Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Carol

This post is about the story by Charles Dickens, not an actual song (although I did list some favorite carols the other day).

I am certain I've said this before, but I LOVE this story. How can you not love a story that begins "Marley was dead: to begin with" and then almost immediately launches into a digression about the phrase "dead as a doornail"?

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Want some more quotes? You can check out last year's quoteskimming post drawn entirely from A Christmas Carol. I like to re-read the story, and usually do so every few years. I read it last year, in fact. The year before, I listened to Patrick Stewart's performance on CD - it's not an unabridged version, being more akin to his one-man show, but it's marvelous. And I like the many movie versions of it. Here are some of my favorites:

A Muppet Christmas Carol: The Great Gonzo is the narrator, beginning with "Marley was dead, to begin with". Rizzo the Rat "assists" him, usually to humorous effect, and the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is played wonderfully well by Michael Caine. I am especially fond of the ghosts of the Marleys (they gave the role to the crotchety old guys who sat in the balcony, and assigned them the names Jacob (as in the original) and Robert - ba dum bump) and the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Scrooge! Starring the extremely talented Albert Finney, who was a rather young man at the time, not that you would know it when you see him in full Scrooge regalia. It's a musical version of A Christmas Carol with wonderful songs, including "Thank You Very Much", "I Hate People", "Father Christmas" and "I Like Life". If you haven't seen this version, you should do so at least once.

A Christmas Carol (1999) starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. It took me a while to become accustomed to the idea of a thin, bald Scrooge, but I managed. It has a much darker opening than some other versions, as it starts at Marley's funeral, rather than skipping to the "present" day. I love this version as well. Joel Gray's performance as an androgynous Ghost of Christmas Past is a bit trippy, but in a good way. Dominic West is Fred (the nephew) and Richard Grant is Bob Cratchit. Fans of Captain Picard Patrick Stewart won't want to miss it.

Scrooged starring Billy Murray as a modern-day network executive, Francis Xavier Cross. It's all about profits and market shares for him, and Murray sends up the networks while depicting a modern-day Scrooge character. He's brilliantly funny in the role, with great turns by Carol Kane, Bobcat Goldthwaite, and David Johansen (aka "Buster Poindexter"). The ending annoys me these days (direct speech to the "audience", which I didn't love when I first saw the movie in the theatre), but the rest is almost pure gold.

A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C. Scott as Scrooge. Scott played crankypants characters so very well, and Scrooge was no exception. I haven't watched this version in a while, but I remember it being fairly true to the story and very well-done.

A Christmas Carol (2009) with Jim Carrey voicing the role of Scrooge in an animated version of the story that didn't bother to make anyone's eyes track well except for Scrooge's, so most of them look a bit daft. You can read more of my comments about it in this post from last year.

I like this story so well that I didn't mind "A Diva's Christmas Carol" starring Vanessa Williams on Lifetime or The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.

I'd love to see a new live-action version of the movie, although I'm not quite sure who I'd like to see as Scrooge. And I'd love to know if you have a favorite version of this story.

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Alyss said...

I also LOVE this story. I grew up watching the Mickey's Christmas Carol with Uncle Scrooge as, well, Scrooge, Mickey as Bob Cratchit, Donald as the nephew, Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Goofy as Marley. Adorable!

My all time favorite movie ever (as in, not just Christmas movie, but any movie ever) is the Muppet Christmas Carol. Come in and know me better, man! :)

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one!

Kelly Fineman said...

A Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorite stories, in any format (book, play, movie). And I adore the Muppet version. "Light the lamp, not the rat!"