When Classics Get Precious

Observatory, Reading & Writing

Scrooge pleasures himself on a bollard as Big Ben rises

Scrooge pleasures himself on a bollard as Big Ben rises


Enough now. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point in my lifetime Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ turned from a nice 66 page story about the spirit of Christmas into a gigantic ‘beloved classic’ industry. Worse still, it turned into a brand.
Now, I love it as much as anyone else (give me the definitive Alistair Sim film version over the dead-puppet ride Disney is touting) but what propelled it to rise above all the other excellent Victorian and Edwardian Christmas stories? Was it the fact that because Dickens toured America, it was recognised as filmable? When I was a kid Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’ was the Christmas story of choice, in the same way that ‘tom thumb’ was our Christmas movie and not ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (which I have never seen).
Every culture has its own changing reference points, and now I would select ‘Tokyo Godfathers’, ‘Joyeux Noel’ and ‘Day Of The Beast’ for my alternative Christmas viewing. But when I read this article, sent from my Canadian friend Ian Martin, in which the museum curators discuss which kind of microplush to rest Dickens’s manuscript on, I did start to wonder if the whole brand thing had gone too far.

11 comments on “When Classics Get Precious”

  1. Steve says:

    There is something vaguely x-rated about that scene…..

    I’ve never been a big fan of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Don’t mind if I don’t see it at Christmas, but I feel the pain if I miss Alastair Sim. He’s not well known in America, but his performance as Scrooge is phenomenal. No one’s come close, IMHO.

  2. Steve says:

    Love the new layout by the way.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    One thing I found interesting in that illustration from the Disney movie is the fact that St. Stephen’s Tower (containing Big Ben) is under construction. I’m surprised that the studio paid attention to dates in that way. Or do they build up some sort of incident that…. no, I don’t want to know.
    “It’s a Wonderful Life” doesn’t have a previous existence in the way “A Christmas Carol” does. It may have been written in some other form (I’ll check the credits this year)but it’s the movie that everyone here knows. It’s very interesting to look beyond the incidents in the story and look at the history and sociology. That movie explains the rationale for a number of American attitudes about banks, health care, and home ownership.
    The other item that hasn’t been mentioned is Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”. I heard it first on the radio, read by Thomas in a recording that is regularly played in late December. I have always loved it, especially hunting the cats and then throwing the snowballs to put out the fire. I was asked by a teacher with laryngitis to read it to her class, because it was an important part of the celebrations in her classroom. It is just as sentimental as Wonderful Life, but just as cozy, too. They made a film of it, a film which I carefully ignore.
    The new layout is elegant, but it will take a while to get used to. The photo heading is crisp and clear now and all the mystery is gone.

  4. I.A.M. says:

    It does look like Ebeneezer id pleasuring himself on a bollard, doesn’t it?

    Did you know that bollards originally were made from up-ended cannons removed from captured French Navy destroyers, which is why they have that shape? I read it the other night in a book, which was called Bryant & May on the Loose. Wonderful mystery so far, it was written by… oh… oh, right… never mind.

  5. I.A.M. says:

    Damn. IS pleasuring himself. No idea if he’s indulging in exercising his id, his ego, or even his super-ego.

    I also love this new layout / design / theme. The header images look fantastic, and pone suspects they’re by what’s-his-name who has all those glorious aerial pictures. His ability to use available light to enhance the scene is masterful, and something that many attempt without even approaching competency.

  6. Steve says:

    I Just discovered that “On The Loose” is available on Kindle – and immediately downloaded it.
    I know what I’ll be reading tonight!

  7. Mind you, for a while I had the feeling the Christmas movies of choice on American TV were The Wizard of Oz and Santa Claus Conquers the Martian, as they seemed to recur doggedly at thaty time. And one might make a case for Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life being a seasonal movie. Salmon mousse notwithstanding.

  8. Steve says:

    “The Wizard of Oz” does seem to be shown most frequently at Christmas time over here. As for “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”…….I vaguely remember seeing it once many years ago and wondering why I was bothering to watch.
    The mention of Salmon mousse is mystifying, unless it’s one of those traditional Christmas foods in the UK.
    Living in the Northwest of the US, I’m used to seeing a lot of salmon everything year round.

  9. Sam Tomaino says:

    Actually, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is more than just a Christmas movie. It’s a movie about the worth of every individual, even if they have not achieved what the world regards as great things.
    Now this American got a Region Free DVD player just so he could see more Alastair Sim movies. I’m not kidding. Sim is known here primarily for his Scrooge. Little else is available on Region 1 DVD.

  10. I.A.M. says:

    If memory serves, the Salmon Mousse is the cause of the dinner party’s members deaths in Th Meaning of Life.

    I had forgotten about Santa Clause Conquers the Martians until it was mentioned… not sure if it’s good or not that I’ve been reminded, thought.

  11. Mike Cane says:

    >>>not ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (which I have never seen).

    Oh dear freakin god. I’m shocked. Still, it’s an AMERICAN movie — possibly one of THE MOST American.

    Sue me. I love it:
    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/12/24/merry-christmas-2008/

    Hm, you better not click that, Chris. SPOILER!

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