December 08, 2021
One of the guilty pleasures I look forward to at Christmas is watching classic Christmas movies. When we were scrolling through the guide waiting for the Cats Basketball game tonight, I noticed Christmas Vacation (1989) was playing on the American Classic Movies (AMC). Most people I know have their favorite movie they look forward to seeing and Christmas Vacation is Melissa’s. Her favorite part comes where Clark is trying to get the 25,000 lights he put on his house to light (drumroll please!). For my brother it is A Christmas Story (1983) and Ralphie crawling back up the chute to Santa to tell him he wants a Red Rider BB Gun (you’ll put your eye out). I have two favorites I look forward to. These are It’s A Wonderful Life (1947) and the varieties of A Christmas Carol, especially Alister Simms (1951).
When I looked online, I found Dickens’ innocuous 1843 anti-capitalist Christian novella wound up being so good it revived an entire holiday. The over-worked middle-class and displaced poor of the Victorian era could not afford nor care about recognizing the holiday, and virtually nobody celebrated Christmas. With A Christmas Carol, Dickens emphasized feasting, snowfall, and charity, and he even coined the term “merry Christmas.” The book proved to be such a smash hit that nearly overnight, London embraced the holiday. A Christmas Carol stands among the most frequently adapted stories in the history of film and television. It is probably the most adapted story in the English language, except for perhaps the Bible. There have been at least 272 adaptations, including films, television specials, one recent FX miniseries, one opera, and even an adult version (1975). In addition, nearly every TV program between 1960 and 1990 seems to have produced a Christmas Carol episode.
Not only has the A Christmas Carol movie been reproduced in many adaptations, but I also own it in different formats. My first copy was on VHS and then when the CD came out, I bought the CD. I have watched many of the movie adaptations but admit I have not been as persistent is watching the TV show versions. I will also admit I am highly critical of the different versions of the movie. I even struggle with the colorized version of the Simms classic. At one time I had the entire Simms version memorized and would drive melissa crazy as I would repeat classic lines a moment before they were said by the characters. Melissa did not think this was a wonderful life.
Thoughts: I first remember watching It’s a Wonderful Life while I was in the middle of writing my MA Thesis on the transformation for workers during the early 20th Century. While I had no doubt seen the movie before, I never paid it much attention. As I watched this time, I saw all the classic depictions of industrial change. This included Old Man Potter, Ma Bailey’s boarding house, Bailey Park’s five room houses (bungalow) for the poor, factories shutting down in outer suburban areas, and especially the changes wrought as World War II brought the country out of the depression. From that year on these two movies have become a must see. Without them, it just would not be Christmas. The traditions of Christmas were missed by many last year. We can restart those traditions this year if we do so safely. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.