I remember the first time I saw A Christmas Carol. It was a cold Sunday afternoon, my mother was taking her after-church nap and Dad was out in the tack-room in the barn with the woodstove going, oiling saddles and ignoring the holiday fuss as much as possible. (He really was a humbug, bless him.)
I must have been all of nine-years-old and I’d just blown through my latest Trixie Belden book, so I turned on the TV, kneeled in front of it and did some channel surfing. (This was in the era BR – Before Remotes.) It didn’t take long, since we only had seven channels on a clear day, and besides, I stumbled across something that grabbed my attention right away.
The ghost of Jacob Marley flickered on the screen, wailing a stern warning for Ebenezer Scrooge. Find some holiday spirit or end up like me, a miserable spirit doomed to roam the earth forever. I curled up on the couch, entranced and terrified in equal parts, and let this strange tale work its magic on me. It became – and remains – my absolute favorite holiday story.
I’ve read it, of course, and I’ve seen it told countless times in a wild variety of ways. I love The Muppets’ Christmas Carol, the Looney Tunes’ Bah Humduck, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol. I thought the recent Disney take with a live-captured Jim Carey in the lead role was brilliant, and I adored Patrick Stewart in the 1999 made for TV version (though I kept waiting for Scrooge to tell the ghosts to Engage! or Make it so.) George C. Scott gave a remarkable performance in the 1984 remake, and Bill Murray’s snotty TV executive in Scrooged always makes me laugh.
But the quintessential Christmas Carol for me is the first one I saw, and in my mind, Alastair Sim is Ebenezer Scrooge. The film is grainy and the special effects don’t hold a candle to the more recent versions, but the bargain DVD I found in a bin at Target many years ago still gets watched every year at my house. Some things – like a good story well told, and like Christmas itself – don’t need modern upgrades. They’re wonderful and magical enough as is.
I hope your holidays are filled with good spirits!