Countdown to Christmas – A Christmas Carol (1954)

One more day closer to Christmas and we look at another take on our good friend Scrooge. After having horror master Vincent Price guide us through the 1949 tale yesterday, it’s only fitting that we usher in two more horror legends today. We jump ahead five years to 1954 and we trade in one horror and mystery star for another. Vincent Price is out and Basil Rathbone is in.Spooky Santa

This was broadcast as part of the Shower of Stars CBS television program and was originally in color. Unfortunately, only black and white prints remain today. Now, this is a musical version and, I must admit, that I’m not overly fond of Scrooge musicals. I prefer my Scrooge gritty and a little scary. However, I’m pretty versatile with my musical tastes, so I went in with an open ear. Unfortunately, I found the music to be rather a chore to listen to and disappointed that it caused much of the story to be condensed. Story is traded in for musical numbers, leaving key elements missing despite running twice as long as the 1949 version.

Basil RathboneFredric March, best remembered for the lead role in 1931s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is Scrooge here. His performance wasn’t bad but the odd prosthetic nose he wore made him look a bit cartoonish. Basil Rathbone greatly overacts as Marley’s ghost and his performance seemed out-of-place. I also thought the special effects used for Marley in 1949 looked a little better. Sure, the technology has improved some here but I felt it was more effective in 1949. The decision to have Sally Fraser and Ray Middleton in dual roles as Scrooge’s fiancée Belle and nephew Fred as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present was interesting. It worked well enough. Even having Scrooge recognize them was a good twist. But Ray Middleton did not look the part of the Ghost of Christmas Present. And the decision to cut out the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was a mistake and takes away from Scrooge’s turn. It just seems like we take some big jumps. One minute, Scrooge and Belle are singing a love song to each other, the next she is leaving him. And as the tale wraps up, it just seems like Scrooge changes too abruptly.

Scrooge 1954Overall, I was disappointed by this one. There are definitely better versions out there. But, it’s on YouTube if you are curious. Watching it for free is the only way I can recommend you watch it.

Tomorrow, our viewing gets much better as we take a look at the classic 1971 animated version featuring the voice of my favorite Scrooge, Alastair Sim.

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