A Christmas Carol (1934 - 1953) (Part 2)
“Lionel Barrymore: The Rarely-Heard 1944 CHRISTMAS CAROL - VIVID” so vivid-- I can hear the colors-- with a title like that, how can I resist?
Considering that five years have passed, Charles Foster Kane has risen to prominence, the Campbell Playhouse has fallen despite Sirloin Burger with Country Vegetables Soup, the second World War’s come to America--and, that this is just half an hour instead of an hour--this will prove to be different indeed!
But, rather than go through specifics, for time’s sake, I’ll cover it generally and focus more on performance.
THE GLOBE THEATER PRESENTS a lot of trumpets and fanfare, playing exclusively for the Armed Forces, which I didn’t know! I’m learning a lot about the wonderful world of radio today. By this point, Barrymore’s been doing the play 10 years and is welcomed as a beloved tradition.
“Once upon a Christmas Eve” is certainly a unique start--but it quickly becomes Dickens’ words afterwards. And a minute in we hear Barrymore hollering at the Christmas Carolers to stop their infernal caterwauling. The narrator introduces Bob in an almost sitcom fashion (and introducing--)
Bob’s a very American fellow. Like, you can tell he’s a very healthy, hearty American. He could bench Mr. Scrooge; just tombstone-piledriver the miser and be done with it!
Fred is similarly hearty, but seems to fit much better.
We can definitely hear Lionel’s age much more here than before, which makes him a little harder to hear but very believably towards the end of a dour existence.
We actually get to hear his temper flare in the volume! The last “GOOD AFTERNOON!” is yelled magnificently and caught me wildly off-guard. It caught the microphone off-guard too, clipping the gain but not too badly. I’ll amend my previous paragraph to say Lionel sounds like an old, business-oriented Scrooge but with a fuse constantly burning down…
We skip over Bob asking for the day off for I think the first time in all these adaptations--but we do hear the musical dramatization of seeing Marley in the door, which makes a lot of sense as music instead of the only-visual scare.
Marley echoes into existence before Scrooge gets fully upstairs, which allows for running sounds very well--though the constant narration does seem odd describing everything (especially after how well Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre adapted it five years back). Sadly, midway through his introduction, Marley’s microphone loses its echo and it’s just-- Jacob.
Oh thank God, Lionel Scrooge isn’t saying Jacob anxiously thrice every sentence!
(There’s a quite lovely photo of Mr. Barrymore with Santa peering over his shoulder at the long Christmas list, 12 minutes into the video - see right).
I do like how Jacob speaks on through Scrooge trying to interrupt about “can’t I have all the Spirits at once?”, just uncaring about this mortal’s issues.
Chriboosle Past is just an echoing male voice, much like Marley though more spectral. Ethereal but just-- a guy. Sort of disinterested, which is a downside of trying to be ethereal and detached. Ironically now there’s no narrator describing the ambiguity of this Spirit. We hear the Headmaster of the school for the first time as a character (and I wish it were the last, oh polarizing 2019 adaptation), chiding Scrooge for crying and saying how Christmas ain’t that important anyway. “YO HO, YO HO ME BOYS!” cries grizzled Fezziwig the Master Pirate. Fezzy Grizzliwig finally gives us a fiddlin’ party! And somehow the fiddler becomes a whole string section! For about three seconds at least, because our half hour is flying by wonderfully.
In definitely the most frightening introduction to Christmas Present so far, we get a nice ASMR whispering into the microphone “Ebenezer-- Ebenezer Scrooge--” directly after a pomp send-off of Mr. Past. But then after Scrooge wakes, we get another echoey Man™ Spirit, just with less echo now. Always, these darn companies sell us the same thing with diminishing returns!
Joseph and Thomas are apparently names of some of the Cratchit family that I don’t recall from anywhere else. Until I realized who she was, I thought one of the daughters had a particularly pinched voice talking about how the meal was going to be ruined--but that’s in fact the Mrs! Are we sure her name isn’t Mrs. Dudley, and she isn’t caretaking a haunted house? But in comes All-American Broad-Chested Bob Cratchit, grinning with his square jaw at his family and mimicking Silver, “High-Ho!”-ing away. Tim sounds like a very normal boy, and Joseph and/or Thomas sound like the Tom Sawyer type who at least won’t go after Tim because they’re bros.
Oh God, Harpya Cratchit is starting to unfurl her claws at the “Founder of the Feast--”
This is the first time I can remember Bob ushering Tiny Tim to say “God Bless Us, Every One!”, which dramatically decreases its impact. It’s not a natural purity now, just a learned bit of table manners.
This is also definitely one of the more “structured” hauntings, for lack of a better term, with Christmas Present again shunning Fred and that randy goat Topper for the sake of showing Scrooge to the last Spirit. They’ve been in a conga line, passing the crusty old bird off to the next every seven minutes or so!
It’s such a procession that Lionel has to hit him with a “Wait wait wait wait”, you have more damn dialogue-- “Will Tiny Tim live?”, and the Ghost winces, realizing he missed that cue, and goes on to tell us of that typical “vacant seat and unowned crutch” still life painting.
Christmas Yet To Come isn’t able to be feared as much because Scrooge has to describe the “dark phantom with a hidden face,” and we seem to have once again gone back to that quintessential editing-down-Stave-IV-for-time. Scrooge beholds the mossy gravestone, choosing just to ho-hum “well it’s dark; well it’s foggy; say, who lives here, Spirit?”
“You are that man, Ebenezer Scrooge!” the most 1940s trying-to-be-hardboiled American voice answers, and when I tell you I laughed for like three full minutes--
Wow. This is absolutely a version you should listen to, if you were going to skip over, just for that flatly authoritative line from the very unenigmatic Spirit.
“YOU ARE THAT MAN!” 1940s Yet To Come yells at my unimpressed laughter, or maybe the blubbering Scrooge, and he does recapture quite a bit of that intimidation he was going for!
Scrooge’s redemptive turn feels a bit less earned this time around, if only because of how much time was spent at the beginning and how little in the middle (once again; the Silent Film problem, it seems), but Barrymore gasps out his proclamation of Christmas-praise with all that he can muster, and his age and frailty help to make it more believable.
It’s odd--there seems to be a ratio of how properly intimidating Scrooge comes across to how much it takes to redeem him; Barrymore certainly has the fangs to be a scraping, grasping, wrenching ______, but because it’s chopped down from 50 minutes to 30, the fangs are necessarily reduced and the weight isn’t as felt. Hicks was intimidating and calloused and that film devoted itself to Staves III and IV; Owen was snarling but lighter and felt redeemed at the end of short Stave III.
Intriguingly we get a little more Stave V here; Scrooge goes out to the street among those getting out of church and mingles and wishes them well--and, while they get voices and are focused on, there’s still no more voice for Fred-- but, by Jove, his party’s actually mentioned! Thanks, Mr. Narrator! “And Scrooge had a wunnnnderful time!” and we quickly get past it; we don’t want to look at that scene, so on to the office the next day.
Broad Cratchit is late and Lionel Barrymore doesn’t disguise at all that he’s very much not the same crotchety git from half an hour ago. It still strikes me as odd that he says, “I’ll raise your salary”, and the rest of this grand excitement of redemption so evenly calmly, but it’s obviously a character choice on Barrymore’s part.
Yes, Scrooge was a good ol’ man in a good ol’ city and Lionel gets to say the last line, direct from the book and Tiny Tim’s lips, which made me smile.
A neat, AMERICAN WHOOOOOO version which is definitely a VIVID half-hour. Not better than the outstanding Mercury Theatre in my opinion, but very few things are. It’s worth mentioning, now that I think about it, that a lot of the All-Americanism of it is probably due to the year it came out; yes, this isn’t propaganda about the War, but there’s got to be at least some amount of “let’s be proud of these fine American fellows” to how the cast sounds here. And, though not British, it works very well. Overall, it’s innocent, wholesome, delightful--listen here if you like!
And here is the most listened-to version not presented by Orson Welles! Another lean 24 minutes, this crackles with wonderful old-time audio fuzz and gives many a commenter a hit of nostalgia that brings out the best in our sentimental hearts.
To quote one YouTube description, this piece is “Narrated by Richard Hale / Adapted and directed by Dailey Paskman / Original musical score composed and conducted by Samuel Timberg”.
Indeed, wasting no time, Samuel Timberg gives us a great jingling introduction, and Richard Hale orates our exposition with such a dramatic voice that I can’t help but smile--even doing so in under fifty seconds! The transition to Lionel yelling “CRATCHIT!” is so well-done you’d think you’re reading the book again.
Fred sounds like he has a blustery ohohohoho British mustache. I don’t know how to describe it better than that; he’s a more mature-sounding fellow here. He gets yelled GOOD AFTERNOON at all the same. We don’t get any charity gentlemen, for once! And by jove we’re already leaving the office at only four or five minutes in!!!
My, there’s actually time for some ghosts in this one!
Richard Hale does a great job narrating again, rather than making Lionel’s Scrooge narrate his journey. Though Walter’s cassette tapes have ruined me, because I heard Hale say, “Inside his room, everything was as it should be,” and the way he says Inside reminded me of, “Inside the cave, Chuck and Nancy find a chest containing the halves of a mysterious ring…”
“Nobody in the closet,” Scrooge mutters, not realizing the retellings of Scrooge and Marley to come. “And nobody in his dressing gown, which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude against the wall!”, Hale says, which amuses me terribly that they added in a scare that is purely visual.
OH MY GOODNESS, this is the first time I can recall that a version remembers that tiny Marley detail about “each tile around the grate of the fire had a copy of Marley’s face, staring at Scrooge”! That’s never included; props to you, 1947.
And soon enough, the bells ring… the dragging downstairs commences-- and a great DUHHHHH! sounds; Marley comes in, sounding sadly like his nose got clogged in the afterlife. Scrooge here is slightly more calm about him, especially after Marley’s great cry of indignation is just “oooOHHHHHHHHhhh…” and he quickly says, “Mercy!”, more as, “All right, all right, shut it.”
ooooOOOOOhhHHHHhhhhh-- “Oh, please, don’t do that!”, made me laugh, which I don’t think is the purpose, but it’s as stereotypical a “ghost” as you could ask for, which has some quaint fun to it.
In another fun inclusion, Scrooge disbelieves Jacob and the warning and goes to bed. Especially in the visual versions, it’s a lot harder to be like “well that didn’t happen” (besides maybe in 1935 with the Invisible Man guest starring), but here it does make sense, and keeps in with his back and forth wavering arc.
Absolutely delightfully, we get the again-forgotten detail that Scrooge wakes up, confused by how the clock is chiming the hours before he went to bed; did he sleep through the whole day?! Richard Hale’s narration tells us of the bell striking one, with more spooky emphasis than anyone else--as if the narrator is allowed to be more melodramatic than the cast, which works strangely well to make this seem more family-friendly. Like 1944, the narration cuts off when the first Spirit, that usually necessitates much description, pops up, again a man’s voice but not sounding out-of-character with a good echo to it.
“They stood upon an open country road!..” “Do you recollect where you are?” Ah yes, West Virginia, Mountain Mama…
Lionel’s Scrooge does fall to tears rather easily each time he sees his lonely boyhood, probably as a result of being only in audio, but it does break down the hard edges very fast.
This version, having been released as an LP in 1955, does give us a lot of breaks, as if to run commercials. It’s an odd thing, but not too bothersome. We have small bites of the story!
We even get an abridged party at Fezziwig’s, complete with fiddler and a young-bachelor-voiced Scrooge, rather than the younger child from 1938! And, much like every other Lionel version, we spend quite a bit of time in the Past scenes more than any other section. I’m actually curious to see, across every version, which ones spend the most amount of time in which scenes--I’m sure it’d have some interesting data like “here’s the less-grim versions which focus on _____”
We do visit Marley on death’s door instead of being whisked away to Belle’s rejection, which is a first, though the dialogue about “why do you torture me?” “Don’t blame me; these just happened, man” is the exact same. I can appreciate needing to cut Belle’s rejection, but now Scrooge’s pleas feel more justified; why show him his friend’s death??? It’s not like he killed Marley (looking at you, 2000 version).
“There’s no saying what else the Spirit of Christmas Past would’ve shown him had Scrooge not managed to get hold of the extinguisher that the Spirit had been carrying.” Why hello again, Mr. Hale; what an odd time to tell us the one detail about Mr. Past! Does Scrooge pull the pin and dowse the Spirit in that white foamy stuff? “By pressing this down, Scrooge put out the light of the Spirit like a snuffed candle” ohhhh.
Do you think Scrooge could’ve done that cool Seymour Hicks thing and licked his fingers and snuffed the Spirit with a pinch? I’m getting off-track, sorry.
Christmas Present has a similar, wonderfully ghostly echo, but has an odd-- particular! cadence-- which sounds a bit like Stan Laurel in terms of tempo and enunciation. It’s very-- exact. It’s so precise it’s the opposite of the full-chested bravado I usually expect, but in that difference it’s also quite pleasant; like spending Christmas Day with a very polite little gentleman rather than a jolly giant.
Oop--at the same breakneck pace, here’s Bob Cratchit’s family and Tiny Tim’s already said “God Bless Us, Every One!” excitedly, who apparently has “withered little hands” which is a first. Seeing just this Tiny Tidbit, Scrooge asks if Tim will live, and Christmas Present utters that same phrase of “I see a vacant seat………child will die.” but, again with that particular voice, it has such a different impact, being less grave and more unfeelingly exact, which itself is grave.
Barrymore’s Scrooge is very wholesome, caring for the child so immediately; a very good introductory Scrooge for the kiddies.
“But the Spirit whirled him on to many homes and places, showing him Misery and Want as well as Happiness.” Ahhhhh I see what you’re doing there!! No it doesn’t count, but that made me grin and wink back.
In sticking with those little book details, this is one of only a few versions so far to show us that Christmas Present dips out with Scrooge not returned home and Christmas Yet To Come appears in the dim night there. He’s only got one outstretched hand from out of that dark robe!!!
Commercial break-- oop, there we go!
Well that commercial break seems to have taken place during the scene of seeing Tinothy Timothy’s mourning family (I know we aren’t getting any Old Joe; I’ll pick my battles)--we go immediately to the graveyard and on to Scrooge howling over reading his name on a lonely, forgotten gravestone. This is probably my favorite version of Lionel Scrooge’s cries to Yet To Come so far.
We get the transition that Yet To Come’s hand becomes Scrooge’s bedpost! And Scrooge’s turn to happiness is wonderfully natural--as is Scrooge proclaiming he’s thanking Jacob on my knees-- on my knees, Jacob.
We do get “Are you kidding?” instead of “WALK-ER!” which does make sense for the 1940’s American audience, certainly.
“He went to church, and gave a large donation to the poor,” is a good way of telling us that plot thread that was omitted earlier, Mr. Hale, as well as Dickens’ undertones of Christianity and bringing the lost lamb back into the fold. And, though it took 13 years, Scrooge finally made it to Fred’s dinner! Topper be damned; at least Scrooge made it!!!
Cratchit was 18.5 minutes late?! Sack him! Or-- oh, uh, nevermind; I’ve redeemed, I swear--
I swear I’ll never understand why Lionel downplays the salary line; it has very little energy that way, but that is what it is. And Richard Hale reads off our last Dickens paragraph, making this a surprisingly book-accurate version, at least in those tiny details they could do! Lionel and Tim pipe in at the end to God Bless Us. Yes, even you in the back; Every One!
Well-loved for a reason, this version has been revisited again and again, and it’s no wonder to see why. An excellent version (recorded on 78rpm discs and in excellent auditory condition!) to introduce children to the story with, it can be heard here, or even heard here without the commercial break pauses and with an extra half-hour of lovely carols by the Canterbury Choir.
And so, we’ve come to the end of the road; a last half-hour performance for CBS, Barrymore’s 17th as Scrooge in 19 years. The video description has a transcript from the following year’s rebroadcast of the 1953 edition, because, to quote the December 19, 1954 edition of the Salinas Journal:
“It would hardly be Christmas if we didn't hear Lionel Barrymore's classic portrayal
of Ebeneezer Scrooge in Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.”
The cast listed includes Joe Kearns as Marley, Parley Baer (later the “Keebler Elf”) as Past, and John Stephenson (“Jonny Quest’s” father) as narrator. It points out that Barrymore hosted the original broadcast from the previous year, on CBS’s “Hallmark Hall of Fame” on WBBM in Chicago. “And so, as Lionel observed: “I feel it a great honor to have been selected to play the role of Scrooge at Christmastime, and if there is any message I could add to Dickens' teachings, I would say, ‘Get on speaking terms with your ghost, better known as your conscience. Make of him a friend — a friend who will be able to point out, as he did to Scrooge, the way to a happy life.’” (from The Washington Post, December 20, 1936)
As commenters observe, Barrymore wanted to be remembered for his performance of Scrooge over these many years, and it would certainly seem that he has. With one last grand hurrah, let’s celebrate this fine Scrooge!
“Hallmark Cards: When You Care Enough To Send-- The Very Best” of puns, puns, puns, cringe-inducing puns, yours for $7 at least. There’s quite the amount of buzz and fuzz on the recording, but that’s perfectly fine! I’m glad we have it.
Edward Arnold introduces us to this last performance (being that this is from the next year) and yes, folks, what we’ve waited for--a second Hallmark Card ad because we haven’t gotten to the era of yet another Christmas Movie from them quite yet!
OH MY DEAR GOD GET ON WITH IT, HALLMARK! I might as well be a dog on one of your cards, because right now I’ve got a BONE to pick with you!
Ah, here’s Mr. Lionel Barrymore! With a jaunty-- jaunty-- tiding of Comfort and Joy.
“Scrooge wouldn’t pay the few shillings to have a new sign put up, after Marley died,” our narrator tells his son, Jonny, his adopted son Hadji, and Jonny’s little dog Bandit. Race Bannon listens in, calm and Doc Savage-esque. “It was cold, bleak, biting weather…”
“Cratchit!” Lionel introduces us to Scrooge for the last time with that ever-the-same barking word. He’s definitely older, and frailer, and yet so much himself as Scrooge as he ever was. “Shall I hire a fiddler to accompany your dancing, or will you perhaps do a bit of the work for which I’m paying you?”
Cratchit is suitably downtrodden, and the video has a lovely behind-the-scenes photo of Barrymore on the set of the MGM ‘38 film, all Scrooged up and offering Bob a new salary (hopefully not about to be beaten by that ruler!)
Oddly, Scrooge is told to need warmth more than Bob, because of how miserly cold he is inside, which has great descriptions but also makes me curious why Scrooge needs warmth--he’s never needed-- oh here’s Fred! And a cheery Fred it is indeed! Scrooge is a bit slower in speech, but he’s also in his seventies now, not in his fifties.
He’s very well-spoken though; very thoughtful about his script and the pauses and intonations.
Scrooge sends the charity-men packing with a tidy, tired growl of liking prisons and workhouses more, and gets home without the heart-attack inducing STRINGS!... of Marley’s face, but still double-locks his doors. Despite that, we hear radio crackling--wait, oh that’s the chains sorry-- and then--
AH! A wild musical sting!
And a very disconcerting, woeful, agonized Marley. Very wonderfully done! “In life I was your partner… Jacob Marley!...”
“Impossible; he never wore chains!”
Oh my God, with lines like that Scrooge would make for an excellent YouTuber.
Jacob said the “damnation” word on the radio! D:
This is definitely my favorite Jacob Marley from these Lionel Barrymore versions thusfar. The continuous agony is spot-on for what I imagine, the echoes are excellent, and it’s still very-- ex-human.
“I must have dozed off!” says Scrooge, against very old-timey rushing sound effects.
Christmas Past comes in with a crescendo of sound and wind very nicely--but sounds quite the same as Marley in a not-as-pleasant way. Agonized, which I never imagine the Past to be (maybe they were going for ethereal?) and echoing male. I honestly wonder if it’s the same actor, but I know it’s not. Darn Keebler Past, this.
“You wish what?” Keebler Past sighs, and it’s wistful enough to make me see what he’s going for, which does work a little more now.
Fezziwig sounds much angrier calling for his apprentices--I think that’s just the issues with degrading audio quality. He’s better in his later lines! Once more, the tempo is such that we’re passing half way and still only just getting through the end of the Past segment.
Intriguingly, we miss Belle again because “Scrooge was tired to complete exhaustion, and in another moment was in his bed fast asleep,” missing even that strange inclusion of Marley’s deathbed. I’m uncertain then what the sorrowful piece of the past would be, and what the lesson was, besides seeing what could’ve been if he was as good a man as Fezziwig? We do get the loudest WHOOOOOOOSSHes I’ve heard which are rather too loud-- Spirit! Haunt my ears no longer!!!
My-- this Ghost of the Present sounds very much like the last two-- echoing and calling annoyedly for EBENEZER SCROOGE…
(I love that Scrooge says “uh-- he’s not home!”)
Scrooge doesn’t realize the hovel is Bob Cratchit’s house in this one; I’d thought he had in at least one other version. Mrs. Cratchit is wonderful here--very naturally asking if the church service was too much for Tim; did he behave? Ah, a nice mom!
Scrooge is uncomfortably sad--he never said Tiny Tim was on a crutch! Mrs. Cratchit remains a joy, in a fifties-woman “I’m not taking crap about Scrooge, Bob” way--and once more, Tiny Tim is induced to say what should’ve been his natural phrase, only it sounds unintentionally kind of smarmy. It might be the audio quality.
I hope it’s the audio quality.
It wasn’t great, man.
He sort of sounds like he’s ready to chew gum and lean on a fence and call after the nerd passing by after school.
Scrooge’s regret of calling Tim the “surplus population” is very well-acted here; Lionel’s performance has aged and matured magnificently! And the continuous shunning of Fred is great too! We don’t even get a half-mentioned montage of “much they saw and far they went;” just, hey here’s your clerk and his cherub, BYE. And, sadly, back to the bedroom instead of left on the road--but we get Dickens’ exact words describing a “solemn phantom, draped in black and hooded, coming toward him like a mist along the ground.”
In his bedroom, no less. For free! The rich really are privileged!
Once more, “Ebenezer Scrooge” is said in the same, ominous, “it’s just Ted angry at me across the street” voice. Why does Christmas Yet To Come talk so much? I mean-- I get it’s hard to do audio-only, but--
With even less echo, “EBENEZER SCROOGE…” is said-- there’s sort of a warbly effect we hear more with “coOmmE wITh mE…”
The Spirit has actual full, numerous lines. When Scrooge tries to leave the graveyard, the Spirit really spells it out for us: “here lie the forgotten--the unloved--the unmourned. Look down: read the words upon this stone!”
I mean-- at least it drives the point home that it’s not just that Scrooge is upsetti he die?
“HOW WILL YOU ALTER IT?” Scrooge is asked to prompt his redemptive monologue, and why-- him saying it naturally, unprompted just makes it GENUINE.
But Bedpost Yet To Come vanishes and church bells accompany sunlight and the twilight of this long-running performance. Every single WALK-ER! kid seems like the same American boy, and he’s still a joy. One of my favorite additions of this, which is a staple, is Lionel asking “do they still have that prize turkey?” “The little one?”
“NAAAOOOOH! The big one!”
Scrooge forgoes church this time to go back to Fred’s and give him some lines more, realizing how shafted he’s been for two decades. “Christmas day passed happily! But the next morning…” the Purple Invasion started! The-- oh, no, just Bob Cratchit late again. Bob’s not as memorable as some others but I still like his voice--rather meekly American. And I do like his “Mr. Scrooge?!” as a reaction to Scrooge’s prank more than others.
I like that the narrator, in reading Dickens’ lines, doesn’t emphasize that Tiny Tim did NOT die; just says it naturally. It feels a lot smoother to me that way, and I’ve never heard anyone else read it that way. The choir gives us a head-swaying rendition of “Deck The Halls” and we surprisingly don’t go out with Lionel saying “God Bless Us, Every One,” making his last lines as Scrooge just telling Bob Cratchit to go get more coal for the scuttle before he dots another i. But the narrator at least calls him great, and by the way, dearest friends--pick up some Hallmark cards, won’t you?
It’s neat to think that Lionel Barrymore did his first Scrooge performance the year before Sir Seymour Hicks gave us the first full sound film in 1935--and did his last performance two years after Alastair Sim gave us the 1951 definitive film. Like--I think I’m on track to get to that version this year, but it’ll be towards the end; the longevity of this yearly performance cannot be understated. No wonder it was such a cultural staple of the season!
I’m certainly no historian, though I endeavor to research actors and productions to bring you these articles. Especially through the comments, it’s impossible to overstate just how loved Lionel Barrymore’s Scrooge is, and it’s very easy to hear why. The performance, though not the one with the most teeth, nor the one that’s the most light-hearted, is crafted with care and practiced to a fine art. It’s natural the way that Hicks was natural: it’s an old man putting his lifetime into it and coming out the other end joyous. It’s a lived experience, and that’s praise that so many actors yearn to get through method work.
Across all of these performances, Barrymore’s character is surprisingly similar. He’s learned, and some performances are subtler than others. Obviously, the scripts are all similar (besides the hour-long) and the productions differ in quality and overall replayability. But throughout it, every single one of them has Barrymore as a stand-out: there never was a moment I didn’t believe that this was Scrooge--never a moment that he spoke that didn’t naturally differentiate from the line of 1940s-sounding American men around him, some of whom sounded so interchangeable I mistook them for one another.
There is a reason Barrymore’s Scrooge was a tradition, and a quote from him put on screen at the end of this last performance, which can be viewed here, is a perfect synopsis of realizing that this iconic actor truly understood the character, the meaning, and life:
“The older you get, the more you realize that kindness is synonymous with happiness.” --Lionel Barrymore
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Coming Tomorrow: Justin gets a break and YOU have to do all the straining - put on your thinking caps for this year's Special Christmas Carol Edition of our annual Kringle's Khristmas Kuties Kwiz!