Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Many Film and TV Versions of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"

Two years ago I undertook an endeavor to see what the most accurate film adaptation of A Christmas
Carol.  As I went through watching the various adaptations I would reread it to refresh myself of its contents. What follows are my commentaries on the various adaptations that I posted on Google Plus. These by far are not all of the adaptations. These are merely the ones I got to watch during the holiday season of 2012. There are more which I did not have access to. Each adaptation is called by the name of the actor that played Scrooge except for the Disney animated version which is simply called the Disney Animated Version. One version I did not comment on was the musical with Albert Finney. Being a musical it departs from the book in many ways, but generally follows the plot of the book and its scenes in a fairly loyal way. It is unique in that the ghostly death coach appears when Scrooge enters his home near the beginning of the book. As I recall it does not appear in any of the other film adaptations I cover of Dickens' book.

Google Plus Post on December 19, 2012 Sim, Scott, and Hicks Adaptations

Last night I read Dickens' A Christmas Carol to see how the movies differ from the novel. Thus far this year I have watched the Seymour Hicks version, Alastair Sim version, and the George C. Scott version of the movie adaptations. None of these versions are loyal to the novel. The Seymour version added dialogue and characters to some scenes, alters some scenes so they appear very unlike those in the novel, and omits some very important scenes that are in the novel. Fan, Scrooge's sister does not appear at all in the film. It does include one scene not seen in the other two films but in the book. Finally, Scrooge has very little interaction with the ghosts. Indeed, they only appear on the screen for a couple of minutes.

The Sim version left out several scenes in the book, added several not even hinted at in the book, inserted characters in scenes where they do not appear in the novel, and altered other scenes and dialogue. The added scenes are not even hinted at in the book in a couple of cases, and only alluded to in others. The added scenes do not appear to add much to the story other than to establish that Scrooge is a rather stingy fellow, or to establish things that were established later in the book.

The Scott version left out scenes from the book and added dialogue in the opening scene in Scrooge's office, and altered at least one scene by leaving out characters. None the less it is the most loyal version of the three films even with the added dialoge in the opening scene.

None of the movies are really loyal to the book, although I have to say of the three, the Scott version is the most loyal with the Sim version departing from the novel the most with added scenes. The sad thing is if scenes had not been added to the Sim version, more scenes from the novel could have been kept in the screenplay and other scenes not altered, it would have been the most loyal of the three. At 86 minutes the Sim version is long enough to cover much of the novel. The Scott version is longer at 102 minutes, and spends more time with each scene from the novel. If dialogue had not been added in the opening scene and here and there, some of the scenes from the novel that were left out could have been added instead.

One thing I find interesting in the Hicks, Sim, and Scott versions is the need to reference coal in the opening scene. In the  Hicks and Sim versions Scrooge gets after Cratchit for trying to add coal to the fire. He does this too in the Scott version going as far to lecture Cratchit on the use of coats and waistcoats as an alternative to using coal. None of this dialogue appears in the book. Neither Scrooge or Cratchit ever mention coal. In the book it only described how there are very few embers in the stoves, and that Cratchit is trying to warm his hands by the candle. I think adding these lines to the films about coal seriously alters the character of Bob Cratchit. In the book we are given the impression he is loyal and obdient and would not seek to displease Scrooge, and when he does he is very apologetic. Our impression of him is altered with these added lines about coal in the films. With the Scott and Sim versions they also insert Belle in the Fezziwig scene. I think that is because they feel a need to introduce the character. In the novel we first see her when she is breaking up with Scrooge. She makes no appearance before then. In the Hicks version the school scenes do not appear at all. In the Sim and Scott versions only the second school scene appears with the Sim version being seriously altered. 

Google Plus Post on December 22, 2012 Patrick Stewart Adptation

I watched the Patrick Stewart version of A Christmas Carol. It has several scenes that appear in the book, but do not appear in many of the other movie versions. One scene is that of Cratchit in his upstairs room with Tiny Tim's body when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is showing Scrooge the future that may be. The only other movie that it appears in is the Hicks version. It also shows the first school scene with the Ghost of Christmas Past that does not appear in many of the other movies (though never has that scene from the book appeared in its entirety  nor has the second school scene appeared in its entirety for that matter). And it shows the lighthouse and ship scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the scene with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and the debtors happy at Scrooge's death. It does leave out the scene of Belle being happily married with the Ghost of Christmas Past though which I think is an important scene in the book. Some of the dialogue is altered from the book, some key lines left out oft times not for the better in my opinion. That is not to say that the alterations are bad, it is just to say that they lack the power of the original dialogue Dickens wrote in my opinion. One particular line that is omitted when the Ghost of Christmas Present appears is noticeable to anyone that has read the novel or seen the other movie versions. There are also some lines left out from when Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come  visit Cratchit 's house that is pretty glaring. However, where the original dialogue from the book is used unaltered, it is sometimes more powerful than in the same scenes from the other movies. And some dialogue from the book omitted from some of the other movies is included. I guess that is the trade off. The scene when the reformed Scrooge visits his nephew Fred plays out differently from the book, but none of the movies are very loyal to this scene. There is an added scene at the beginning which while it is  not seen in the book fits nicely in the movie. There are some anachronisms such as people singing "Silent Night." "Silent Night" was not translated into English until many years after the novel takes place. But then you see similar anachronisms with the other movies Overall, I would say it is a toss up between it and the Scott version as to which is the most loyal to the novel. It is odd as they are both made for TV movies, while the others were feature films. I have yet to watch the 1935 Reginald Owen version of A Christmas Carol, but at 69 minutes it is the shortest of the movies, and therefore much perhaps left out. I will try to watch it tomorrow.

Google Plus Post on December 23, 2012 Reginald Owen Adaptation

I watched the Reginald Owen version of A Christmas Carol. Of the versions I have watched (Hicks, Owen, Sim, Scott, and Stewart) it is the least loyal. There are scenes from the book that do not appear. For example Belle does not appear at all in this retelling. And there are major plot changes such as Fred is not married, he is only engaged, and Scrooge fires Bob Cratchit. There are added scenes that do not appear in the book (a church scene with Christmas Present, and various scenes throughout the movie), and many of the scenes from the book are altered sometimes to make them appear very different. The school scenes are condensed into one, the scene with Fezzywig is abbreviated (there is no party), and the ending is changed drastically (Scrooge shows up at Bob's house with the turkey and presents for the kids instead of being in the office the next morning). The dialogue is often different from the book, either changed or not appearing. Never the less despite it being the least loyal version it is very enjoyable. Ann Rutherford is fun as Christmas Past, and the Lockharts were very convincing as the Cratchits. I also watched Mr. Magoo's A Christmas Carol. For an hour long cartoon (with commercials) it is surprisingly loyal despite taking the ghosts out of order. It is very funny. Next for me to watch is Disney's A Christmas Carol. I have heard this version is very good and that it contains scenes from the book that do not appear in some of the other movies.

Google Plus Post on December Disney Animated Version
I watched Disney's A Christmas Carol.  It is the only animated version I am doing commentary on. There are some added scenes, and some changed dialogue. Some lines are left out here and there. Entire scenes from the novel were left out in some places as well, while others appear in this version that do not appear in the other adaptations. Both school scenes are included although in abbreviated form which is the norm for the film adaptations of A Christmas Carol.  The scene with Belle happy with her husband seven years before the events of the novel does not appear. There is an exchange between the Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge included that is in the book that does not appear in the other adaptations. The lecture by the Ghost of Christmas Present about how many see Scrooge as less fit to live than Tiny Tim does not appear. The scenes with the miners, the lighthouse, and the ship do not appear. And the scene with Ignorance and Want is altered slightly from the book. There are added scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. A sequence with Scrooge running in the streets of London from a wagon driven by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in a shrunken form has been added. I do not see it adds anything to the story.I think they would have ben better leaving it out, and instead keeping scenes from the book that do not appear. He is still shrunken when he comes to the pawnbroker's. In the pawnbroker scene only two of the five characters that appear in the book appear. The scene with the debtors happy that Scrooge has died appears, and it is rarely seen in film adaptations. The ending is altered with Scrooge's housekeeper being in the house when Scrooge awakens. She is not the house in the book, and only appears at the pawnbroker's. Scrooge also grabs on back of a carriage and slides along as it goes, that is not, of course in the book. Overall, were not scenes added to give it more the character of a cartoon (which it is), it would be a very loyal adaptation. At least it would be no less loyal than most of the live action versions. Yes, scenes are left out, but this is done with all adaptations. After the Stewart and Scott versions I would say it is the third most loyal of the ones I have seen (Hicks, Owen, Sim, Scott, and Stewart) in my opinion. Were it not for added and altered scenes it would be the most loyal in my opinion.