“God bless Us, Every One.”
I am quite certain that I have seen every movie version of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, and at least one live stage performance. And just this past weekend I saw the most recent screen adaptation, titled The Man Who Invented Christmas. Though not exactly the classic story itself, it relates, through a wondrous mixture of biography and fantasy, Dickens’ struggle in writing it. And the tale is told in its fullness—a universal story of sin and redemption, sadness and joy, with just enough social commentary to remind the viewer that Charles Dickens was a reformer, often using his literary skills to illuminate the plight of the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and the imprisoned in nineteenth century London.
Some of the movie versions of A Christmas Carol are done well (as is The Man Who Invented Christmas) and some not; a few are embarrassments. And one is perfect—or nearly so; for reasons I cannot imagine the classic 1952 version starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge, exquisite in almost every way, excludes the scene referenced below (no doubt cut by a Scrooge-like script editor), one of the most poignant in the story and a personal favorite. It is an interchange between Scrooge and his nephew, Fred, who has just entered Scrooge’s office to wish him a “Merry Christmas”. A statement of the universality of the Christmas message, it is offered in the spirit of peace and hope for all:
Scrooge: “You come to wish me a “Merry Christmas”? Humbug! If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips would be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. Bah! Humbug! What good has it ever done you?!”
Fred: “There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say. Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!
(At the close of The Man Who Invented Christmas it is noted that immediately following the publication of A Christmas Carol in London on December 19, 1843, charitable giving rose dramatically. Thank you, Charles Dickens.)