Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2014 continues here at Balladeer’s Blog! Previously I’ve reviewed the 1910 and 1923 silent film versions of the Dickens classic. This time I’ll take a look at the 1913 adaptation Old Scrooge, which clocks in at just over forty minutes.
Old Scrooge stars Seymour Hicks, the only English-language actor to portray Ebenezer Scrooge in both a silent AND a sound era adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Hicks went on to star in the 1935 version titled Scrooge, a version so cheapjack and rushed it was riff-fodder for Randy and Richard on The Texas 27 Film Vault in the 1980’s. If you’ve seen it you may recall the “pioneering” way that the visit from Marley’s Ghost was presented by having Scrooge talk to an empty chair while Marley’s lines were provided through a voice-over.
Getting back to Old Scrooge, though it came out just three years after the Edison Studios version it is light-years ahead of that adaptation in terms of its effectiveness. Long stretches of dialogue and narration lifted straight from the novel fill most of the dialogue boards plus Tiny Tim is NOT edited out like he is in the joyless and soulless 1910 version. Due to the limited time Marley’s Ghost not only gives his usual warnings but takes Scrooge on his visits to Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. No additional locations were used for those visits – the visiting spectre merely projects the images on the rear wall of the office at Scrooge and Marley’s, where Ebenezer spends his nights in this adaptation.
Ironically, acclaimed actor Hicks is one of the weakest points of the film. If you’ve ever wanted to see Ebenezer Scrooge depicted as a demented old hobo THIS is the movie for you! With his wild, unkempt hair, roaming, unfocused eyes and visibly ratty clothing this Scrooge looks nothing like a figure that any respectable Londoner would be caught dead doing business with in 1843. He looks more like a mentally unstable beggar the locals would call “Crazy Eb”.
Another shortcoming is the way this already short production wastes time showing TWO versions of the visit from the charity collectors. Scrooge uses all his lines from the novel on the first charity collector, a woman , and just prattles on pointlessly to the second charity collector – a man. It was a very poor choice to waste precious screen time in this manner. Luckily Nephew Fred’s earlier visit was carried off nicely and with no unnecessary flourishes.
There’s no door-knocker scene since Scrooge sleeps in the office in this flick, but his morning-after conversion is intact … well, for the most part. The filmmakers at Pathe made the eccentric decision to change Ebenezer’s question to the young man below his window from “What day is it?” to “Is Tiny Tim still alive?” I was hoping the boy would reply “What kind of morbid-ass question is that to ask somebody on Christmas morning, you senile, unhygienic old hobo?” With maybe an added “And who the bloody hell is Tiny Tim?” for good measure. No such luck, unfortunately.
Apparently all of London is keeping book and running a betting pool on exactly when Tiny Tim will drop dead, though, because the young man immediately tells Scrooge that the boy is still alive. But no, he doesn’t add “So if you ‘ad yer money on the 24th you’ve lost yer quid then, Guv-nor!”
Anyway, Scrooge mends his ways, tosses money out his window to a bunch of street urchins below, has Christmas Dinner with Nephew Fred and carries out the usual Day After Christmas prank on Bob Cratchitt before giving him a raise. By the way, this film was RE-released in 1926 so don’t be suckered into buying the 1926 version, too, thinking it’s a different movie.
I doubt that non-fans of silent movies would like this film, though they might laugh at the over-the- top histrionics that mar these old gems in the eyes of so many modern viewers. Christmas Carol geeks like me who want to watch EVERY SINGLE VERSION of the story would probably enjoy finding it under the Christmas Tree.
FOR MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE:https://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/
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