Monday, December 17, 2012
A Tale of Two Scrooges
Both are very faithful to Dickens with most of the dialogue being lifted directly from the book. Both have charismatic actors in the lead role and both have great period detail and wonderful supporting casts. It's a hard call.
The 1951 version gets a bit of an extra push because it's the version I grew up with. I watched it with my parents every year when I was growing up, so there's a nostalgia factor. It's also the more 'feel good' version of the two, a bit lighter in tone, with a more "movie-ish" version of early Victorian London.
The 1984 version is darker and more realistic. The poor people look poor and the sick people look sick, especially Tiny Tim who is indeed played by a very small boy. The 1951 Tim is almost as big as Scrooge. Dickens probably would have approved more of this version as it does a better job of showing the social problems he was trying to talk about in his book.
As I mentioned, both movies have excellent leads. Alastair Sim makes Scrooge a believable miser, a man who made some bad choices and allowed his goals to eclipse his feelings. He looks genuinely terrified when faced with Marley's ghost.
And George C. Scott? Here is where Scott shines because he takes the poetic dialog of Dickens and he manages to make it seem like he's really saying those things. He's not acting or reciting. He's talking, making him the more naturalistic of the two Scrooges. Scott's Scrooge is a human being, a man who let his tragic childhood turn him against the world, and who let his pursuit of wealth cut him off from people who cared about him. Scott makes you believe he could change his ways, that there's still something of the young man who loved his sister deep inside the hard crust of Ebenezer Scrooge.
So anyway, having watched both versions fairly close together, I'm still not sure which I like best. And fortunately, I don't have to choose. I can watch both every Christmas season and enjoy what each has to offer.