but I can’t seem to find that one as of now… Marley, come back, help! I’m sorry I called you more gravy than grave!)
From 1938, this was the year before that outstanding 1939 rendition, though I expect the script and the principle cast to be the same (it may not be). Campbell’s had already slorped over The Mercury Theatre and so this is one of the first that the Campbell Playhouse presents. The YouTube has a rather unintentionally funny image of a miser? walking home in the snow while the Angel Of Death Yet To Come, hurriedly imposed in, follows. Outstanding.
The horns play! I’m expecting that wonderful drive-in voice to say, “And now… ON WITH THE SHOW!”, in their nasally, barely-clinging-to-life-audio-quality.
There’s positively no mention of the wonderful Mr. Barrymore, whose tradition it was--instead it was Campbell’s idea to give us this fourth-year rendition, with the very talented Mr. Orson Welles as our sinner.
Ahh, yes, but rather than get on with it, let’s remind you that this is 1938: “Women like to have plenty of good soups on hand, all through the holidays, so that they can serve--piping hot!--nourishing platefuls at any family meal time,” or throw it--piping hot!--on their husbands banging the table, yelling for their meal instead of getting up to help with anything. But I’m from 2022, after all.
Inexplicably, the first lines, after a choir making me expect something like Marley was a doornail and therefore dead, are instead: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed, and all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city, and Joseph also went up from Galilee--” and it goes on for three more minutes describing Mary giving birth to the Savior in Nazareth and the Angel saying BE NOT AFRAID like a stereotype and I mean--
Is the savior Scrooge???? Why--
No; it’s Christ the Lord, okay! Then-- I-- WHY IS THIS HERE???? IT’S STILL GOING!
Okay--so it’s an introduction to affirm why we celebrate Christmas (because we stole Yule from the Paga-- “Get him out of here; get him out!!!”), and that we’re listening to this because Christmas Stories are Fairy Stories for Children to make Children Laugh because Children Laughing is how we celebrate God? This is like when I took Calculus. What on earth is happening. Or in Heaven, I suppose.
Someone give me a gun; I’ll get Marley dead to kickstart this, for God’s sake--
Welles finally gets to the Dickens title page and the music kicks in. If the next lines aren’t “Marley was dead” or some starting equivalent--
“MARLEY WAS DEAD, TO BEGIN WITH,” the narrator growls, eyes slitted towards me over the microphone. We just read that exact book paragraph to open, and now we sink back into familiar territories. There we go… And here’s Bob Cratchit-- not Frank Readick, it sounds like; Hiram Sherman, who was born in Boston! WOOOO, a local fellow!
WOW, I wouldn’t have known this is Mr. Welles! He’s growling and snarling and crotchety enough to have youthful energy and a very sore throat tomorrow, shredding it here.
Young Fred comes in, and at first I wonder if Scrooge forgot a line: “Merry Christmas Uncle!”
“...Merry Christmas, Uncle.”
“Hwuh? Hehhh. Humbug.”
Scrooge, I know you’re old, but we’re in the middle of a scene--you can’t fall asleep, sir.
Fred is distinctly calm, a bemused, on-top-of-life fellow. Their interaction is weirdly low-energy, but not unnatural. It’s not the most exciting listen, but well-acted--and a precursor of things to come; Fred here is played by Joseph Cotten, who played with Welles in three films and went on to another forty years of films!
Bob actually says, “God Bless Christmas--HURRAH!!!” I do not know if I’ve ever heard someone say Hurrah unprompted.
Ooh, lovely, we get a “Twaddle!” here too! My favorite Scrooge-ism.
Welles is definitely among those “Young actors playing Old miser” who digs into the grizzled anger of the role while keeping the pace unconsciously fast. It’s intriguing to realize that I can hear the sense of age in the role even now, and it’s hard to disguise. But the performance and the rush of characters in and out of the counting-house is such a whirlwind that it’s delightfully easy to be swept up in it, and semantics of performances get left to silly critters like me. Film students (always film students!).
Soon enough, the charity-man comes in, and Bob brings him in to Scrooge. The wild Scrooge, when surprised, may utter a “WAH!”--if it does, keep calm and state your business, sir. This is one of those versions where Scrooge is instantly mean to the charity-man which doesn’t make too much sense to me, but he’s a cold miser after all!
Welles' “are there no prisons?” is a great showcase of how absolutely biting he is in the role. The surplus population is said almost as an afterthought, which makes it feel so natural instead of emphasized. But again, the pace of speaking is quite fast--impatient, if you will: “Cratchit, show this gentleman out - CRATCHIT!!”. There’s very little breathing room. It’s overbearing, which might be a benefit for the character, after all.
Cratchit does get the whole day, since the light’s getting too dark to see by, and Scrooge grouses about it as is his wont. Cratchit’s aaaaaalllmost smart enough to go without saying, “Merry Christmas,” since he’s walking on eggshells around the hair-trigger Scroogywoogy, but does anyway and is met with a resounding BAH!
It’s also weird now to think that Welles is being quite loud into his mic; why wasn’t 1939 able to have a loud performance too? Maybe Welles is just anticipating Transformers: The Movie.
|Orson Welles as Mr. Arkadin (which also has a wicked Christmas scene!)|
Oddly, and quite impressively, Welles does double-duty as the narrator as well, switching back to his normal speaking voice in an instant. It really makes it sound almost like two separate people! But why we’re not getting a separate narrator to let him rest is beyond me. Either way, this follows the same script of 1939, letting Bob play at Blind Man’s Buff and probably catching Mrs. Cratchit in a smooch. Sadly, Scrooge doesn’t get a Marley-faced door-knocker to smooch, once more.
The narration has a little difference to it, talking about the wretched fire in Scrooge’s room not being enough to illuminate the room--and, in a wild change, we do get a Marley-face! Coming out of the fire’s embers, Marley’s face, staring mournfully and calmly and still so see-through that Scrooge could see the buttons on the back of his apparently high-collared coat. This is, to memory, the only time this change occurs, and it’d be quite the sight to see! My best approximation is something like Sirius Black in the fireplace in film 4, or maybe the other more see-through version?
We hear Welles have to quick-change to Scrooge for a moment and it doesn’t work as well this time, with him uttering a small laugh then Humbug! thrice. But, back to narration. Scrooge backs away from the custom-made Marley-face log in the fire and the disused bells start a-clanging, harkening that his Amazon order of one life-sized Marley-ghost arrived! Please rate us for delivery?
The description of Marley is extended from the book, but coupled with Welles’ narrative horror and the smallest little trinkets of music, it’s enough to make the skin crawl. Especially now that the ghost begins to speak, gravel-voiced and annoyedly weary.
Scrooge sounds-- different. Like a different “old man” voice than before, pinched and higher-pitched. It’s not wonderful, but Welles has to snap between voices so quickly here!
This is also the only version of audio (or in video, so far) of the Spirit stopping after Scrooge’s “I don’t think, therefore you’re not real” speech to unbind the bandage from its head, letting the jaw drop upon the breast--though there’s no rousing AAAAAAAAA with it. They’re doing a good job to dig into the horror of this version! Scrooge sounds ready to pee himself; give the old miser a bathroom break, won’t you?
Jacob is very menacing without being at all loud or over-agonized. The more it goes on, the more we get the horror of the scene from Scrooge’s reactions rather than Jacob’s warning. It’s a good performance, but it’s very even start to finish. Alfred Shirley as Marley has a very pleasantly creepy voice! And as Marley leaves, we get a vividly creepy transition of music that half-mimics the unearthly blizzard Marley leaves to join in the book. It may even include Mr. Welles, who’s standing in spirit at our elbow, again…
Welles tells us that the ghost is one of visual paradox straight from the book: it’s young, it’s old, it’s strong, it’s got holly, it’s got light, it slices, it dices, it’s yours for $49.99, plus shipping and handling! And it’s got the same normal-man voice, supplied by Arthur Anderson, which is not at all unpleasant to hear, but it’s not the voice you’d imagine hearing from the old-child ghost. Scrooge seems to literally squawk, “No, not the window! I’m mortal! I’ll fall down!”, and I mean squawk. There’s something tickling my hippocampus about “it sounds like this animated bird _______”, but for love nor money it won’t return out of the mists of time, and it’s driving me nuts. (I think it’s the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz. It’s taken me a darn hour trying to puzzle it out.)
Listening to “I’m mOOuRtal!” again doesn’t help, sadly.
The more Arthur Anderson speaks, wind blowing at his back, the more I like the sound of his Spirit. For some reason, a choir of noise is what is included in the past, so much so that we can almost not hear Orson Welles anymore-- WOULD SOMEONE TURN DOWN THAT CHOIR, PLEASE!
Scrooge’s “weak old man” sounds broken, feeble, and toothless (figuratively), looking at the school and the past. Perhaps the journey was too much for him this time. We can go home early to bed, my Spirit-brethren; we broke him in one!
Let us see another Christmas-- “waaAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHhhhh…” goes the choir as a rather unnerving transition through time. But here’s the counting-house, with Fezziwig hollering and Scrooge sounding more and more bird-like-- Could we get Mr. Welles a throat lozenge, please? Throat lozenge for Charlie Kane?
His vocal chords sound like stretched taffy compared to his regular voice.
Fezziwig never comes close to the mic, but blends in with the sound of vague frivolity and Ren Faire dance music that whisks away into the wind in a great transi-- “BANG… WHOOOOOoooooOOOOOOO”
Orson Welles speaks normally to narrate, sounding pleasant for someone getting into Disney-Witch levels of vocals! And we get the even harder task of hearing his “young Scrooge,” wherein we get a smidge of raspiness, but no twaddling squawks yet. He does pull it off, recognizably, and well. Anna Stafford as Belle gets the thankless task of being a melodramatic character we’ve never met besides in one scene, but manages to speak with enough emotion to be high-spirited, but grounded enough to be realistic. If, as ever for Belle, getting screwed over by one single scene with Scrooge, melodramatic.
[Editor's Note: Anna Stafford was the stage name for Welles' first wife, Virginia Nicolson Welles. They were married from 1934-1940 and had one daughter (see picture at right).
|Orson & Virginia Welles, with daughter Christopher Marlowe Welles, 1938|
I’ve many questions, and one of the top ones is why the choir has to go
“waaaaAAAAAaaooooOOOOOoooohhh” on top of the clangs and the blowing wind for our transitions. It’s-- a lot. It’s very spooky, yes! It’s also very not-spooky.
“Atmospheric,” shall we say.
Scrooge, for once, has to be dragged by the Ghost of Arthurs Past to the last scene; in the Lionel versions he didn’t want to go, but never was fully dragged. But Scrooge is nonetheless taken to go see Belle, surrounded by the laughter of them kiddos, sitting with her new man. Scrooge sobs uncontrollably, wishing he could’ve been that man--that he could’ve not said all that about gold and whatnot, and that Belle didn’t look at him and say…
Belle’s husband sounds exceedingly normal, but pleasant. The kind of voice that talks about nothing more interesting than a grocery list, but still lulls you to sleep. Scrooge, hating ASMR, screams to be taken back in a fit of well-done agony, and bells and wind rush us home--in fact, because Scrooge is a much younger guy here, he grabs the extinguisher camp from the strong-child Spirit and snuffs it like a candle between two licked fingers!
The cap firmly over the Past, Scrooge falls to bed until a lovely, toneless donnngggggg of “One” awakens him and--
AH! A SEVERED HEAD! A-- no? What do you mean it’s not a horror? This is a Christmas Story? It’s got Ghosts, Goddammit--stop handing me these notes about lightening the tone! Bernard, hit ‘em with the strings.
(Seriously, these musical stings are great for a spooky atmosphere--they’re getting into “House on Haunted Hill” territory. I’m definitely feeling the cold over the Christmas--which is a first for audio adaptations, but not a complaint! I do enjoy a bit of the darker side to the story, as long as it’s got a proper joy in the end.)
Somehow, we twist into harking them Angels named Harold to sing--because we pause (“This is the Columbia Broadcasting System"! That means CBS. Everyone knew that, Justin, everyone but you), but now we head on back into spookyville. (Another somehow; I’m reminded of turning my computer back on and booting up “JumpStart Adventures 4th Grade: Haunted Island”, which was a really spooky game that in fact got banned for being too spooky. Be careful, Mr. Welles, or disgruntled parents’ll getcha!)
Scrooge sits up in bed, trembling, waiting for a rhino to stop by and say hi--but finally he realizes that his sitting room is getting LIT! and Scrooge enters the Festivus Club! I was typing it up while Orson kept chattering and had to stop everything and rewind to get the context for him saying, “MEAT-SUCKING PIGS”, emphatically into my left ear.
Our jolly green giant doesn’t have any peas, but by goodness Eustace Wyatt (another fine name in our book of spirits!) has a proper bravado about him I’ve so terribly missed with other Christmas Presents recently! Scrooge still sounds a bit whimpery, but it’s not unrealistic to imagine any one of us wouldn’t be timid in the face of such a sight. As they fly off, we get the SFX of the bells and the clamoring voices of people (or demons cackling, you never can tell; it is maniacal!) and a coming and going Heralding Jonathan Harker! And on to Camden Town, where Scrooge recognizes Mrs. Cratchit
(squints towards 2019)
and we get a gaggle of kiddos and a lovely Mrs, who once again whispers to her eldest daughter of, “if Tiny Tim should die…”
But her daughter doesn’t want to hear nothing about decreasing the surplus population! And here comes Tiny Surplus now!
A quick aside--my own mother, whom I got to see today, mentioned that apparently doctors have figured out the disease of young Master Timothy Cratchit, as being a blood disorder with pH levels too low. Doctors of the era didn’t know what caused it, but seeing the symptoms, they actually did have medicinal cures for it, which money could provide!
[EDITOR'S NOTE: We actually covered this story in the K.A.C. back on December 21st, 2011 - click on the link to read the write-up: http://www.conjurecinema.com/2011/12/kac-2011-t-4.html ].
Tim here (Kingsley Colton, another fine name!) gets shafted into that “a bit too much energy” category, as he answers how he liked church quickly before his father can answer his mother about how he behaved. But he sounds like an intelligent boy; a remarkable boy! Sadly not a WALK-ER, though.
Weirdly, this seems the only version I’ve seen so far where Bob sings Tim’s praises just in front of the boy. Every other version Tim goes off to be with siblings and the praises are sung behind his back. But, I guess this allows us to meet Mr. Tinythy first.
We get to hear the entirety of the Cratchits’ grace this time! And Bob toasts to them all, God Bless Us! Tim says his catchphrase, unprompted, like a cherub. And now to Mr. Scrooge! Careful Bob; you may be a happy man, but are you a smart man?
Evidently not; Mrs. Cratchit says quite a bit more than “...Right.” But Tim pipes up to remind us that, yes, he’s a perfect shining child.
Orson Welles pops back up as narrator to say, “AHHH the Cratchits… celebrated everywhere for their holiness…”, after extolling how their clothes suck, which originally struck me as mean, but now I get it, in this version where he’s calmer about saying it!
(Random YouTube comments strike again, regarding those links: “Fun fact: Orson Welles wasn't actually drunk for the outtakes. Due to scheduling conflicts, he had two commercials practically back to back- While traveling between the two shoots, someone gave him a sleeping pill so he could crash and get some rest, but the effects obviously did not wear off. He tried doing it still tranquilized, resulting in the outtakes. Then he took a four hour nap, and wrapped the commercial in an hour.” This will not make the comment, “Ah yes, his first gig after he died,” any less horrible or upsettingly funny to me.)
Scrooge sounds so in pain over Tim Tiny that you’d expect Christmas Present to be opening him up for its kids (looking at you, KAC Year 1 (right)), but Christmas Present himself seems solemn and uncaring. It’s interesting how some actors go grave, some go angry, and some just-- are expressionless, relating the death of a child. It’s honestly hard to tell which of those emotions is the most shudder-inducing sometimes.
Our montage of travel is described in detail by Wonderful Welles! A choir gives us background noise, and we see a miner’s family--and on through the wind and the waves out to sea, and out to a great mass of rock and sea-weed and birds where our lighthouse-keepers sing, too--and on to a ship further out in the tumbling waters with men at the watch--
And-- I don’t know if it’s an error, or someone’s mic was on or what, but we just-- hear some guy go, “Uuummmmm…?”, before the next CLANG… of sound hits.
It feels like a mistake, and threw me off so much; I thought someone was behind me!
Ever the pro, Welles brings us on, emoting much, much happier than in a year to come when Lionel usurps his claim back--on to sick beds that become cheerful, to foreign lands close at home, to poverty that’s rich, to jails and terrible places and good places and all the world where Christmas is let in freely and celebrated and loved. Welles’ cadence does get slightly odd to me though, as… Scrooge remains unaltered… in his outward form… but the ghost… grows older… clearly older…
Eustace Present sounds older, in a marvelous bit of vocal work that I’m surprised more actors don’t replicate for this ghost! But Scrooge wishes him not to go--but there’s still another spirit… still another… and the bell tolls. No Ignorance nor Want, which I’d almost expected, what with the terrors inflicted upon my ears already in this version!
Christmas Yet To Come arrives--a mist upon the ground--a pale, shadowy shape, and--
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.” I thought you were Frank Readick?-- “I am about to show you the shadows of things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us…”
Yes, it’s just radio’s Carl Phillips, reporting live from Scrooge’s bedroom instead of a Martian landing-point, but at least Mr. Readick does a decent job of giving his voice some thoughtful solemnity. He’s not some tough bruising All-American!!! He’s just tasked with the thankless job of doing this non-speaking role. Scrooge, for his part, is still ready to pee his britches from fright!
Now you know what it felt like for us back in your October broadcast, Orson!
The record fuzz does make me initially think that the weeping Mrs. Cratchit says, “Oh my Tom, my little Tom”, instead of, “Oh my son, my little son”, and I was going to spout up about it, but it’d be in exceedingly bad taste. Interestingly, this is the only version I can remember where Mrs. Cratchit is openly crying when Bob gets home, and gets much more of the emotional burden than Bob. Every other version seems to be her withdrawing her emotion and holding it together for him to be the one to teeter on breaking down, whereas here he is much more composed for her sake. It’s an interesting change--one I’m not sure if I like as much, but I’m quite glad to have heard it for the comparison of it!
Though it’s not complete, we do go to Old Joe’s (this is a darker take, after all!) and get one wretched charwoman selling Scrooge’s bed-curtains and burial-shirt, cackling madly as she does, wonderfully freaky to hear! Equally freaky, after Frank Readick Yet To Come spreads his robe like a wing and transports them to a churchyard, we see through Welles’ voice that it’s fattened to the gills with bodies “overburied.” Scrooge reads his own name, aghast, and more ghastly is that I don’t remember seeing the “man who lay upon that bed!”, but Scrooge does--my memory’s slipping! Or book lines are entered without scenes with which to provide context…
“Ebenezer… Scrooge,” Mr. Yet To Come intones--and while his voice is fantastic, I feel like it’s too rich. As if the only way to include the mystique of the shrouded figure would be to have the voice be naught but a stiff whisper, revealing no other definition but a voicebox. But Readick’s is still a pleasant, eerie voice, if overly full to me.
In yet another first-- Scrooge says no redemptive nothing to the Ghost of Yet to Come?! It just vanishes-- “yeah, Ebby; my union rates are stiff, and my hours say I’m done at 4. Toodles.” Like-- where’s “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future?!” Where’s the indication he’s changed???
Yes, I know Welles is giving us an Oscar-worthy performance of overjoyed narration and (far past joy, into maniacal) Scrooge, but that changes nothing! The strings have joined him in maniacalness because they’re getting out of control, especially as Welles gives Fred the stiff middle finger and tries to interrupt them. “Morning-- (BLARTDUNDUNDUNBLART!) Next morning Scrooge was early at his office.” Welles then inhales some of Mr. Scrooge’s laughing gas, but staves it off valiantly until Bob can rush in late and get his seat.
Scrooge calls him over and reveals his joviality--at which point Bob asks (in that Barrymore-script tradition) if Scrooge is “quite himself, sir?”
“No! No, thank heaven, I’m not quite myself--” and my good Lord he’s too happy, he’s toooo HAPPY HE’S LOST IT! He’s lost it--
Genuinely, this is the one adaptation I can think of where Scrooge at the end seems much more insane than just “redeemed” and “happy”--like he’s gone. Told you we broke him in one, Spirits!
But Welles tells us that he’s just a jolly fellow now and may each of us learn how to keep Christmas our own like him. And so, as Tiny Tim observed… GodBlessUsEveryOne. (He says it kind of fast--at least faster than other folks who say it!)
Well. That was-- It’s quite neat to hear, and also I’m just kind of spinning, thinking about the differences between this and next year’s version. But speaking of that! (Brought to you by Campbell’s Tomato Soup, perfect with any Grilled Cheese--) Here’s Mr. Orson Welles! Who expresses gratitude to join in this Christmas tradition, and that he’s terribly sorry that that grand actor, Mr. Lionel Barrymore, couldn’t join them tonight for this broadcast. “We’re depending upon him to be with us next year,” and wonderfully, Mr. Welles was in luck!
By the way, next week is “A Farewell to Arms,” with Katharine Hepburn! But it’ll be online if you want to hear it before a week’s past. We’re all wishing you well here in the studio, including from the band (demonic tuba noises as “Jingle Bells” becomes a medley fit for Satan himself! Get thee behind me, foul trombone!!!) and the SFX crew (somehow train whistles and clanging is pleasanter), as well as our actors! The whole cast is here, and finally, Kingsley Colton wishes God to Bless Us, Every One! in a truly sweet little voice.
…okay, we’re good.
We’re good guys.
Cut the music; turn it off. Turn it off! Wait, we won’t get George C. Scott for another 46 years--
Okay! Okay, we’re off the air.
|"Oh, Mom, not SOUP again! AAAHHHH!!!"|
This is a very interesting comparison to Lionel Barrymore’s Campbell Soupstravanagza next year, the most immediate being that the tone feels vastly darker. They get away with taking us through much more of Christmas Yet To Come it feels like--at least by including the brief scene with one charwoman and Old Joe--and even in the rest, the sound effects and background choir are freaking creepy to listen to. It’s wonderfully done, giving us the cold wind up our spines as we wander back to our apartments, not expecting to see Marley in our door-knockers! The ghosts are very well-done in vocals (even Yet To Come, for how it’s done), which give them an otherworldly quality that plays off Welles’ Scrooge and actually separates them from one-another, unlike some of Barrymore’s later incarnations.
That said, the other main change is Scrooge’s portrayal, and here I am sadly going to be less kind. To be as kind as possible, I don’t much like this version of Scrooge, purely because I feel as if everything is ramped up way too much. The emotions, to me, run high across everything--the anger is immediately snapping at your throat; the anguish is soul-crushing; the fear is so quavering you’d think he’s looking Krampus dead in the face; the joy is so happy it’ll get you sent to the funny farm.
Maybe it’s that I pause the recording a lot to write down my thoughts, and this works better in a faster real-time tempo, but it just seemed way too quick, jumping emotion to emotion without any moments to let the performance (and the performer) breathe. It’s hard to relate to and go along with someone who becomes more a caricature at points than a flawed human.
That is not to say it is a bad performance by any means--just one I personally found too hyper. Welles’ range is deserving of applause, pulling off Young Scrooge easily (and with the subtlety I missed the rest of the time) and moreover switching into narration at the drop of a hat and with smooth deliveries that left us in turns shivering and delighted.
All in all, it is an expansive, impressive version of the story, and one that can be viewed here. I think it can be a bit too ambitious sometimes, but I also think that it works very well to compliment the Lionel Barrymore performance the next year, giving that one a bit more winter and in turn gaining a bit more joy. Enjoy!
What's scarier than Marley's Ghost showing up as the face on your door knocker? Do people even HAVE door knockers anymore? Well, if you do, or know someone who does and want to SERIOUSLY creep them out (especially if they're NOT a New England Patriots fan), may I recommend the BILL BELICHICK DOOR KNOCKER! It's even MADE in the original 'Marley's Ghost' style, with his hoodie filling in for 'ol Jacob's bandaged head! Maybe if you'd SMILE once in a while, Coach, you wouldn't FIND yourself in this precarious position. Want one? Go HERE!
We'll leave you today with some figures, ledgers, numbers, etc., as we present an article that 'sort of' answers the question, 'How Rich Was Scrooge'? Answer/not answer below:
We're rounding the corner and down to the Final Ten Days, starting tomorrow. See you then!