An interesting old musical interpretation for Carol fans
I bought the Bing Crosby / Kate Smith Christmas DVD specifically for the inclusion of this 1954 Frederic March version of A Christmas Carol as a bonus. For those who are real Carol fans and simply must see every version, naturally this shouldn't be missed. However, if this were the only adaptation available to me, I'd feel quite deprived!
Frederic March makes a fairly good Scrooge, in my opinion. The rest of the cast didn't much stand out with me one way or the other except that I didn't really like them 'doubling up' on roles. The same actress played both the Ghost of Christmas Past and Belle, and the same actor both nephew Fred and the Ghost of Christmas Present. I suppose it must have been fairly low budget and this was cheaper.
I found odd and objectionable the writers having Marley's ghost repeatedly moaning "Oh God!" The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was ridiculous -- some sort of blackbird! Even the Ghost of Christmas Present was miscast. Instead of a cheery, benevolent, bare chested giant clothed in a green robe, he wore tunic and pants and seemed rather slovenly, lolling about on the floor singing! They modernized or Americanized the story a bit, having one of the songs refer to Santa and the Cratchits trim a Christmas tree.
The movie seemed to start out better than it ended. I found the first scenes preferable to later sequences, mainly because less seemed to be omitted early on! I prefer non-musical versions to musical ones anyway but find it especially irritating when they find time for several songs but omit crucial characters such as Ebenezer's sister Fan and eliminate numerous vital scenes. This version is short anyway, only about 50 minutes, and the story is pretty bare bones. Most of the details that enrich the tale are simply left out.
The music was pleasant enough and seemed to fit in suitably but for most of the numbers, I found they contributed little and I merely wanted them to get on with the story! Unlike the 1970 Albert Finney musical which did boast some truly catchy tunes, none of these songs were the least bit memorable. However, I did enjoy the carolers at the beginning of the movie. Also, Tiny Tim sings a song at the end which, if I heard correctly, tells the Christmas story (religious context) and it appeared as though Scrooge was truly moved.
Lest I appear too critical, this adaptation is a fairly traditional (if summarized) telling of Dickens' story and certainly maintains the original spirit. Again, I enjoyed March in the role and really loved some of the sets, especially the street scenes with the carolers and the drawing room with Fezziwig's party. I'd certainly recommend it to any Carol enthusiasts. Just keep an open mind and you'll enjoy it, but don't get your hopes up too high because you'll probably be disappointed!
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