|Image: cover of the Bantam Classics edition of |
A Christmas Carol
Pamela has a history of innovating reading/writing/viewing projects -- beginning with Year of Books in 2009 -- and of involving James in quite a few of them. Our other most successful (and cooperative) projects have included The Complete Noni: An Incongruous Diversion and Una Nueva Receta Cada Semana.
This season's *main idea has to do with the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, which has been produced in hundreds of formats and versions since its 1843 publication.
As a librarian, she has already managed to track down quite a few of them. James is updating this post as a record as we watch/read/listen to the various offerings.
Before we even started with versions of A Christmas Carol itself, we heard the backstory as part of an audiobook written and read by one of our favorite authors -- The Secret History of Christmas by Bill Bryson. He puts the novella in the context of the broader ebbs and flows of Christmas celebrations in the United States and the United Kingdom. It turns out that 1843 was a turning point in the history of the Christmas season as we now know it. A Christmas Carol was published at just the right moment.
It is appropriate that we began our journey through the many versions of this story with a video mashup that is built from 400 of them. The full title of Heath Waterman's work is Twelve Hundred Ghosts - A Christmas Carol in Supercut (400 versions, plus extras), a labor of love that he makes freely available on YouTube.
The title raises a point of contention among fans of the work. Most of us (such as James and Mr. Waterman) tend to think of this as a story of three ghosts. Purists (such as Pamela and the creator of the meme below) recognize that Marley is the first of four ghosts in the story.
Plot twist: Pamela recalls that it had been a trivia game that first caused her to think of the story in terms of all four ghosts
Ron Oliver's 2005 film Chasing Christmas starts Tom Arnold, Andrea Roth, and the fabulous Leslie Jordan. Set in the United States of today, it is a metafictional version of the story that involves quirky plot devices around time travel and a very deliberate acknowledgement of the Dickens version by several key characters.
Pamela's fast take on the 2022 Netflix production Scrooge: A Christmas Carol was "it was worth watching for the trippiness." What begins as rather light and campy
musical theater becomes more complex (in a good way). It delves into certain aspects of the back story, gives Scrooge a nice dog (of all things), and builds increasingly complex entrance theatrics for the ghosts. Gremlins are somehow involved as well.
Careful viewers will notice than in his final scenes of redemption, Scrooge begins with much overdue notions of charity, but then continues to a critical examination of the ownership of the means of production. This version has expanded roles for characters of color and women, though it fails the Bechdel test, as any telling of this tale is likely to do.
Scrooge McDuck as Mister Scrooge is the predictable -- lazy, perhaps? -- typecasting at the center of Disney's 1983 Mickey's Christmas Carol. He has a contrived Scottish accent and relishes the role of mean-spirited bankster. The character named in the title is a perfectly nervous Bob Cratchit. Many other familiar Disney faces fill out the cast for this quick -- almost cursory -- telling of the tale. Viewers are rewarded with a few unique laugh lines and sight gags.
At 22 minutes, the 2011 opus The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol was the most extensive foray into the Smurf franchise that either of us has taken -- by a margin of at least 20 minutes. Early on, James was trying to figure out why they changed the words of "Deck the Halls" to refer to "white" apparel when Pamela pointed out that they seemed to be avoiding the word "gay."
The question of whether to count three ghosts or four is really muddied in this version, in which a spirit is concocted from a potion and quickly morphs into a spirit of the past. We counted three spirits and zero ghosts. There is also no Scrooge, just an ungrateful young Smurf named Grouchy (we assume he is just part of the usual ensemble). Many other liberties are taken with the usual plot, including a Christmas "future" that is just the day after Christmas Eve (a.k.a., Christmas of the current season).
Dickens is not mentioned in the credits, but if he were, there are enough departures from the original story to describe this as "inspired by" rather than "based upon" A Christmas Carol. We were surprised to find some rather big names in the credits, however, led by Fred Armisen and Hank Azaria.
Jim Carey starred in the animated 2009 Disney production A Christmas Carol. The illustrators showed off their attention to detail in costumes, architecture, and facial expressions, while the writers highlighted many examples of period-specific and even Dickens-specific vocabulary.
Shofar, So Good was a 1994 episode of Northern Exposure (s6, e3), in which our hero Dr. Joel Fleischman exhibits the ungrateful and arrogant attitude that was the hallmark of his character through the first several seasons, but which come to the attention of several ghosts of Yom Kippur. Although we used to watch this show regularly, it has been quite some while, so we don't remember if his repentance was a one-off change or a turning point in the series.
Kelsey Grammer starred in the 2004 musical A Christmas Carol. Our son is rather a fan of Grammer, but declined to watch with us, saying that he could picture exactly what that would be like, and just imagining it was enough. He might have been right; it has its moments, but mostly it finds a way to make the tale much longer in the telling, with songs that are mostly quite tangential to the story.
James sings, "On the 8th day of this advent, my true love sent to me: a listicle of fun facts about a few of the literally countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol."
On a day that we would not have much time for viewing, we chose to watch a brief version of The Christmas Carol that was made for television in 1949. This simple version is framed by the narration of our own Vincent Price.
After a long day of preparing and then having our annual latke feast for Hanukkah, decorating our tree, and then playing a somewhat raucous and lengthy game of Trivial Pursuit with our brilliant kid, we were ready for the shortest adaptation on the list Pamela has compiled for this project.The "Speakaboos" production is a rather drab, illustrated narration of the Dickens Tale that tells the basics of the story in just under 16 minutes, all in one voice.
Lagniappe -- the other idea
We are pursuing two advents this year, the other one being an advent jigsaw puzzle -- a 1,000 piece puzzle comprising 25 smaller daily puzzles of 40 pieces each, each in its own tiny box. Several puzzles of this kind are available online.