Monday, December 16, 2013

Year Two. Day Sixteen: "Shower of Stars: A Christmas Carol" (1954)

"Shower of Stars" was a popular CBS variety show which ran between 1954 and 1958. Part platform for familiar talents of the time, part vehicle for the show's sponsor, Chrysler, "Shower of Stars" was one of the first programmes of its kind to be broadcast in colour - and their 1954 adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" is believed to be the first colour version ever made, (unfortunately, the only versions which survive are in black and white, meaning that this very standard retelling of the story has lost the only facet that would make it of interest historically...)

Show regular Frederic March plays Scrooge and does so satisfactorily, bereft of flourishes of overacting, nor any particular insight into the character. That said, after a series of increasingly bizarre adaptations I have sat through in these past few days, it was a welcome relief to get back to Scrooge's counting house and the snowy streets of (a very stagy looking) London.

Basil Rathbone plays Marley with as much aplomb as would be expected. Rathbone will forever be known for his wildly popular portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, but his career was hugely diverse, long and acclaimed. His appearance as the first ghost is enjoyable yet sadly brief.

This adaptation features a handful of songs which was an unwelcome addition. I love a good musical, but this is not a good musical and the songs do nothing but slow down a story which already has only 50 minutes to fill. The musical interludes range from the forgettable to the unbearable, with one song appearing to go on for an interminable length, despite seeming to consist only of the word "merry" sung over and over again, another song is so shriekingly high pitched I had fears it would cause my dog's ears to bleed.

Proceedings are repeatedly stopped to allow for extended commercials for Chrysler's range of cars - It would seem they were unable to slip them into a Dickensian adaptation itself. These do little to help distract from the choppy, discordant play we are watching.

It isn't a terrible adaptation, just one where it feels as if everyone, from the actors, to the director, the writer and the songwriters are all aiming for "good enough" - or, to quote a scene from "30 Rock" where Liz Lemon, having performed an onscreen piece of product placement for a mobile phone, looks directly into the camera and asks "Can we have our money now?"

As ruthlessly commercial as opening shop on Boxing Day.

"Shower of Stars: A Christmas Carol." (1954)   2/5

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