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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2012: THE 1923 SILENT MOVIE VERSION

A Christmas Carol (1923)

A Christmas Carol (1923)

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its annual orgy of reviews of the various versions of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1923) – Not only am I an enthusiastic fan of this Dickens story but I’m also a lover of silent movies. There were plenty of adaptations of A Christmas Carol in the silent era but this one has got to be the most disappointing. By the 1920’s the art of silent filmmaking was at its creative peak with many of the masterpieces of the pre-sound era premiering during the decade. This British film adaptation is an undeniable bomb which sucks the soul out of of the story as effectively as the 1910 Edison Company version. 

At least the 1910 version had the excuse of coming out when silent movies were still finding their way creatively, but this 1923 Hi-Mark production is an embarrassment and a definite step backward in the storytelling technique of silent films. This film was screened only at museums in England for several decades before finally being released on home video in 2007. The lack of exposure built up a certain mystique around this movie and its British pedigree enhanced the feelings of anticipation surrounding its release.

Watching the film quickly disillusions anyone expecting the usual 1920’s silent movie magic. There are Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS CAROL OBSCURITIES: CAROL-A-THON 2012

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?

I’m one of those people who begin wallowing in the dozens of versions of this Industrial Age epic myth right after Thanksgiving and don’t let up until New Year’s Day. With the obsessive and semi- psychotic zeal of a Trekkie or an X-Phile I purchase every offbeat variation and adaptation of A Christmas Carol that I can lay my hands on.

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 will be a look at variations of the actual Dickens story, set in London in the 1840’s.

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!”) . 

Marcel MarceauMarcel 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.  

Shower of Stars Christmas Carol (1954) – This Carol may suck from the dramatic angle but it’s a wonderful oddity well worth owning because of its cultural kitsch value. This is a recorded version of what was first presented as a live broadcast and the barely sixty minute production provides a nice example of what live, single sponsor broadcasts were like way back when. 

The original advertisements are included so getting to see three-figure (yes, three-figure) sales prices for new vehicles will have  modern  audiences smiling. Fredric March plays Scrooge, Basil Rathbone plays Marley’s Ghost and there are some enjoyable songs scattered throughout the show. 

A Christmas Carol (opera) (1982) – Thea Musgrave is one of the few true giants in the opera world from recent decades and she did a magnificent job with this opera version of the Carol. The familiarity of the Dickens story makes this presentation accessible even to viewers who are generally bewildered when it comes to operas.

In addition to this Granada television production there are two other opera versions of the Carol on video. The 1978 version was Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2012: 1953’s THE STINGIEST MAN IN TOWN

The Stingiest Man in Town (1953)THE STINGIEST MAN IN TOWN (1953) – I’ve been looking forward to examining this item for this season’s Christmas Carol-A-Thon. In prior years only the soundtrack for this terrific musical was available because the bulk of the video from this television production was missing. At last all the video has been 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

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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2012 BEGINS: THE 1969 AUSTRALIAN TV VERSION

Welcome to Balladeer’s Blog’s Third Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon! I have several dozen video versions of the Charles Dickens classic and for years now I have filled the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas watching umpteen different adaptations of this epic myth of the Industrial Age. The 2012 edition of this Carol-A-Thon begins with the 1969 Australian cartoon version as a shoutout to the KiwiAussie herself, Jo “Buckshot” Bryant and her blog Chronicles of Illusion.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1969) – Air Programs International produced this fun animated version. There are books out there whose reviewers trash this version of A Christmas Carol but their reviews are so loaded with factual errors about this cartoon that I Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2011: THE FRENCH TV VERSION (1984)

TF1 logo

TF1 in France

Christmas-Carol- A-Thon 2011 comes to a close with one of the most visually enticing versions ever made. Unfortunately, it’s also virtually impossible to obtain for people who lack the nearly psychotic drive necessary to track these things down.

TF1 Television in France first aired this version of A Christmas Carol, which could be described as a Carol for the arthouse crowd. Not a put-down OR a compliment, just an observation.

The performances are even more low-key than in the George C Scott version and the direction, by Pierre Boutron, is very inventive, bordering on a surrealist approach .The overall effect is like A Very Jean Cocteau Christmas or something. As with the Spanish Leyenda de Navidad this French production keeps the story in 1843 London and stars Michel Bouquet as Scrooge and Pierre Olaf as Bob Cratchit.

This 90 minute version of the Carol is one of the tiny handful that depict Scrooge at Marley’s funeral, like the 1969 Australian cartoon version. Marley’s Ghost has the look of a bearded badass, but delivers his warning to Scrooge with a cold and calculating air that is almost more chilling than Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS SEASON DIVERSION: STILL MORE LESSER KNOWN VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL

This is now my sixth installment of lesser-known versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. First up is the 1995 Read-Along Christmas Carol. It’s just 50 minutes long and is ideal for youngsters learning how to read or for the hearing-impaired to watch. The video features a series of still Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS SEASON DIVERSION: THE 1947 SPANISH VERSION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL

This is my 4th installment of lesser-known versions of A Christmas Carol. The first one I’m covering this time was produced in Spain in 1947 (and was remade for Spanish television in 1966 ) and the Spanish language title is Leyenda de Navidad ( Legend of Christmas, of course). The film was written and directed by Manuel Tamayo (who wrote the screenplay for the 1955 feature Tarde de Toros) This is a wonderful version for several reasons, not the least of which would be its well-done (for the time period) sets of 1843 London.

We’ll take the differences and similarities to other versions in order – 1. Scrooge has several people working for him for some reason, not just Bob Cratchit and NONE of them get Christmas Day off from this Scrooge  … 2.  Marley’s Ghost steps out of a life-sized portrait of the man that adorns the wall above a fireplace, and returns to that portrait after his standard warning about Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS SEASON DIVERSION 3: A FEW MORE LESSER-KNOWN VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Time once again for some under-the-radar versions of A Christmas Carol. First up this time is the 1977 BBC TV version starring Michael Hordern as Scrooge. Hordern was better known to some people as the voice of Continue reading

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