Henry Edwards' Scrooge
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol tells the story of an old man named Ebenezer Scrooge and his personal journey as he discovers the true meaning of Christmas. The main themes throughout Dickens' novella consist of the contrasting social classes during The Victorian era. Through his revelations he seeks redemption and no longer prioritizes financial wealth, but rather values his relationships with others. The 1935 film adaptation of A Chrismas Carol entitled Scrooge is considered the first 'talkie' version of Charles Dickens' 1843 novella. Directed by Henry Edwards, the 78-minute film closely resembles Dickens' original text as it sticks to the original story without considerably neglecting or changing fundamental plots and characters, as other versions have been noted to do. The film undoubtedly manages to support Dickens' criticism of the social and economic states during his life, and perfectly incorporates the original fundamental messages of A Christmas Carol through the effective use of characters, effects and overall plot.
Dickens' characters boldly describe the complexity of life during the emergence of the Victorian Era (Andrews) and the cast of Scrooge does not disappoint. Seymour Hicks is noted as playing one of the best versions of Ebenezer Scrooge, deriving his character from his own previous theatrical performances of the same nasty curmudgeon. Though other depictions of Scrooge were at times seen as somewhat comical, Hicks' character emphasized the genuine cruelness of Ebenezer Scrooge. This particular telling of the classic tale spends a substantial amount of time focused on depicting the cruel and despicable character Scrooge, emphasizing his contempt toward the poor and working-class citizens. Many historians have tended to emphasize division and weakness among the working-class and middle-class during the Victorian Era (Trainor). Through his sole concern of financial gain and his neglecting of the relationships around him, Hicks' Scrooge perfectly portrays the theme of capitalism. This antipathy accentuates how low-class individuals were regularly maltreated and were generally seen as 'less', an essential theme throughout Dickens' tale. Dickens tirelessly promoted compassionate social norms regarding the poor and oppressed (Andrews), and Scrooge undoubtedly affirms this message.
The character Tiny Tim also plays an important role in emphasizing the harsh conditions endured by the lower class. Diets restricted by income and availability of food meant low nutritional status, poor health and limited physical growth. Many poor children attended school ill-fed and exhibited obvious signs of defective nutrition (Oddy). Scrooge is one of only two films based on Dickens' tale which actually shows the dead body of Tiny Tim. This striking image reinforces the message of how poverty, slums and child labor were an unfortunate reality at the time.
Scrooge also supports the main social messages of the original text through the use effects, which create an atmosphere synonymous with that of early Victorian-era England. Edwards makes up for the lack of funding for special effects by creatively using light, darkness and shadows to produce the atmosphere of Victorian London at Christmastime. While the film focuses on building the background of the story, visuals of the contrasting social classes enhance the main themes. Homeless children run through the streets while the wealthy enjoy royal banquets with great amounts of delicious food made by chefs and catered by ervants. The starving children watch as the food is prepared, and the chef throws the imperfect bread to the children as if they were stray dogs. This film also differs from the every other version of Dickens' tale in one symbolic way: most of the ghosts are represented by a voice rather than an appearance onscreen. This effect adds a degree of mystery and encourages the use of imagination.
Cast & Crew
Directed by Henry Edwards
Produced by Julius Hagen
Writted by H. Fowler Mear
Starring Sir Seymour Hicks
Andrews, A. B. "Charles Dickens, Social Worker in His Time." Social Work 57 (2012): 297-07. Web.
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Oddy, D.J. The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950. Ed. F. M. L. Thompson. Vol. 2.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Cambridge Histories Online. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
"Scrooge (1935) Dickens Christmas Carol." 15 Dec. 2013. Youtube. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
Trainor, R. Urban History of Britain. Ed. Martin Daunton. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2001. Cambridge Histories Online. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.