Holiday Greetings from The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come!

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This week TCM is presenting two classic Christmas films on December 7th in association with Fathom Events and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. You can see A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938) and CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) at participating theaters across the country and as my fellow Morlock, Susan Doll pointed out in her post about the event earlier this week, they make for great family friendly holiday viewing.

I personally have a soft spot for just about every film version of A Christmas Carol. This is partially due to the fact that one of my first and last acting roles was in a stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale mounted by my elementary school where I got the opportunity to play the spooky silent specter of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And like countless other readers, I’m also simply enamored with Dickens’ story of an old miser visited by four phantoms on Christmas Eve who inspire generosity and teach him to love life again. Nearly 175 years have passed since it was originally published but A Christmas Carol still has the power to chill us to the bone and warm our cold hearts during the winter holiday.

Dickens’ novella was first conceived as a political pamphlet designed to arouse the public’s compassion for the plight of the poor but to his credit, the writer realized his strength was in storytelling so instead of hammering out a straightforward screed against social injustice he wrote a ghost story that would haunt sympathetic readers for more than a century. A Christmas Carol has been adapted for the screen many times beginning with a number of short silent films and most recently as a 3D animated feature produced by Walt Disney Pictures. The 1938 version tends to get overlooked in the glut of screening options available and it’s also burdened by the fact that the late great Lionel Barrymore was supposed to star as Scrooge but was eventually replaced by Reginald Owen due to serious health concerns that had left him wheelchair bound. Critics have cited its gentle nature and point out that many of the darker elements of Dickens’ original story were removed in order to make the film more family friendly but that dismissal overlooks the fact that the 1938 MGM production contains one of the most frightening and disturbing filmed encounters with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And for that reason, as well as others, it’s a movie well worth recommending.

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Director Edwin L. Marin, producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz and scriptwriter Hugo Butler staged Scrooge’s first eerie encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come on a barren hillside littered with dead trees where the wind whips around the two characters generating a sort of spiritual disharmony and overall sense of unease. This is followed by a particularly nightmarish scene that has the old miser and the cloaked phantom pass through a decrepit cemetery filled with overgrown graves and rotting tombstones. The doom-laden mood of these impressive set pieces is heightened by the rich black and white cinematography of John F. Seitz (DOUBLE INDEMNITY; 1944), THE LOST WEEKEND; 1945, SUNSET BLVD.; 1950, Etc.) and is reminiscent of classic Universal horror films including FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936), which featured Gloria Holden wearing a black hooded robe that closely resembles the one worn by D’Arcy Corrigan as the unearthly Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. It’s worth pointing out that D’Arcy Corrigan, an interesting character actor who has eluded careful study due to a lack of available information, had small roles in a number of Universal horror films including MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1932), THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) before he appeared in the 1938 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Even though we never see his face and he doesn’t speak a word of dialogue, Corrigan is perfectly menacing as the last ghost that Scrooge meets during his long dark night of the soul.

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Besides Scrooge’s memorable meeting with Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, the 1938 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL benefits from its brevity. I tend to find the longer film versions of Charles Dickens’ enduring yarn too padded for my liking and if I want to experience the complete Dickens’ tale I read the original novella. In fact, my very favorite adaption is Richard Williams’ smart, stylish and incredibly grim 25 minute animated version from 1971. Much like that Oscar winning short film, the brisk pacing of A CHRISTMAS CAROL helps drive the story along while Reginald Owen’s sympathetic portrayal of the old penny pincher encourages viewers to focus on the pertinent aspects of this Christmas classic that reminds us all to heal thyself, treasure family and friends and open our hearts to those in need. Come and see A CHRISTMAS CAROL to enjoy a surprisingly spooky encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and stay for the holiday cheer!

Further reading:
- An overview of A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Mary Anne Melear and fellow Morlock, Greg Ferrara

13 Responses Holiday Greetings from The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come!
Posted By Susan Doll : December 5, 2014 1:48 am

Though this one is my least favorite CHRISTMAS CAROL, I, too, have a soft spot for this Christmas story. I like to watch multiple versions of it at Christmas and compare Scrooges.

The film stills are terrific.

Posted By James : December 5, 2014 11:40 am

I love Richsrd Williams’ animated film. Although it’s only 25 minutes long, Williams incorporated a passage from Dickens’ story that is discarded in most adaptations – the Ghost of Christmas Present showing Scrooge holiday celebrations around the world, including two lighthouse keepers enduring a heavy storm. The one with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge also uses that scene, but I don’t care much for that version.

One of my favorite, more unusual adaptations is An American Christmas Carol, with Henry Winkler as “Slade,” a Depression-era miser from small-town America. The movie has a couple of clever nods (intentional, I assume) to Citizen Kane, as well.

Posted By swac44 : December 5, 2014 1:38 pm

Thanks for that reminder about the animated Christmas Carol, Kimberly, which I had completely forgotten about until you mentioned it on Facebook. It’s one of those childhood Christmas memories that was lingering just out of reach. I saw it numerous times as a kid, and I know it chilled the bejeebers out of me.

That set me on the trail of another animated Christmas show I remembered only as a faint vapour of emotions it generated, illustrating familiar carols in cartoon form, with a live action Richard Chamberlain acting as a genial, if somewhat mysterious host. Sure enough, Googling “Christmas” and “Richard Chamberlain” brought it up: The Christmas Messenger, as important a part of my childhood holiday as my mother’s brandy-soaked fruitcake.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkAOfUXMoU

Both of these shows (and A Christmas Carol in general) instilled in me a feeling of what I call “dark Christmas”. Can’t really explain what that’s all about, but all I need to do is hear some robust harmonies on Good King Wenceslas or a line of dialogue about prisons and workhouses, and it comes right back to me.

Posted By LD : December 5, 2014 3:57 pm

A couple of days ago I watched the 1938 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL after not seeing it for a few years. I noticed it was shorter and lighter in tone than the version I watch annually. That is the 1984 television movie with George C. Scott as Scrooge. It remains my favorite (when I was much, much younger I liked the Mr. Magoo version) but I am glad we have so many choices appropriate for different ages. We are never too young to be taught the lessons in A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I think Dickens would approve.

Posted By Deidre : December 7, 2014 1:49 am

How can I find out which theaters are showing the movies?
Thank you.

Posted By Murphy’s Law : December 7, 2014 9:40 pm

I love the George C. Scott version. It is absolutely my favorite. For Scrooge’s redemption to be meaningful, he has to be really rotten, not just some grump having a bad day. My least favorite is the Kelsey Grammer musical.

Posted By Doug : December 7, 2014 10:23 pm

Doug the contrarian-I like most editions of the story, including the Blackadder adaptation where Scrooge learns no lessons but profits greatly by remaining his own incorrigible self.
Oh…uh…spoiler alert.
Kimberly, in the spirit of the 1970 version,
“Thank You Very Much”!

Posted By swac44 : December 8, 2014 12:10 am

I just finished listening to an episode of the podcast The Greg Proops Film Club, where the witty, bespectacled comic and raconteur holds forth with his feelings about the Albert Finney musical version, Scrooge, but also touches on assorted other versions of A Christmas Carol. He also has a fondness for the Scott one, as well as the Muppet version, with a fine Michael Caine performance. Worth seeking out, on iTunes or elsewhere.

Posted By kathy : December 8, 2014 4:17 am

This is my favorite Christmas Carol also, however, I was really disappointed when I went to the event only to discover that there were chunks of the film missing!Scenes were cut out of the film. I was excited because I love seeing old films on the beg screen but not when they are edited with many scenes missing. I don’t get it.

Posted By Phil Marchesseault : December 8, 2014 3:49 pm

A great posting, Kim.

I always know it’s the Christmas season when the dozens of ad parodies of A Christmas Carol starting hitting the air waves. I don’t think there’s a product that Mr. Scrooge has not endorsed – and all of it flies in the face of Dickens’ very intention.

There are some wonderful versions of the Dickens story, but my favorite hands down is the Alastair Sim version, SCROOGE (51). It is the first truly gothic film version of the novel and incorporates wonderful Expressionist techniques. The ’71 animated entry, I believe, is a condensed version of this very film with Sim reprising his roll as Scrooge.

Posted By swac44 : December 9, 2014 6:23 pm

Deidre, looks like the screenings of the MGM A Christmas Carol and Christmas in Connecticut have come and gone, according to the website at http://www.fathomevents.com/

But it looks like there are screenings of a 60th anniversary release of White Christmas with Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, on Dec. 14 and 15. You can find out more about screening locations here:

http://www.fathomevents.com/event/white-christmas-the-60th-anniversary/more-info/details

Posted By patrick : January 2, 2015 6:15 am

Hey! You mentioned two good Christmas films then only talked about one? What happened to “Christmas in Connecticut” ? What’s your opinion? In my opinion its a fun movie I personally like Barbara Stanwick, and Sydney Greenstreet. Both names will get me to try a new movie & re-watch one I’ve already seen, they are both names seen multiple times in my personal movie collection. I mean Stanwick made a pile of great Christmas movies besides “Christmas in Connecticut”, like “It happened on 5th Avenue” and “Holiday Affair”. Though if I’m going to talk about the “Connecticut” cast I would be Very remiss not to mention S. Z. Sakall who steals every scene he’s in! After falling inlove with Sakall’s character in the film “Romance on the High Seas” I started to notice him in tons of movies, ones I’d seen ones I owned. Just a great addition to so many movies like “Casablanca” & “Tea for Two”.

I started reading your posting because out of the many incarnations of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” my 2 favorite film versions are of coarse the 1938 “A Christmas Carol” & the 1970 “Scrooge” staring Albert Finney & Sir Alec Guinness (Jacob Marley’s ghost).
But even though. I really enjoyed your

Posted By patrick : January 2, 2015 7:24 am

ÇONTINUED…..

I really enjoyed your post being that I too enjoy the film, I saw something in one of the photos you posted that I had never noticed before. I noticed the actor playing Tiny Tim, I guess I had never payed attention before. The young actors name is Terry Kilburn and he made loads of films starting at a very young age. I noticed him because I plays a large roll in one of my favorite films of all time “Goodbye Mr. Chips” 1939 (the original, it’s been remade 2 other times in1969 & 2002) Terry Kilburn is very memorable in the film because he plays a student of “Mr. Chips” & that students son, grandson, & great grandson. Four generations all taught by the title character “Mr. Chips”.

This film in its original 1939 version is a must see for any one who appreciates film. It was nominated for 7 oscars & I feel it still holds up today. In fact it’s one of the 3-4 movies I recommend or lend out to people to try and get them interested in old films. There are just so so many amazing films that people of my generation and younger don’t even know exist or seem to even want to know about. So I try to get other people to enjoy old films if not for the films themselves then for the history or artistic beauty of film as a storytelling art form.

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