I wonder if Charles Dickens rolled over in his grave when he caught wind that his classic Christmas Carol had inspired Vanessa Williams to play “Ebony Scrooge” in “A Diva’s Christmas Carol” in 2000. Or maybe it was Tori Spelling playing Carol “Scroogette” Cartman in 2003’s “A Carol Christmas” that really agitated his old bones. Either way, there have been an astounding number of Scrooges portrayed in films over the years – some spot-on and some… well… not so good.
Personally, I’ve always imagined Scrooge to be a curmudgeonly Christophobic crank like Alastair Sim (1951), Seymour Hicks (1913, 1935), or George C. Scott (1984). Don’t get me wrong, I love Kelsey Grammer (2004), Henry Winkler (1979), and Patrick Stewart (1999) and all, but they just aren’t haggard enough, raspy enough, or cold-hearted enough to be a real Scrooge for me, in every sense of the world. I just can’t stop chuckling over my favorite episode of Frasier, recalling how The Fonz was so good at getting that dang juke box to work, or picturing Captain Jean-Luc Picard benevolently commanding the Starship Enterprise. (For the record, The Fonz could possibly be one of the worst Scrooges in living memory.)That is not to say Scrooge needs to be completely conventional. One of my favorite Scrooges of all time is still Bill Murray (1988). He’s just convincingly sarcastic enough to pull it off. We all know someone who is, perhaps not downright cruel, but certainly self-absorbed, conceited, career-centric, and blinded by how one’s actions can affect others. Didn’t your heart just go out to poor Claire Phillips? Naturally, it didn’t hurt to have Carol Kane, John Glover and Bobcat Goldthwaite cameos either. The whole movie was just a delight in a world of Miracle on 34th Streets and It’s a Wonderful Lifes.
There’s no limit to how we can re-imagine Charles Dicken’s tale. Scrooge has been black, white, male, female. He’s even been by a computer animated Jim Carrey. Some imagine Scrooge’s voice to be a Walter Matthau, while others imagine Tim Curry. There’s quite a disparity there, wouldn’t you say? A Christmas Carol has been translated to Barbie, The Muppets, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Mister Magoo, and The Flintstones. Given all the possibilities, the question is not will there be another Scrooge in the future, but who will be the next Scrooge?
Readers: What do you think?