Time to talk about 2 more obscure versions of Christmas Carol that are honestly not great but they have their appeal.
It’s interesting I would review both of these films tonight because they were both made for TV musicals with the Stingiest Man in Town filmed live and tonight is a continuation of that tradition with Peter Pan Live. Some things have improved in 50+ years. Other things are basically the same.
They were only made 2 years apart so let’s take a look.
1954 A Christmas Carol
Scrooge- Fredric March is our Scrooge and they took the description seriously down to the pointed nose, which doesn’t look great but he is fine as Scrooge.
This version is only an hour and the songs take up a lot of the time so we don’t get some iconic scenes like door knocker with Marley (in fact Scrooge seems to live in some kind of apartment).
We also miss on Scrooge as a boy and go right to Fezziwig. This seems to be the popular choice for most abbreviated.
The other big difference is Past is played by the same woman who is Belle and it is acknowledged by Scrooge they are the same.
And then Present is played by nephew Fred.
Strengths- The score is one of the best by Bernard Hermann of Psycho fame. It is not overpowering but subtle using chanting and some of the best carolers in any version I’ve seen. The original songs aren’t anything to write home about but the score is great.
Another interesting touch is that Scrooge can hear the music and that is often scarier to him than any image. He see’s Basil Rathbone as Marley and is mildly scared but then after he leaves the music remains and Scrooge can barely get off the floor. I thought that was interesting.
Marley also shows Scrooge the ledger from their counting house and it terrifies him. When he leaves the ledger remains so he cannot deny what happened.
Weaknesses- The original songs are very generic like one between Belle and Scrooge ‘What Shall I Give My Love at Christmas’. The singing is good and like I said the choral music by the Roger Wagner Chorale is fabulous, so it’s a mixed bag.
March is good but it is a little distracting that he is missing a tooth in his top teeth. It looked strange and it is a ‘stay away and let me do my business version of Scrooge’. The religious conversion elements are minimal.
Stingiest Man in Town
This version is very similar to the 1954 version and has Basil Rathbone this time as Scrooge himself instead of Marley.
Scrooge- He is fine as Scrooge . It is again the ‘keep to my own business’ workaholic version of Scrooge and little is made of the religious loneliness.
It is a little longer than the 54 version but the music is similar although the score is not as strong. It’s kind of neat because they included the old title cards from the TV production and the Alcoa Aluminum ads, which are fun to see.
This version was also filmed live which is interesting and we get a wave from the cast when they are finished.
Considering they are a play the production qualities aren’t too bad. The 4 Lads provide narration in kind of a barbershop style.
Strengths- The cast is all good with good singing voices throughout. The dance sequences feel a bit out of place but they are well staged. In the final cemetery scene Scrooge even argues with a figure dressed like the devil, which was a new take on it.
The sets are also pretty good for a live TV filming in the 50s.
Weaknesses- Oddly Santa Claus is a big element of this version. Tiny Tim is worried Santa isn’t real and Martha sings him a song called “I Believe in Santa Claus” It felt out of place for the story.
At the end Scrooge kind of becomes Santa Claus bringing gifts that are perfect for each of the Cratchit’s.
Tiny Tim has a beautiful boy soprano voice and his song One Little Boy is a nice song.
They aren’t ‘good’ movies but they aren’t rip your hair out awful either. I’m glad I saw them.
My laptop wouldn’t play either DVDs so I don’t have a ton of photos but hopefully that gives you a feel for them.
14 thoughts on “Scrooge 13 and 14: Basil Rathbone in 2 Films”
I think the main issue of it is the “live filmed” aspect. It just doesn’t lend to quality. I would have loved to see the ideas they had for this one in a proper movie format.
You’ve seen both? I actually thought the quality was pretty good for television from that era. My issue was too many songs and some aren’t great or feel out of place. But I didn’t hate either version.
To rephrase that: It limits the camera work. For example you can’t do cuts and counter cuts. (because that would require for the scene to be multiple time, so that the camera can film it from different angles, without another camera being visible).
They are both easily available, so yes…they were okay, but I admit the thing I remember most about them is the Chrysler advertising.
Yeah I get what you are saying about the live angle but it didnt bother me. They must be easier to get in Germany because they were tough for me to find, but I’d agree just ok. Like I said the songs were more of an issue for me but I’m glad I watched them. Fun to dig a little deeper in the versions.
Try Youtube…with movies which are so old and forgotten, there is normally no copyrighter holder who bothers to complain.
Yeah I didn’t see them but anyway doesn’t really matter. Seemed obscure to me.
When you did your Scrooge series did you enjoy it? It doesn’t seem like you liked many of the versions? I’m having a lot of fun and trying to not be so critical. So far only one I hated. It’s Christmas after all so I’m enjoying what people have to offer even if they aren’t perfect.
I never did one…I just love the story, so I watched different ones over the years. But I always end up with my favourite ones. But I enjoy interesting ideas in some of the older adaptations.
Cool. I had usually just seen Scott, Sim, Muppets and Mickey. Those are my favorite. All these other versions are new to me (although I had seen the Diva versions, ha!).
Well, thanks for reading. I hope you are getting something out of my little project and I read the book every year so I enjoy the story too. I just love the message of redemption.
Christmas Carol and Luke 2 I make sure to read every year.
It’s nice to remember….now that I think about it…wasn’t the one with BR as Scrooge the one in which the singing just wouldn’t stop? It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine…music in a movie should add to the plot and further it, not slowing the whole thing down. And this one sometimes had moment which were heart-warming (even if the dialogues were kind of dumbed down), but then they just had to ruin it and start singing.
yeah it is a traditional musical in that sense. Not much dialogue. The songs with the 4 Lads as narrators were good but the characters songs especially the Santa Claus song feel very out of place although the singing isn’t bad. But I fast forwarded through some of the songs because they got tedious.
The Alcoa aluminum ads were a riot!
Sherlock Holmes played Scrooge? Interesting…