All right, NOW it’s Christmas.
I know, it’s still Advent, but seriously: Christmas.
I just made the best find. At the Sam Goody. Yes, Steubenville’s little mall has an actual Sam Goody store straight out of the 90s, at least until January when it’s set to close. But since it’s about to close, all of Sam Goody’s goodies were 40% off. I went in there thinking I could get something Godzilla-related for my daughter, but some how I walked out with The Exorcist and the 1938 film adaptation of A Christmas Carol, starring Reginald Owen and the Three Lockhearts.
I told Rose she’s not allowed to watch The Exorcist until she’s at least sixteen, and she looked disappointed. She knows I speak very highly of it. It went up on the shelf with Farscape and the Stanley Kubrick collection.
And then we sat down to watch A Christmas Carol.
This film is not at all my favorite version of A Christmas Carol. It’s unbelievably cheesy. The Cratchits don’t look poor at all, there’s some blonde toothpaste model playing the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present is clearly an unemployed Shakespeare actor high on amphetamines; Fan’s name has been changed to “Fran” for no reason,and young Ebenezer looks like he’s wearing lipstick. The film takes many liberties with the plot, most notably a scene where Bob Cratchit gets fired for throwing a snowball at Scrooge’s hat. All but one of the “children” look to be in their twenties.
And the acting… well, just look at this clip.
Mind you, It wouldn’t have been easy for even the most brilliant actors to act out this scene. If I told Dame Judi Dench “put on this nightgown, pretend to be manic and about ten years younger than you actually are, then come over and feel this obviously goose-shaped package and ask your father if it’s tripe or sausages,” I don’t think she could pull it off. I’d pay to watch her try, but I don’t think she could pull it off.
Still, there’s such a cheeriness to this version, a kind of overblown silliness as if you’re watching a puppet play. Just the thing for a dreary late December evening, waiting for Christmas to come.Rose was pleased to sit on my lap and watch the whole thing, though I had to explain the dialogue from time to time. I interjected with tiresome parent Socratic questions now and then. “Do you think Scrooge hates his nephew because Fan died? Do you think that the future looks so ugly because Scrooge has been bad?”
She laughed with disbelief when Mrs. Cratchit brought in a flaming plum pudding. I couldn’t think of any Socratic questions to teach her the concept of flambee.
But she laughed hardest of all when Scrooge woke up on Christmas morning, shook the mattress, pulled the bed curtains, and realized he was alive. Alive, and he had a chance to change.
The Cratchits did not laugh, at first, in the apocryphal but entertaining scene where Scrooge took the turkey and an armload of presents to their house himself. They thought that Scrooge had lost his mind. I wish I had a clip of the glorious stagey acting when Bob Cratchit proclaimed “He’s insane. Quite mad. Off his top. Lost his buttons!” Mrs. Cratchit promptly hides in the closet. Nephew Fred arrives and says, “Did you think he’d gone barmy too? No, he hasn’t. He’s made me his partner.”
But the Cratchit children don’t care whether Mr. Scrooge has gone barmy or lost his buttons. The Cratchit children are hysterically happy, giggling like maniacs over their new toys. They don’t question Mr. Scrooge’s change of heart. They just rejoice, as Rose was rejoicing. They accept a glass of punch and drink a toast with the strange old man. “God bless us, every one!”
“He learned to be good,” I explained to Rose, unnecessarily.
Rose squealed with joy.
He learned to be good.
I think that, in Heaven, the Christ Child squeals like a 1930s child actor whenever someone learns to be good. I think the angels, who are ancient but as innocent as newborns, squeal with Him. I think that when we who are evil– we tight-fisted hands at the grindstone, squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinners every one of us, just like Scrooge in our own way– when we wake up, realize that we are alive and resolve to change for the better, God sees that for the miracle it is.
The world asks if we’ve gone barmy, off our top, lost our buttons, but this doesn’t occur to the Lord. The Lord is a child at Christmastime.
We have grown old in our sin, but through His mercy we can be made like He is.
God bless us, every one.
(image via Pixabay)