A Christmas Carol
Starring: Alastair Sims, Kathleen Harrison, Jack Warner, Marvyn Johns
Directed by: Brain Desmond Hurst
Plot: Cranky Scrooge learns the error of his unkind ways and is taught the true meaning of the holidays when he is visited by the ghost of his late business partner and the spirits of Christmas past, present and future.
My Review and Thoughts:
There are two movies that every Christmas I watch. It’s a Wonderful Life and this ultimate tour-de-force version of Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. This is the only version that in my book is worthy to watch and consider a true golden masterpiece of flawless cinema. What makes this movie a masterpiece is the very actor that holds it together in all ways. Alastair Sim’s is the very fabric and makeup of what a true actor is all about.
His performance in this film is stunning, mind numbing, and breath taking and downright dramatic to the point the viewer is in complete satisfaction. He becomes the very part and nature of Ebenezer Scrooge. There has never been anyone to ever grace the screen like Sim’s does in this part. This is the best filmed version of this movie ever done.
This 1951 classic is what true memorable movies are all about. I cannot say enough about this film or better yet about the acting of Sim’s. If anyone ever wants to know how to act in a flawless believable way then look no further than this movie, then this role.
The golden ticket is this version performed by this master of acting Sim‘s.
The way Sim’s is able to change and alter his emotions and bring on the evil emotion and then the giddy laughing reality is priceless. The moment Scrooge wakes up and its Christmas morning and he laughs and stands on his head and makes his maid think he nuts is a scene in movie history that has never been done again. This part is forever etched inside my mind. It’s an acted moment of what an art piece come to life would look like. Sim’s gives it his all in this movie he was 51 years old at the time.
This version of the classic story is the darkest version and the most reality based version to Dickens story. Brian Desmond Hurst directed and captured a true stark beauty and personal in-depth emotional horror in this film. The soul, the good, the bad, the aspect of living life or living for objects and money, Dickens wrote a spectacular story and Hurst directed a spectacular movie that would forever stay with publics conscious.
Hurst was a director that is often over looked and over shadowed in many ways. It seems Hollywood marches over his amazing talent and forgets his pictures and it’s a sad reality because Hurst was a one of a kind director that had so much talent. Hurst was born in 1895 into a working class family. His father work on wielding in shipyards. He was the seventh child. At the age of three his mother died. Hurst grandfather and two older brothers worked on the building and construction of the great ship Titanic.
Hurst has a hard life. At the age of 16 his father died, at the age of 17 his stepmother died. In 1914 he joined the war in World War 1. I think what needs to be said is his tough life more or less sparked the darker images inside his movies later on. After the war he went to Canada and went to college it would be this that would spark the work later to come in his magical film career. He started as a set designer and ended up being an extra in a film titled Hangman’s House.
Soon in Hollywood he was directing small’s plays of mystery and horror on the stage in a little place called The Play Shop. Hurst moved back to the U.K. and started making films after finding financing. His first films were Irish Hearts and an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tall Heart which was so dark and graphic that it was pulled from the screens. Next came Ourselves’ Alone and Prisons Without Bars both earning some critical acclaim and well praised.
If you trace his movie career there was always a darker spark in his movies in his wonderful 1935 film Riders of the Sea it’s a dramatic tale of a mother losing her son’s to the sea one after the other watching in horror knowing her children’s fate. It was these darker type of insets inside his films that was often over looked but if you read or understood what he came from, a rough childhood then it makes you wonder if he was not adding messages in his work showcasing his own personal demons such as with Scrooge.
One film that is often forgot about that he directed was On the Night of the Fire which was a film noir picture and had a very sinister and dark reality to it the whole good guy and bad guy reality. To make a long story short many movies later it would be his later work that would spark his lasting cinematic self mainly Scrooge. He also did the wonderful overlooked and misunderstood Malta Story. Hurst was a perfectionist, his talent was strict and he sought out trying to make the perfect film and he accomplished that with Scrooge. He passed away in 1986 after a long wonderful career.
A Christmas Carol was original titled Scrooge but in America it changed to A Christmas Carol. I think what needs to be mentioned the most is Alastair Sims was mostly a comedy actor. His main talent was making people laugh. This was a major change in that this was the harsh dramatic role that is Scrooge. Alastair Sims gave hate a new name, he gave it a senseless soul, a true on screen reality that no one has ever been able to capture again. Another focus point is the aspect of innocence mixed next to the dark side of life.
The camera work, lighting, the stage sets, the long morbid shadows, the gothic supernatural aspect mixed with the flawless acted sparks perfect memories of this classic. The inside of Scrooges house, the long dark spooky staircase all adds to the beauty of this masterpiece. There are key moments that frighten and leave the viewer dumbfounded with fear and reality.
Marley’s ghost lets out that god awful shriek, scream after Scrooge denies that he is real. Marley showing Scrooge the lost souls out the window surrounding a mother and her child on the sidewalk and most of all the very disturbing moment that has always embedded itself into my mind when the ghost of Christmas present pulls his cape back and two small frail starving dirty children half naked are stuffed under it with the titles of ignorance and want, this moment is a frightening stark impression that still remains as vivid today as it did then.
This is the perfect original art house film. A movie that nothing has ever gotten close to doing again. This will always be the definite version of the movie.