It’s that time of the year again—and time for a tradition I’ve kept up on this blog ever since its inception. Time for a Christmas movie.
This time, wondering which film I should review, I came across this one, and it appealed to me at once, because I remembered Dickens’s classic story of an asocial and curmudgeonly miser whose life changes one Christmas. I had seen an animated version of A Christmas Carol ages ago on TV, I’d just read the novella that Dickens wrote to help tide him over during a hard spell when money was short. High time (and appropriate time) to watch the film.
A Christmas Carol begins on Christmas Eve in London. As crowds hustle and bustle through streets covered in snow, people rushing briskly about from one gaily decorated shop to another, a young man (Barry Mackay) goes sliding merrily down a little slope of snow. In the process, he makes friends with Tim Cratchitt ‘Tiny Tim’ (Terry Kilburn), who can’t indulge in such treats because he’s lame—and so Fred happily takes Tiny Tim on his shoulders and allows him a taste of the joy of sliding down a slope.
People who’ve been frequenting this blog for the past couple of years probably know by now that there’s one annual tradition I follow on Dusted Off: every year, on my birthday—which is today, January 8—I post a review of a film featuring someone born on the same date as me. I’ve reviewed films featuring well-known stars born on January 8: Nanda, Elvis Presley, Fearless Nadia—and some lesser-known but also good ones, like José Ferrer and Kerwin Matthews.
This year, I’m wishing a happy birthday to Ron Moody (born January 8, 1924), the British actor whose first film appearance was back in 1958, and who’s acted all the way up to (according to IMDB) 2010. To celebrate Mr Moody’s 90th birthday, I’ll be reviewing the film that won him a Golden Globe, as well as an Oscar nomination—Oliver!, the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, aka The Parish Boy’s Progress.
While writing my review of Piccadilly Jim—and comparing it to P G Wodehouse’s book—I was struck by the fact that most of the time, when I watch a film based on a novel I’ve read, I end up feeling let down. What is it, after all, that makes it difficult to recreate the magic of a book onscreen?
No, I’m certainly not saying all cinematic adaptations of books are bad; some are very good, as you’ll see in my list of ‘Goodies’, below. But there are Baddies too, and they, to my mind, far outnumber the Goodies.
When I began thinking about this topic, the first thing that came to mind was: I’m a purist. I like my books to be retained as is even on screen.
Yes, Charles Dickens was born exactly 200 years ago today – on February 7, 1812, in Portsea. In his lifetime, he wrote a number of short stories and non-fictional works, besides about a dozen major novels. He was recognised as one of Britain’s greatest writers within his lifetime – and cinema took to his stories like a duck to water. Have a look at his filmography, and you’ll see what I mean. Dozens of adaptations, feature films, short films and TV series, have been made of Dickens’s work.
So, as a tribute to Charles Dickens, here’s one of them: a story of love and hate set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. A Tale of Two Cities.