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Member's Reviews

A Christmas Carol, a review by Antares

A Christmas Carol

Year: 1938
Film Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Genre: Drama, Classic
Length: 69 Min.

Edwin L. Marin

Charles Dickens (1812)...Original Material By
Hugo Butler...Screenwriter

Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1909)

Sidney Wagner (1901)
John F. Seitz (1892)

Reginald Owen (1887) as Ebenezer Scrooge
Gene Lockhart (1891) as Bob Cratchit
Kathleen Lockhart (1894) as Mrs. Cratchit
Terry Kilburn (1926) as Tiny Tim Cratchit
Barry MacKay as Fred
Lynne Carver as Bess
Leo G. Carroll (1886) as Jacob Marley's ghost
Lionel Braham as Spirit of Christmas Present

       For oh so many years, the holiday season has meant for me, my yearly viewing of my favorite Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol. This story has been told so many times throughout the years, that I think it possible to play every version and variation back to back, and not repeat an instance for the entire twelve days of Christmas.  The truth be told, I generally will only watch three versions of this classic tale, which I rate in this order: Scrooge (1951) Alastair Sim, A Christmas Carol (1984) George C. Scott and if I'm looking for a somewhat 'entertaining' version, the musical Scrooge (1970) Albert Finney. The criteria I look for in an adaptation of Dickens tale of redemption are the following; (1) Ebenezer Scrooge must be mean, miserly and completely loathsome in his pre-conversion personality, (2) the narrative must stay as close to the original story as possible and (3) the settings in the film must portray London as it was during Dickens time. A cold, dreary and unforgiving city, where fortune smiles upon the few, at the cost of the many.

       Throughout the years, I have watched almost every version of this story put to celluloid. But for some unknown reason, I never came to view the MGM version from 1938, starring Reginald Owen as Scrooge. Well, after finally righting this wrong, I find that I wasn't missing much. This is by far, the worst adaptation of my favorite Christmas classic. Not only does it fail to meet the requisites I mentioned in the previous paragraph, but the performances as a whole, are wholly unbelievable and largely over the top. Terry Kilburn, who was outstanding as four generations of the Colley family, in Goodbye Mr. Chips, plays Tiny Tim as if he's suffering from an intake of too much sugar, topped with a dollop of ADD. He's too manic and cheery to play the suffering, yet hopeful cherub. Gene Lockhart, who is one of my favorite character actors, is woefully miscast as Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's destitute clerk. One look at Lockhart does not create visions of a man struggling to feed his large family, on the contrary, it looks more like he has gorged himself at an all you can eat buffet.

       And finally, the story goes that MGM had initially intended for this film to made with Lionel Barrymore in the lead role. Barrymore had been reciting the story on radio every yuletide season for years, and his recitation was so popular, that MGM decided that it would be a perfect vehicle for his acting talent. The cast was hired, the crew was in place and the sets were completed. But an unfortunate accident on the set of another picture would derail the project, Barrymore had fallen and broken his leg, and would be unable to play the lead. In my eyes, it would be a stroke of fortune for one of my favorite actors of the period, as he would miss out on participating in this train wreck of MGM interpretation. Chosen to take his place, at Barrymore's suggestion, was Reginald Owen, a long time bit player and character actor. This would be Owen's lone starring role and he must have decided to make the most of it. First, his appearance is almost comical as opposed to despicable. While I was watching I had a sense of a cross between the wizard from The Wizard of Oz and any adult character from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His hunched over, hobbling gait looks forced and without any sense of believability. And finally, his delivery of many of the famous quips from Scrooge are entirely over the top.

       If you have never watched any versions of Dicken's timeless classic, steer clear of this debacle, it's a complete waste of time. But if you're the type that adds sugar to your Cap'n Crunch, because it's 'just not sweet enough', then this version may be to your liking.

Ratings Criterion

(From A Christmas Carol (1938) on December 4th, 2009)

Member's Reviews

Frances, a review by Eric


Summary: Jessica Lange delivers the performance of her career as Frances Farmer, the notorious 1930's movie star whose impassioned opinions and outspoken behavior created scandal throughout the industry. But when she was betrayed by the studio system and committed to an insane asylum by her domineering mother, Frances descended into a madness that revealed the most horrific abuses of mental illness and exposed the cruelest consequences of Hollywood fame.

Kim Stanley and Sam Shepherd co-star in this tragic true story that shocked the world. FRANCES is now presented in a stunning new transfer from original film materials and is packed with startling new bonus features exclusive to this edition.

My Thoughts: This is the typical story of a woman who was born in a time where she couldn't settle for what society allowed her to be.  Truly beautiful, intelligent, opiniated and strong minded, she became an actress in a Hollywood who wanted nothing else from women than be beautiful and do as they were told.  Unfortunately for her, Frances was not of that type and she lived a life full of frustrations and deceptions.  Child of a controlling mother, probably schizophrenic, who wanted to live through her daughter the life that she never had, the only place where Frances could ever seek refuge ended up to be the most damaging to her.  Unable to control her emotions, she often had outbursts of rage which got her labeled as mentally sick and institutionalized.  After receiving monstrous treatments that were common in her time she had a lobotomy and was released from the institution.  She worked in television and died in 1970.

That is a very good movie, for me it was one of those blind buys that turn out to be such a nice choice.  Jessica Lange and Kim Stanley both give extremely good performances.  Some of their scenes together are shockingly good.  I really really liked that movie and very strongly recommend it.

My Score: 10/10, I want use my regular scoring system because this movie is worth much more than just a stupid smiley with a thumb up ;) (But that comment is worth a stupid smiley with an eye closed).

A featurette on the DVD shows pictures of Frances Farmer, the film doesn't when painting her a very beautiful woman, see for yourself.

(From Eric's DVD watching. on June 2nd, 2008)

Member's TV Reviews

Tom's TV Finales marathon, a review by Tom

     Black Adder IV: Black Adder Goes Forth (1989/United Kingdom)
IMDb | Wikipedia

(United States)
Length:178 min.
Video:Full Frame 1.33:1
Audio:English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

The Western Front 1917: There's disorder in the ranks when that numb-headed ninny, Captain Blackadder, stumbles onto the battlefields of WWI and discovers that people are trying to kill him. The British may be able to defeat the Germans, but it's unlikely they'll ever survive a comic assault by Blackadder.

Black Adder
Series 4.06 Goodbyeee
Writer: Richard Curtis (Writer), Ben Elton (Writer)
Director: R Boden
Cast: Rowan Atkinson (Captain Edmund Blackadder), Tony Robinson (Private S Baldrick), Stephen Fry (Gen. Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett), Hugh Laurie (Lt. Hon. George Colthurst St. Barleigh), Tim McInnerny (Captain Kevin Darling), Geoffrey Palmer (Field Marshal Haig)

The fourth and last series of Blackadder is also good. Although I like the second and third better. But this series has a very well done ending. Probably the best of all series.


(From Tom's TV Finales marathon on February 17th, 2013)