Saluting moviegoers once again, my latest “Movie Memories” post for Lanarkshire Live takes a look at the best movie adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Disney’s flagship adventure Pinocchio.
In the history of cinema, A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens’ 1843 anti-capitalist short story – is among the most suitable stories for film and television with a total of 24 film versions dating back to 1901, and over eight animated versions with new adaptations appearing regularly.
The 1951 British version of Scrooge stars the brilliant Scottish actor Alistair Sim as the cranky old miser who sees Christmas as a ‘joke’. He finds redemption following a visit from three spirits, the ghost of Christmas past, present and future, in what is widely considered his best performance.
The world of Charles Dickens is populated with wonderfully memorable characters and A Christmas Carol is an ever-popular festive fantasy drama with universal appeal.
The production, with a quintessential UK cast directed by Brian Desmond Hurst – who has been hailed as Northern Ireland’s Best Director – is a beloved classic celebrating the joy of the holiday season.
While there is still a dispute over Alistair Sim’s best screen performance, there is no doubt which one is more well-known.
His 1951 characterization of the notorious grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge is not only generally considered to be definitive, it is also the only one of his films to achieve wide circulation in America, where he has become a regular on Christmas television to compete. The Wizard of Oz .
There he was known by the title of The Original Dickensian Story A Christmas Carol but in Britain it was appointed Scrooge after the main character. And rightly so, because despite the stellar cast and a midsection where he’s temporarily usurped by George Cole playing his young self, it’s Sim’s movie from start to finish.
Victorian London decor is effectively staged, creating an atmospheric white Christmas, contrasting with the altogether harsher impression of poverty and hard times in Dickens’ literary classic.
In 1954, the two talented stars appeared in The Belles of St Trinian , the first of several British comedies featuring the daughters of St Trinian school, Alistair Sim playing the dual role of the school principal Amelia Fritton , and his brother Clarence , with George Cole as Flash Harry .
For several decades, Hollywood has been the dominant force in film musical productions. However, it was unexpected and ironic that the last of the big screen musicals was made in Britain and based on famous Dickensian stories.
Olivier (1968), winner of six Oscars including Best Picture, performed at Leicester Square Odeon in London for 90 weeks.
Scrooge (1970) is a delightful musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol , with Albert Finney in the lead role, supported by a British best of, including Alec Guinness, Edith Evans, Kenneth More, Laurence Naismith and Michael Medwin, with a fabulous ensemble of over a thousand extras.
The era of Dickensian London has been painstakingly recreated on Shepperton’s H soundstage, one of Europe’s largest. The elaborate sets built were designed by Terry Marsh, whose work on Oliver gave him valuable experience for Scrooge .
As Albert Finney was in his thirties he could play the youngest and the oldest. Scrooge . It took two hours each morning to transform Finney from a 33-year-old into a wrinkled old man, and an hour each night to remove makeup.
Her hair was flattened and a bald cap was placed over it, then a wig of fine hair was put on top of it. Layers of plastic skin were put around her eyes and on her hands to make them wrinkle, and her makeup was mixed in with the additions of plastic.
His teeth were stained yellow to complete the unpleasant effect. Creation of the role of Scrooge was a great experience as Finney recalled: “I had spent three years turning down scripts, but Scrooge rekindled my interest in acting.
Video: This is what Christmas looked like 100 years ago (Buzz60)
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“I found the role of the Utterly Bad Business Man more difficult than some of my previous roles, which didn’t really show my considerable versatility. “
Directed by Ronal Neame, with a rotating musical score, Scrooge is an uplifting and highly entertaining film that vividly captures the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.
Scrooge has been given a new lease of life every year around Christmas, when it is broadcast on UK television.
This upcoming film review is dedicated to the memory of Disney animation veteran Frank Thomas, who generously encouraged my passion for animation and collecting Disney stills and posters.
The images here of Pinocchio were courtesy of this brilliant craftsman.
One of the most anticipated Christmas events of the 1950s and 1960s was the return of the Disney classics to the Monklands cinemas in Airdrie and Coatbridge.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) may have given Walt Disney his best moment, but Pinocchio is probably his greatest film.
He shares all the qualities that have made White as snow such a success and adds to them a technical genius that has never been surpassed.
Pinocchio is one of Disney’s most visually innovative films and also its meatiest animated feature.
The film contains some of the most terrifying scenes of any Disney feature film. It contained a cast of five colorful villains, all men who delay by Pinocchio path to justice by becoming a real boy.
The plot of Pinocchio Need for a broad adaptation of the 1883 Italian children’s tale by Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio , to make it suitable for the screen.
Disney added imaginative and creative touches to the puppet story, brought to life by the Blue fairy , who can only become a real boy by being brave, sincere and honest.
Jiminy cricket bECOMES by Pinocchio friend and conscience to guide the puppet in its mission on the straight and narrow path, beautifully expressed in the song Give a little whistle .
The film has a traditional storybook opening, introduced by Jiminy cricket sing the Oscar winning song When you want a star , which would become Disney’s flagship song. Pinocchio’s animation and vocal characterizations are superb and it’s no surprise that he won an Oscar for his delightful and engaging musical score.
It reaches new heights of inventiveness, combined with extremely beautiful arrangement drawings – and the same goes for the background paints.
This creative process is largely due to the extensive use of Disney’s multiplane camera. The huge vertical camera gave depth to an animated film by using layers of painted glass backgrounds; it can contain up to six background layers.
The camera was first used in the 1937s Symphony Silly Le Vieux Moulin , and its creators received a special Oscar in the scientific and technical category. It was also used in other animated feature films in the 1940s, such as Bambi and Fancy .
After three years of production at an estimated cost of $ 2.5 million, Pinocchio came out in February 1940. It was just five months after the outbreak of World War II and the film was not an immediate success as the European market was cut off, losing Disney a vital source of income.
Nevertheless, Pinocchio has enjoyed enormous success, both critically and financially, performing admirably in future reissues.
In 1955, it opened at New Cinema Airdrie, with a special morning on Boxing Day. I loved this masterpiece and have been hooked ever since.
Pinocchio returned to Monklands once again in 1961 at the Pavilion Cinema in Airdrie. It was also during the holiday season, much to my delight and that of many children in the area who were treated to a sensational double-sided program that included the premiere of the classic Disney adventure film, Real Life and the live action. Nikki Northern Wild Dog .
Disney films were rich in simple truths and moral values. They were not only an inspiration, but also had a huge emotional impact.
We cannot go back to the golden age of cinema, but we can remember the big screens.
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