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The Museum of Television and Radio owns a copy of this film written by Rod
Serling and only shown once on television.
Part of its financing came from the United Nations and the theme of the
is more about international cooperation than simply being
Sterling Hayden portrays a wealthy man who served in the Navy during World War II and is now a lonely bitter man upset over his son's death in a war he described as needless, presumably in Korea. Hayden is now an isolationist.
The three ghosts think their job is to make Hayden's character more of an internationalist and more willing to accept U.S. involvement in organizations like the United Nations. Coming right before the U.S. racheted up its involvement in Vietnam, it is easy to understand why this film didn't get shown again.
The visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert Shaw) is the most frightening part of the film. He shows Hayden a post nuclear apoclaypse world run by a weird character called the Imperial Me (Peter Sellers). Sellers is quite effective.
It's an interesting film, but you have to take it in its context. If you are a big Rod Serling fan, it is worth seeing. If you are not, you might find the themes in the film delivered in a rather heavy-handed manner.
When I saw this when I was in high school, I remember my hair curling. I
remember there were threats of boycotts and protests against the politics of
this work, which really express just basic humanitarianism, with some
liberal fear of nuclear destruction.
Three memories of this production: James Shigeta, playing a doctor in post-nuclear Hiroshima, answers the Scrooge character's (Sterling Hayden) cliched comment about nuclear-damaged girls (singing, with cloth over their scarred faces). Scrooge says, `Well, at least their children will not face this horror." Shigeta answers: "Children?! These girls?!"
The second is Pat Hingle eating the massive chicken leg, with barbed wired keeping out silent, wraith-like, starving refugees. Scrooge: "How can you sit there and eat like that, when these people are starving?" Hingle: "Oh, do they bother you?" And he snaps his fingers and the lights go out, and the refugees disappear. "Feel better?" asks Hingle, taking another chomp out of the turkey leg.
The third is Peter Sellers as "The Imperial Me," a deranged leader of a deranged sect meeting in a post-nuclear bombed-out church. Sellers' turn is both hilarious and disturbing, working the followers (all with Mickey Mouse Club-like shirts that say "Me") into a frenzy.
The teleplay is crammed with earnest, liberal good intentions. But why weren't there a lot more of this kind of artistic effort on television? (I recall a second UN/Xerox special, with Theo Bikel playing a leader of refugees on a ship, but it wasn't nearly as good).
Political and marketing restrictions cost us dearly when more efforts like "Carol for Another Christmas" were not made.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Carol for Another Christmas' features a teleplay by Rod Serling at his
most dead-earnest. As often happened with this controversial writer,
Serling's script ran afoul of network censors who insisted on major
changes ... inevitably making the material much more innocuous.
Astonishingly, 'Carol for Another Christmas' manages to be an
entertaining drama anyway, well-directed (by old pro Joe Mankiewicz)
with a first-rate cast.
The story is a blatant reworking of Dickens's 'A Christmas Carol', modernised and addressing the concerns of Americans in the 1960s: a fairly original idea when Serling did it. But in the years from 1964 to the present there have been dozens of rip-offs of Dickens's tale (such as the wretched movie 'Scrooged') ... so, from a 21st-century viewpoint, 'Carol for Another Christmas' suffers because it's now one of many, many, MANY reworkings of Dickens's source material. Fortunately, Serling manages sporadically to improve upon the original. For example, this story has no annoying little Tiny Tim character.
In Serling's original script, the main character in 'Carol for Another Christmas' was an embittered industrialist named Barnaby Grudge. This is clearly a Dickensian pun, but Serling also meant it as a pun on 'B. Grudge'... because Grudge begrudges charity to people less fortunate than himself. Television executives insisted that Serling must change this character's name; they were certain that 'Barnaby Grudge' would be perceived as a thinly-disguised attack on Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater (same initials). Serling changed the character's name to Daniel Grudge, and Sterling Hayden gives a standout performance in the lead role as Grudge, the surrogate Scrooge.
After some surly dialogue with his black servants Charles and Ruby, and an argument with his nephew (Ben Gazzara, giving the worst performance hereabouts), Grudge gets some unwanted advice from a surrogate Marley, and then the story proper begins ... with Grudge getting a look at the state of humanity in Christmases past, present and future. (Rod Serling's birthday was 25th December, and he had a traumatic experience on Christmas Day during his wartime hitch as a paratrooper ... I wonder if either of those facts helped inspire this story. I also wonder if the title of this script was a pun on the name of Rod Serling's wife: Carol.)
Grudge's escort to the past is a World War One doughboy, extremely well-played by Steve Lawrence ... yes, the singer who married Eydie Gorme. Steve Lawrence was a very talented actor who seldom got material worthy of his talents: he gives a fine performance here, with some of the best dialogue Rod Serling ever wrote. (I'm a Serling fan, but plausible dialogue was always thin on the ground in Rod Serling's universe.) Lawrence brings Grudge to Japan on Christmas Day 1945, where a Japanese doctor and a U.S. WAVE are trying to help Japanese children who were caught in an American bombing raid. (There does seem to be an unfortunate 'blame America' tone here.)
The Ghost of Christmas Present is well-played by the excellent Pat Hingle, an actor who never achieved the stardom he deserved. Grudge finds the stocky Hingle gorging himself on food at a banquet table, while nearby Third World children starve behind a fence. Hingle invites Grudge to join him: Grudge is willing to eat, but not with those starving children watching him. The fact that those children ARE starving does not particularly disturb him.
Next stop, the future: with the flash of an atomic bomb, Grudge finds himself in the darkness and rubble which are all that remains after World War Three. These are (intentionally) the most disturbing scenes in the drama. What sort of war was this, Grudge wonders? 'A dandy', replies Robert Shaw in a lacklustre performance as the Ghost of Christmas Future. Civilisation was destroyed in the nuclear war, but now one man is trying to inspire the survivors to rebuild the world ... namely, as a dictatorship with himself as the leader. Peter Sellers gives a fascinating performance (with an American accent, better than the one he used in 'Dr Strangelove') as a dictator named Imperial Me. Unfortunately, Sellers seems to be acting in a completely different movie from everyone else. (Which sums up much of his life and career.)
SPOILERS NOW. The character arc of 'Carol for Another Christmas' follows Dickens's novel very closely, so it's no surprise that Grudge/Scrooge ultimately returns to his mansion in the present, where he now sees the error of his ways and he repents. But I found the last scene very annoying and simplistic. As proof that Grudge has reformed, we see him humbling himself by eating breakfast in the kitchen with his black servants. Surely it would be more honest and more ennobling to show Grudge inviting his servants to join him for breakfast in his posh dining room. And the three of them could do the washing-up together. Like so many other liberals, Serling seems more interested in bringing down the mighty rather than uplifting the lowly.
'Carol for Another Christmas' occasionally sinks into knee-jerk liberalism or America-bashing, but this TV movie's good points very much outweigh and outnumber its bad points. I'll rate this story 10 points out of 10. God bless us, every one.
This has to be one of the greatest one-time only dramas ever presented on
TV. I remember it vividly from its original broadcast: a venal Pat
devouring a huge turkey leg surrounded by starving refugees; the sweet
voices coming from little girls scarred by the atomic blast at Hiroshima,
their faces covered with gauze; the demented "Imperial Me" Peter Sellars
addressing his crazed flock in a burned out cathedral after the nuclear
holocaust of the future; Sterling Hayden, a modern Scrooge, his voice
changing from booming commands to whimpering as he is led past the
succession of proof of man's inhumanity to man.
I saw this again at the Museum of Broadcasting in NYC and I was not disappointed. This is the lost world of thoughtful, creative TV drama, and what a loss it is to us all.
I actually saw this unique film on its one and only broadcast. I was in high school at the time and was very impressed. As a fan of The Twilight Zone, I never missed anything by Rod Serling. Not much detail sticks in my mind after 35 years, but I would enjoy an opportunity to see it again
It is my understanding that Rod Serling's Carol for Another Christmas was
only shown once, and the print is now owned by one of the schools of
This is a tale of the Cold War. In 1964 the Cuban Missile Crisis was still fresh. My neighbor in west Texas dug out his back yard to install a bomb shelter. Duck and cover drills were practiced by school children so they would be prepared for a nuclear blast. Rod Serling (writer of the Twilight Zone series) wonders what the Christmas Carol would have been like if Scrooge lived in this world.
Even though I was quite young at the time this show played there are scenes that I can remember clearly. The Scrooge character has been shown the devastation of the world of the future. He suffers great fear and wants to escape. He tries to climb a stylized wire fence But there is nowhere to go. The only things around are sparse, sterile ruins of a destroyed civilization. I wish I remembered how he resolved his conflict.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Turner Classic Movies blindsided me tonight when they decided to run
this rarity, a special that ran on Monday, 28 December 1964 on ABC.
Yes, this special runs like a final episode of "The Twilight Zone."
And that is not a bad thing!
This remake of "A Christmas Carol" is, by "Zone" standards, edgy. First, Joseph Mankewicz directs this, his only television project. The cast is first-rate, from Sterling Holloway to Peter Sellers and Steve Lawrence. Unlike the original CBS series, this was filmed in New York City.
This special makes me wonder whether or not "The Twilight Zone" might have lasted longer, had it aired on The Alphabet Network. In the 1960s, that network was far edgier than CBS, the original host for Rod Serling's series.
Many people may find Rod Serling's writing shrill. OK, my views are very similar to his, and my family knew him personally. But in this day and age, this special is like a badly needed slap in the face. If his writing is difficult, the actors overcome this.
And as for the ending: Remember, this is late 1964, when television was still a fairly timid medium, reliant on advertising. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had just been passed, and the march on Selma, Alabama was in the future. For the script's stiff qualities, I give this 9/10, but for overall effort and intention, I give this 100,000,000/10.
PS: And given how, even in late 1964, animosity against the Japanese existed, seeing this special is refreshing.
This adaptation is not for the young. Rather, it is more of an adult,
thought-provoking view of a hardened man facing a narrow, isolationist
future. Sterling Hayden's portrayal of Grudge is solid and restrained.
Grudge aches for his war-sacrificed son, but sees his own mourning as
The home of Grudge is tasteful, large, and heartless; a perfect place for a man whose hopes and dreams died with his son...a mausoleum for the living.
Steve Lawrence is flippant, and on-point is his role of Ghost Past. He is All Soldiers of all nations. He is aboard a ship filled with flag-draped coffins, filled with those who answered their governments' call. The WWI troopship is only one of many of an endless convoy, that bear those who have fallen. But the Hiroshima set is bright, broken, and stark. Grudge see his younger self drawn to a clear, young voice singing from the rubble that is now a hospital.
A doctor tells him that the girl he hears has been disfigured by the bomb. She had heard the plane and looked up. Grudge then sees a small injured boy, who, upon hearing a clap of thunder, needed a hug. The younger Grudge obliges; he still has a heart.
Pat Hingle is Ghost Present, an over-sated, uncaring man who feasts while millions of war- displaced people remain starving within barbed wire fencing. Yet they sing songs of hope, in their own languages...quite beautifully, too. Grudge is lectured by his own earlier words of keeping America's nose out of the world's little wars.
As Grudge attempts to escape from this Ghost, he is surrounded by barbed-wire at every turn. Seeing an exit, he climbs through a broken floor, and into what was Grudge's Town Hall, the place where all people could meet and air their problems. But the Hall is long abandoned and near collapse. And he meets Ghost Future.
Robert Shaw's Ghost is concise. Everybody had the Bomb, and everybody used it. This is all that remains.
Grudge then witnesses a meeting led by Peter Sellers, as ME, a selfish despot who has gathered dozens of survivors and plans an attack to kill those 'across the river'. "They" want to talk, and ME won't hear of it.
Enter Grudge's servant, Charles, and his wife. They have survived. Charles asks to speak. He speaks of humanity and conscience. But he is shouted down, shot and killed.
Grudge awakens in his den. It's Christmas Day. Charles, his servant, greets him, then goes off to prepare Grudge's breakfast. A knock at the door reveals his nephew, Fred. A 3 AM phone call is the reason. Grudge apologizes for his earlier statements, and has a change of heart. They shake hands, and Fred leaves. There is music in the background.
Charles turns off the radio, which is playing Christmas music sung by a children's choir. Grudge turns the radio on, intent upon listening. Grudge decides to have breakfast in kitchen with Charles and his wife, the cook. Grudge sits at the table, lost in his thoughts.
And the credits roll.
Rod Serling wrote this adaptation. And it was worth it!
Since i was 8 the only time it aired I doubt i watched it surely had no idea what the purpose was. It is amazing to think that Peter Fonda was the son killed in WWII and his first name was "Marley".. YOu should look at Serling's Wikipedia entry to see his service in the Pacific in 1045..Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Phillipine Lib Medal and incredible stories. Sterling Hayden was Mr Grudge- and was a WWI (not II) veteran..in 1964 WWI vets were only in their mid 60's. That was past, along with a creepy Hiroshima sequence. Present was a hedonistic free world letting everyone starve..and the Future was after WWIII(with a madman ruler). Certainly would baffle anyone today but moderately effective. Go to Wikipedia and see that Hayden was in the OSS and paratrooped into Yugoslavia..where he befriended Tito which led to his blacklisting. Hayden and Serling certainly had life experiences. A somewhat clumsy/contrived movie but worth seeing to understand how those who grew up in the 30' and 40's lived and what they experienced
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While Rod Serling's "Patterns" in the 1950's on live television is even
better than this twist on the Charles Dickens classic done for the UN
might even be more topical now than when it first aired.(Patterns is
still topical too, a sign of how great a writer Serling was).
Serling wrote a great dramatic script here yet again though for those who expect just a Dicken's remake, your in for a major surprise.
Sterling Hayden plays Mr. Grudge, a sort of modern Scrooge ever since he lost his son in World War 2 on 12/24/1944. He has been moping ever since blaming US Foreign Policy of getting involved overseas in everybody's issues for losing his son. Luckily, this is before Vietnam escalated so that does not come into this though it would weaken the main argument against Mr Grudge's logic.
It is obvious this movie is made on a television budget and in black and white the sets really look stark. The script and the cast are what brings this off. Late in this special, we get Peter Sellars getting together the survivors of Armagedden and preaching "ME" and that is the scary part of this. We have the me generation now, it is almost as if Serling was really predicting the future here.
The "WE" theme is here to counterbalance that theme. The UN wanted this theme obviously. The only thing missing here is the fact that today the "We" theme has been twisted by agenda driven special groups and corporations to be something beyond Serlings vision here which is the more simplistic theme that we all need to cooperate to avoid disaster.
Serlings themes here are brilliant and Eva Marie Saint, Britt Ekland, Sellers, and more help Sterling Haydens great performance in this television movie made just a year before some of these folks would be working with Kubrick in Dr Strangelove.
I am glad to have caught it this holiday season on TCM as I had never seen it before now.
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