I’m a sucker for Christmas, what can I tell you. I’ve been playing Christmas music while I write (Accuradio’s Celtic Christmas is on right now); and I just finished listening to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, read on audio disk by Jim Dale (the guy who read the Harry Potter books and narrates Pushing Daisies on TV). Dale nails the book and I’d put it on a par with the wonderful Frank Muller version of a few years back.
That book, written over 150 years ago still nails me. It’s Dickens at his best. It isn’t wordy, which means his figurative language doesn’t get lost in the I’m-getting-paid-by-the-word descriptive marathons. It has some insightful characters, surprisingly contemporary (at times) dialogue, and even a little bit of flirtatious fun.
I’ve seen just about every dramatic re-imagining of the book. And yearly I enter into debates about which version is better, the George C. Scott TV movie or the Alistair Sim film version. That’s a discussion that, when between two grown men who have been drinking hot winter drinks, is probably very funny to listen to -though deadly serious between us. (There’s probably a short story just on that lurking somewhere.)
I’m going to publicly throw my hat in the ring for the Scott version. His Scrooge is more layered, complex, and subtle; and his transformation more considered. Edward Woodward makes the toughest Ghost of Christmas Present ever seen. And Roger Rees is the ONLY actor I’ve ever seen actually nail the emotional depth necessary to make his early speech in Scrooge’s office sound powerful enough to ‘shake’ his uncle. On the downside, the kid they have playing Tiny Tim looks like a zombie (hey....Scrooge of the Living Dead, there may be something there!).
Now, before anyone boils me with my own pudding and buries me with a stake of holly through my heart, the Alistair Sim version is pretty great, too; but it strays much farther from the source material. A lot of the Christmas Past exposition is new (and very good) stuff written for that film. Still...it’s miles ahead of anything even remotely in third place.
Later today, when I take a break from revising my current novel (PATIENT ZERO, due on the desk of editor at St. Martin’s Press in a couple of weeks) I’ll probably watch the Bill Murray Scrooged version...and maybe even, God help me, the Mr. Magoo version.
Writers Corner USA