Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Reginald Owen's Carol

In 1938, MGM rushed out an adaptation of A Christmas Carol featuring Reginald Owen as Scrooge. They had originally wanted Lionel Barrymore, but he was suffering a bad bout of arthritis, and had already gained immortality in the role on radio.

The film offers a cheerful take on Dickens' story, and as such, cuts out some of the sadder parts of the story. Gone are the phantoms Marley shows Scrooge outside of his window, Belle, Ignorance and Want, and the people who stole the late Scrooge's things to sell them.

Added is more scenes with Fred in the beginning. He goes coasting on the ice with some boys, two of whom happen to be Tiny Tim and his brother. Fred even helps Tiny Tim along, seeing that he's unable to do it himself. Arriving at Scrooge's office, he treats Bob Cratchit to some port wine. Later, when Bob leaves the office, he makes snow balls with some boys, and is dared into throwing one at a man in a top hat, who happens to be Scrooge, who promptly fires Bob, taking a shilling and a garnished last week's wages to pay for the ruined hat. Bob is forlorn, but eventually decides to give his family a fine Christmas anyway.

When Marley's ghost is visiting Scrooge, Scrooge calls for some night watchmen to arrest the supposed intruder. They don't see anything and Scrooge turns them away.

Finally, Scrooge and Fred and his fiance Bess deliver the prize turkey to Bob's place, gives him his job back and a raise, and promises Tiny Tim that he'll take him to a doctor.

While there's nothing really wrong with making Dickens' Carol a brighter and more cheerful tale, the fact is, it's not as meaningful without the grimmer parts. While this one is a lovely adaptation, it loses a lot by sweetening it so much.

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