A Christmas Carol (1923)
Article 5768 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Edwin Greenwood
Featuring Russell Thorndike, Nina Vanna, Forbes Dawson
What it is: You already know
You know the story.
About six minutes into this adaptation of the Dickens classic, Scrooge runs outside and assaults a boy with a clipboard who was singing outside of Scrooge’s door. This left me the impression that our Scrooge this time was particularly vile, and out of curiosity I checked the running time of the movie, and was disappointed to find out that it ran a scant 27 minutes. Why did this disappoint me? I’ll explain. I’ve seen and reviewed so many versions of this story that I finally settled on some specific criteria that I would use to evaluate any further version I encountered. The main question I ask of any version of this story is this: Is Scrooge treated as a full-blooded human being, or is he treated as an icon of miserliness?
Let me elaborate. I’ve always held that the real meat of the story of “A Christmas Carol” takes place during the visits of the three ghosts who take Scrooge on a tour of his life story. It is only through reliving and experiencing these events that Scrooge is able to convincingly make the transformation that must occur for him to be the Scrooge he is at the end of the story. If a movie gives these sequences short shrift, it betrays the fact that it isn’t interested in Scrooge as a full-blooded character, but only as the icon of miserliness. And, true enough, the visits from the three ghosts barely register here; in fact, the Ghost of Christmas Present does little more than tell Scrooge he won’t be hanging around with him this holiday season. On the other hand, the movie uses the lion’s share of its running time having Scrooge play the miser.
No, it’s not the worst offender in this regard, but I’m always disappointed when an adaptation of this story makes that choice. Nor do I understand why this version so much time with Scrooge’s nephew’s family and completely ignores the character of Tiny Tim. This is not my favorite version of the story by a long shot.