Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: MORE LOST TV VERSIONS

Balladeer’s Blog’s Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2021 continues with another look at lost Carol versions from early television. For the previous look click HERE.

john carradineA CHRISTMAS CAROL (1947) – Yet another Christmas Carol version produced by the long-gone Dumont Network. This one aired live on December 25th, 1947 and starred John Carradine as Ebenezer Scrooge. According to Variety the broadcast was simulcast in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Baltimore. There were 22 cast members and 12 sets. 

           The one and only Eva Marie Saint made her television debut in this production. Bernard Hughes also appeared in this Carol which costarred Ray Morgan as Nephew Fred, who did double duty as the narrator. A young David Carradine was in the cast, by some accounts as a Cratchit child but not Tiny Tim.

           Variety panned this program, calling it “stiff and formal” with a “slow, drawn-out opening” which “became tedious.” The publication also trashed John Carradine’s performance as Scrooge, saying he “lacked conviction” and that “He was too ready to be kind – never the nasty, selfish, money-grubbing tyrant of Dickens.”      Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2021 KICKS OFF: LOST TV CAROLS

mascot chair and bottle picIf it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, then regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog know it’s the day when I kick off my annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon in which I review several versions of A Christmas Carol. I look at movies, television shows, radio shows and books which adapt the Dickens classic. Every year I present new reviews and a few old classics since new readers will have missed them.

To start off this year’s edition Balladeer’s Blog will look at what little is known about lost television versions of A Christmas Carol from the days of live broadcasts, when not even kinescopes were being kept. Previously, the Rufus Rose Marionettes adaptation from 1948 was the only lost version I looked at.

christmas present and scroogeA CHRISTMAS CAROL (1943) – An early experimental broadcast on December 22nd, 1943 from Dumont TV’s station W2XWV in New York, presumably to mark the 100 year anniversary of the publication of A Christmas Carol.

Very, very few people would have seen this production. George Lowther directed the Montebank Players, while William Podmore wrote the teleplay AND starred as Ebenezer Scrooge. This program aired around 9:30 PM and was the second hour of a two-hour slate of music, World War 2 coverage, commercials and a film short.

           Radio and Television Weekly called it “the longest and most elaborate studio play yet presented over television” and extravagantly praised the antique furniture and costumes in the production. Reviews of the time indicated that this Carol resorted to narration from the Dickens novel to cover story elements which could not be depicted by the primitive special effects of the time.

dumontCHRISTMAS, 1944 (1944) – This half hour production of the Carol aired on December 19th, 1944 at 8:45 PM as part of the Video Varieties television series. Dumont TV station WABD in New York presented the show in conjunction with WOR-TV in New Jersey. Reviews of the time indicated it was an adaptation of the story of Scrooge set in 1944.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1944) – The long-gone Dumont Network stikes again! The very next night – December 20th, 1944 at 9:30 PM came this half hour presentation. Oddly, though the existing records do not show who played Scrooge in this production, it is known that Carl Eastman played Bob Cratchit, Helen Jerome played his wife and Bobby Hookey played Tiny Tim. Continue reading

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THANKSGIVING EVE WITH OLIVER!

"Please, sir, may I have some more?"

“Please, sir, may I have some more?”

It’s that time of year again! Just a note in the spirit of the holiday season to mention my favorite Thanksgiving Eve movie.

Every Wednesday before Thanksgiving I make a point out of watching the musical Oliver! And yes, I know it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving.

I know the musical sentimentalizes  several characters that Dickens portrayed in a sinister way in the book (especially Fagan and The Artful Dodger) but the finished product has always seemed very holidayish to me. Continue reading

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2018)

A Christmas Carol 2018A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2018) – MERRY CHRISTMAS! Balladeer’s Blog’s eleventh annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon takes a look at this Scottish adaptation of the Dickens classic. David Izatt directed and Stuart Brennan wrote and stars as Ebenezer Scrooge. 

The premise of a modern-day Scrooge running a distillery definitely sounds like it could work, but Brennan is absurdly over the top in the lead role. He’s not stingy and covetous, he’s psychotic. There are cartoon depictions of Scrooge who aren’t as artificial as this.

Brennan’s Scrooge is more like a supervillain from a bad comic book movie than he is like a money-grubbing executive. J.R. Ewing would tell this guy to show some subtlety.

Sarina Taylor portrays Bob Cratchit … not even Bobbie Cratchit, just “Bob” in a fairly lazy creative decision. She doesn’t have a sickly son named Tiny Tim, she has a cancer-stricken husband named Tim (Scott Ironside). Whether or not she calls him Tiny Tim is an issue for their marriage counselor, not me.  Continue reading

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A DIVA’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (2000)

A Diva's Christmas CarolA DIVA’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (2000) – Balladeer’s Blog’s Eleventh Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues with a look at this Vanessa Williams venture. Due to the nature of this adaptation of the Dickens classic it is often categorized as one of the “African-American versions.” Among other such Carols I have reviewed are Christmas is Comin’ Uptown with Gregory Hines and John Grin’s Christmas starring Robert Guillaume. 

The forever-underrated Vanessa Williams is brilliant in this very good film that mixes comedy, music and drama together far better than many stage versions manage to do. Williams stars as Ebony Scrooge, a pop singer who puts on a kind and pleasant public face but who is a … well, a diva behind the scenes.  

Ebony is even more nasty than usual as she pushes her entourage beyond all their limits to get ready for an alleged “charity” show for the homeless on Christmas. Ebony’s demeanor makes it clear that she is really doing it all just for public image reasons and to feed her own ego (Bono – cough – Bono) as she wallows in the plaudits sent her way.   Continue reading

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RICH LITTLE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1979)

Rich Little's Christmas CarolRICH LITTLE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1979) – Balladeer’s Blog’s ELEVENTH annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues! 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 round out the “cast” for the opening scene at Scrooge and Marley’s. Continue reading

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SCROOGE AND THE STARS (1963)

Scrooge and the Stars

Balladeer’s Blog’s Eleventh Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues! Back in the 2012 edition I reviewed Rich Little’s Christmas Carol, his 1978 television special. In that review I mentioned impressionist Little’s earlier, shorter, stand-up version of the special in which he used the voices of entirely different celebrities for the characters in A Christmas Carol.

This time around I will look at that 1963 AUDIO version. Rich Little had compiled the piece over the course of years, stretching back to his days as a DJ when he would ad-lib much of the material.

A historical footnote is the fact that – since Rich Little prepared the material far in advance of Christmas – he used the voice of John F Kennedy for the Ghost of Christmas Present. The record album version was released mere days after JFK’s assassination.

Continue reading

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SCROOGE’S ROCK AND ROLL CHRISTMAS (1983)

scrooges rock and rollChristmas Carol-A-Thon 2020, my ELEVENTH ANNUAL Carol-A-Thon,  continues with another post in Balladeer’s Blog’s annual orgy of entries on various versions of THE Christmas tale. 

Scrooge’s Rock & Roll Christmas grows on me more and more each time I watch it. It’s value as a version of A Christmas Carol is virtually nil, but it features some wonderful renditions of a variety of Yuletide songs along with some striking wintry scenery.

Most sources list this made-for- tv special as a 1984 production, but the actual copyright date on the VHS copy I tracked down says 1983, so that’s what I’m going by. If it first aired in late December 1983 it’s almost a 1984 product anyway so I can see where the confusion might come in.

A better title for this 45 minute novelty item would be Have Yourself A Has- Been Little Christmas since it features appearances by several rock singers who were already two decades past their days as chart- toppers. The premise of this telefilm is that a young lady looking for a record store (and how old does THAT sound these days) instead finds the establishment to be occupied by Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Jack Elam … yes, Jack Elam. Continue reading

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BLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1988)

blackadder's christmas carolBLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1988) – My 11th Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues here at Balladeer’s Blog! Long-time readers know what a big fan I am of Rowan Atkinson’s work – especially his Blackadder programs. Hell, I’m even an enormous fan of his more serious work in Full Throttle. And I never tire of telling anyone who will listen that I think he’d make a perfect Dikaiopolis in Aristophanes’ comedy The Acharnians

As to why it took me so long to finally get around to reviewing Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, it’s the same reason that applied to the George C Scott version: I wanted to handle some of the more obscure Carols before hitting the well-known ones.

This Christmas Special is set in Victorian England with Atkinson starring as Ebenezer Blackadder, owner of a moustache shop. Tony Robinson is on hand as yet another member of the Baldrick family line.

In typically perverse Blackadder fashion the storyline reverses the usual sequence of events. Ebenezer starts out as a kind-hearted and generous soul but soon the Christmas Spirit (Robbie Coltrane) shows him visions of Blackadders Past, Present and Yet-to-Come.     Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2020 BEGINS!

masc graveyard smallerIf it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving then it must be the start of Balladeer’s Blog’s Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon! As always I review obscure versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol AND well-known versions. I also post new reviews each year PLUS rotate in old favorites from the past. Long past? No, YOUR past.

Kicking off my Eleventh Christmas Carol-A-Thon is this look at many truly rare versions of the Carol. Long-time readers are aware of the obsessive lengths I have gone to over the years to obtain some of these gems but this post doesn’t bore you with those details. 

Ghost of Christmas PresentAren’t we all pretty fed up with the same versions of A Christmas Carol being rammed down our throats like Razzleberry Dressing every Christmas season while many of the clever but lesser known variations of the Dickens Yuletide classic languish in obscurity?

Drawing on the extensive, albeit geeky, expertise that I’ve gained in this subject over the years I’d like to spread the word about some of the versions of the story that can be found in the remote hinterlands of home video or audio.

This post will be a look at variations of the actual Dickens story, set in London in the 1840s. An entirely separate article could be written about adaptations of A Christmas Carol set in different time periods and locales, like Rod Serling’s anti-war parable Carol For Another Christmas, or the 1975 conservation short The Energy Carol or even the year 2000 Brazilian version depicting the Scrooge figure as a drug lord who repents. Just think of me as the Ghost of Christmas Carol Obscurities.

After reading this list you’ll hopefully conduct your own search for versions of the Carol beyond the limited world of Mr Magoo, Alastair Sim and George C Scott (“Dickens, you magnificent bastard! I read yer booooook!”) . 

The man all mimes aspire to be ... damn them.

The man all mimes aspire to be … damn them.

Marcel Marceau Presents a Christmas Carol (1973) – Marcel Marceau is possibly the only name that comes to mind if you try to think of famous mimes. In fact “Famous Mimes” would make for one easy  Jeopardy category because the response would always be “Who is Marcel Marceau?” Anyway, this BBC presentation featured Marceau acting out a pantomime of the Carol and playing every role.

This was accompanied by narration by another actor who once portrayed Scrooge, Michael Hordern. If you prefer versions of the Carol devoid of any and all speaking there are several silent movie Carols available out there.   Continue reading

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