Beginning on Thanksgiving afternoon, watching Christmas movies together had been a long-standing tradition in the Carter household when the children were growing up in the 1990s . . . especially for our daughter and me. It began with the original 1947 version of Valentine Davies' Miracle on 34th Street, starring Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood. Then we'd watch Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.
But one Christmas story has grown beyond tradition to a season-long event, and that is the viewing of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in as many versions as possible, starting with Albert Finney in Scrooge: The Musical (1970).
According to Darcy Oordt, author of The Haunted Internet, there have been "over 50 versions and that does not include foreign versions or television episodes." And over the years, it has become a seasonal pre-occupation to expand my collection of all things Ebenezer Scrooge.
There are two scenes in the story that vary to some degree between versions which I especially appreciate:
The Ghost of Christmas Past
What was the purpose of this spirit's ethereal visitation? One line, which varies between versions, especially intrigues me here. In Charles Dickens' original A Christmas Carol, Scrooge meets the unearthly visitor as the bell sounds One. When Scrooge inquires of the spirit what business brought him there, he answers:
Your welfare . . . . Your reclamation, then. Take heed.
(Stave 2: paragraphs 31-33)
In Scrooge: The Musical, the ghost, who is portrayed as an elderly female, the purpose beyond Scrooge's welfare is his redemption. My favorite retelling of this purpose, however, is found in The Muppet Christmas Carol where an ethereal, boyish child warns Scrooge that the purpose is his salvation.
The Ghost of Christmas Future
As far as I know, there is only one version that adds this scene, which was cut from many television broadcasts for commercial break, and that is the final part of this visitation by the ghastly specter of The Ghost of Christmas Future whom Dickens refers to as the Phantom. Albert Finney's portrayal of Scrooge shows him falling into his grave and awakening in the torments of HELL. The unexpected twist here, however, is that Scrooge must suffer the very deprivations he forced upon his clerk, Bob Cratchit.
Bill Petro gives us an History of A Christmas Carol: A ghost story of Christmas in his blog Bridging the Gap Between Strategy to Execution. I would also recommend this book, The Annotated Christmas Carol: A Christmas Carol in Prose which I hope to add to my collection this season.
I hope you will explore some of the wonders of this story
and take its message to heart in this Christmas Season!