A Christmas Carol (1938)

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I wonder if there is a collection of Scrooge works out there on DVD.  There really should be, one that goes from the first to the present.  I guess it would be a large set, but I would love to see it.  Over the holidays this past season, I made it a point to watch some of the various Scrooge incarnations, such as this 1938 version of A Christmas Carol with Reginald Owen.

To an extent, I am surprised, but I think this might be my favorite version.  I have always loved the opening which is so playful, where Scrooge’s nephew meets Tiny Tim and how he goes sliding down the icy road.  It is just a delightful winter scene that stages the holiday and merriment of the season so well.  I laugh and it keeps me engaged in the movie.

Almost the only thing to seem out of place is Owen’s makeup which looks really odd to me these days.  It’s like I can see the facial appliance on his forehead.  As a kid, I would probably not notice that.  As an adult well aware of how they apply makeup and such in films, I just glanced on the screen and had that reaction that it was not that smooth of a job.  It is a minor thing and certainly does not detract from the Charles Dickens’ tale in any way.

On the whole, this feels like a younger interpretation of A Christmas Carol, even with the apprentice Scrooge and a less decrepit looking Scrooge.  In other versions, the apprentice Scooge is often older and in some, the Scrooge we meet is old and cranky, not just in attitude, but in looks.  I really like some of the youthfulness that I get from this presentation.

Of course, the thrust of any Scrooge outing are the visits of the three spirits.  The interpretation of these key characters varies a lot, but again, I tend to like how they are presented here quite well.  In addition, even the overall ending is more fun.  It is as playful at the end as those opening scenes.

Owen was classic.  He set the bar.  Certainly others have delivered fine performances over the decades, but I believe Owen still holds the top spot when it comes to portraying Scrooge.


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