Balladeer’s Blog’s 6th annual Christmas Carol-A- Thon begins with this little item I’m doing as a reader request. I had thought that Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol was way too mainstream and well-known for me to review but I’ve been told it’s fallen off the radar for most people so here we go!
MR MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1962) – The nearly-blind one-joke cartoon figure called Mr Magoo was voiced by Jim Backus. The schtick in the character’s regular cartoon adventures was that his cosmic-level near-sightedness caused him to mistake a bowling alley for a laundromat or some similar mixup and slapstick hijinx would develop from there. Continue reading
It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since last Christmas Day! Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2014 comes to a close with the 1998 telefilm Ebenezer, the only non-porno version of the Dickens classic to feature a whorehouse! Well, as long as you don’t count whatever underhanded business Scrooge and Marley are running in the Alastair Sim version anyway. (I’m kidding!)
Previously Balladeer’s Blog has reviewed The Trail to Christmas, a version of A Christmas Carol adapted to the American West of the 1800’s. Ebenezer adapted the Dickens novel to the wild west of Canada in the 1800’s, which adds an extra layer of novelty to this production. Casting Jack Palance as Ebenezer Scrooge was the real strength of this adaptation!
Palance’s Scrooge is a miserly and crooked saloon owner while Bob Cratchit (Albert Schultz) is his much-abused bartender. Rick Schroder (yes, Rick Schroder) portrays gun-slinging Sam Benson, a character unique to this version and Tiny Tim is played by Joshua Silberg. Continue reading
Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2014 continues! At the height of Fonzie-mania in the 1970’s Henry Winkler had so much pull he could have insisted on a side-deal in which he got to play every D’Ascoyne in a televised remake of Kind Hearts and Coronets if he had wanted to. Mercifully he instead chose to star in this adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
Eric Till directed this telefilm which sets Dickens’ story in Depression- Era America. Winkler, so heavily made-up he looks like a zombie instead of an old man, portrays Benedict Slade, the Scrooge stand-in and R.H. Thompson plays Slade’s man-bitch Thatcher, the Bob Cratchit counterpart. David Wayne has the Ghost of Christmas Past role as Merrivale and Susan Hogan barely registers as the forever-irritating Belle stand-in.
“I’m not gonna pay a lot for this makeup job!” … Henry Winkler IS a zombie Scrooge in An Undead Christmas Carol.
This version of the Carol pulls the annoying maneuver of pretending the visits from Merrivale and the other ghosts are all a dream. There’s even an in-world reference to the Dickens novel A Christmas Carol. On the plus side the visits of each of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come are cleverly heralded by time period appropriate music and news broadcasts airing on Slade’s bedside radio. The old tight-wad is especially discomfited by the outre 1970’s music blaring from the radio before the arrival of the black Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Continue reading
Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2014 continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a look at the 1970 musical version that starred Albert Finney. The only – and dubious – advantage to having such a young man portraying Ebenezer Scrooge is that he could realistically play Scrooge’s younger self in the Christmas Past scenes.
Big deal. In reality it meant that the portions with Belle get dragged out even longer and more excruciatingly than they usually do, just to take advantage of the fact that for once it’s not a different actor playing the younger Ebenezer. Again – big deal.
Yet I like this version much more than I should. A rerun of it late one Christmas night was my first exposure to it years ago when I was first getting into the multiple versions of A Christmas Carol. That has probably colored my feelings about it all these years because I have to admit when I read negative reviews of this production I laugh like hell and nod my head in agreement at all the bashing it gets … yet I still like it for some reason. Continue reading
Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2014 continues!
This is a filmed presentation of the stage play by San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre and originally aired December 21st, 1981 on the Arts Channel. The adaptation was by Dennis Powers and Laird Williamson and starred William Patterson as Ebenezer Scrooge. The only real mistake this Carol makes is that it’s one of those versions that reads WAY too much into Scrooge’s relationship with his father, even making up beatings that are never mentioned in the Dickens original. Other than that this production features some very nice touches.
During the Christmas Past segment Young Scrooge (Thomas Harrison) and Belle (Janice Hutchens) are ice-skating under starlit skies while having their breakup scene, which livens up this often tedious bit of business. When the Ghost of Christmas Present (Lawrence Hecht) shows Scrooge the Continue reading
THE STINGIEST MAN IN TOWN (1953) – CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2014 continues! For several years only the soundtrack for this terrific musical was available because the bulk of the video from this television production was missing. A few years back all the video was restored so this Christmas season treasure can finally be enjoyed in its entirety.
Most people are only familiar with the 1978 Rankin-Bass Cartoon version of The Stingiest Man in Town, which chops the story down and omits or shortens a few songs. Here in all its glory is the original live 1953 production from December 23rd, rebroadcast in 1956, hence the 1956 date on some copies. Basil Rathbone stars as Scrooge, Johnny Desmond plays Nephew Fred, Martyn Green plays Bob Cratchit and Vic Damone appears as the young Ebenezer Scrooge at Fezziwig’s party.
Many of the songs in this musical have become Christmas song standards and people are often amazed that The Stingiest Man in Town is where the songs originated. An Old Fashioned Christmas, Listen to the Song of the Christmas Spirit, Yes, There is a Santa Claus, and Birthday Party of the King are among the Continue reading
If you’re into celebrity trivia from the 1970’s and earlier Rich Little’s Christmas Carol will have you laughing from start to finish over all the sly jokes and riffs that abound in this Canadian- made special. For those unfamiliar with Little he was the Frank Caliendo of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, a first- class celebrity impressionist. The Canadian comic’s first venture into using the voices and personas of iconic celebrities as characters in the Charles Dickens classic began in the 1960’s. Part of Rich’s stand-up act was a several minute sendup of A Christmas Carol with John Wayne, Jack Benny and other figures playing roles in the famous story.
In 1979 Little expanded the story into an hour-long television special in which, through the aid of trick photography, costumes and makeup, he impersonated all of the entertainment legends that he worked into the Yuletide epic. Here is a rundown of the celebrities that Rich Little appeared as in this enjoyable Christmas special:
For the central role of Ebenezer Scrooge Little impersonated W.C. Fields, the whiskey- soaked and curmudgeonly comedian whose misanthropic humor made his persona perfect for the role. Little impersonated Hollywood Squares mainstay Paul “The JM J Bullock of his time” Lynde in the role of Bob Cratchit and long-time Tonight Show host Johnny Carson as the cheerful and charming Nephew Fred. Rich did a turn as Laurel and Hardy as the Charity Solicitors to Continue reading