An American Christmas Carol 2Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2014 continues! At the height of Fonzie-mania in the 1970s 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 Jacob marley 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.

“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 1970s music blaring from the radio before the arrival of the black Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  

We viewers see that Slade started life at an orphanage, where he spent many lonely and disappointing Christmases. Part of the further darkening of his character comes about from his service in World War One, which is a nice and interesting approach but it means Scrooge should not be ANYWHERE near as old as he is by the time of the Great Depression if he was young enough to run off and serve in the Great War.

An American Christmas CarolScrooge does not have to be a withered old man in every version of the story, y’know, and this would have been the perfect time to depict a Scrooge figure that was still young enough to get quite a few years of enjoyment out of his new outlook on life. With most Scrooges you get the feeling they had maybe a nice five or six years tops after that very memorable Christmas Eve.

This one tries hard to tug on the heart-strings but never quite rises to the level of a classic. It’s always essential for my yearly viewing but I’m obviously a sucker for just about any version of this story. For non-enthusiasts of the Carol I would say that fans of the Depression-set television series The Waltons would probably be the people most likely to enjoy this version of the Dickens story. 


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 




42 responses to “AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL (1979)

  1. The Fonz in A Christmas Carol…well blow me down. Happy Christmas Ed.

  2. Funny, I just got done watching this in its entirety (I think the station made a cut or two) one day after you reviewed it.

    I dunno…I kind of liked it. Especially for the dialogue. Some of my favorite lines:

    “Hell’s not pitchforks, or fire, or brimstone…it’s worse. It’s living with all of your past, all of the time, forever.”

    (Ben, to Jack’s ghost:) “But it was just business! You never did anything EVIL!”
    “Evil’s not just what you do. It’s also what you DON’T do.”

    (The Ghost of Christmas Present:) ” ‘If’…that word can be found on dry riverbeds and on trails overgrown with weeds. What’s more important are the paths we follow now.”

    I just got done watching an odd ballet version On Demand, through Ovation Network. It’s a mashup of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, with some serious liberties taken in order to make the story fit with the music. Still, the dancing’s top-notch, as are the costumes and sets.

    • I appreciate the comment. It isn’t really that I dislike this version, it’s just that I know I tend to look too favorably at all adaptations of A Christmas Carol so I guess I force myself to look at them with an extra-critical eye to avoid having all my reviews be gushing praise.

      I’ve never seen that ballet version which fuses the story with the Nutcracker. I’ve onlu seen the Northern Ballet Company’s full-length A Christmas Carol ballet, which I’ve reviewed on previous Carol-A-Thons. I’ll keep an eye out for this combined version.

  3. Great article. This sounds like a slow-moving and dull Christmas Carol.

  4. This one is a must-read. Fonzie as Scrooge lol

  5. Odd choice on that makeup! Your right it looks liek a horror film.

  6. Garrett Kieran

    This is one of those movie’s that’s better the second time around. That’s when you know what to expect and you can appreciate it for what it is. I agree though, they went way overboard with Winkler’s makeup. They should have presented him as a man in his fifties. Just for the record, though, Merrivale played the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past, not that of Marley.

    • Thanks for catching that! I corrected it in the body of the review.
      I always make a point of trying to be critical when I write these, since multiple reviews of me saying how much I like each version would get pretty dull. So whenever I express criticism I still like each version and watch them each year.

  7. Awful movie. You were too nice to it.

  8. Sounds nice, but not my kind of movie. I prefer Christmas Carols set in England.

  9. Ray

    My dream Christimas would be to wawtch all of these copies of a cchristmas carol u have.

  10. I came across your blog by chance (stumbleupon). Never knew there were so many episodes of A Christiamas Carol!

  11. You’re crazy! Christiamas Carol is for kids!

  12. Wow! Thank you! I constantly wanted to write on my site something like that. Can I implement a portion of your post to my website?

  13. Your style is so unique in comparison to other folks I’ve
    read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you’ve got
    the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark
    this site.

  14. Why no hispanic americans in this movie?

  15. Very good post. I am experiencing many of these issues as well..

  16. The worst christmas carol movie out there.

  17. Henry Winkler looked ridiculous in this movie.

  18. Grandy

    I hate every version of this story.

  19. Keith

    I hate this version.

  20. Josef

    I didn’t really like this Carol.

  21. Kyle

    Winkler really did look like a zombie in that film.

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