The Holly and the Ivy (1952) – A Movie Review

Here’s one last Christmas movie review for the season.  It’s a small British film from 1952 with Ralph Richardson cast as Reverend Martin Gregory, a parson in a small Norfolk village.  He is recently widowered and lives with his older daughter Jenny.  His younger daughter Margaret lives in London working as a fashion journalist and his son Michael is in the British Army.  Jenny is in love with an engineer named David Paterson but David has a job offer that would send him to South America for five years.  But Jenny says she cannot leave her aging father alone and refuses to even tell him about her love because then he would sacrifice his needs for the sake of her happiness.

The siblings will be returning home for Christmas along with two elderly aunts and a friend of the family.  The drama turns on the tensions arising out of the grown children’s fears about what they believe are their father’s intolerant religious principles.  The younger daughter lives in London to hide the existence of her illegitimate child from her whole family so that they wouldn’t be burdened with hiding this secret from their father.

During the course of the Christmas visit all these secrets come out and Martin realizes that his manner has made him unapproachable to his children thereby isolating and harming them.  He has frank discussions with his visiting son and daughter and does his best to convince them that he is not an inhuman religious fanatic but a man who loves his children and is not unrealistic about his expectations for human beings and their problems.  And once the secrets are exposed a resolution of the practical problem of Martin’s household needs is very satisfactorily found.

Ralph Richardson’s Martin is quite moving in his portrayal of a man struggling to connect with his children through the distance that his station in life has created.  He shows compassion and humility when his children relate the tragedies that have plagued them and he defends the life affirming nature of his faith and rejects the idea that he has not faced similar problems in his life.  He shows himself a warm human being and dispels the illusion that he has allowed his children to build of him as some kind of caricature of an Old Testament prophet summoning down lightning on the heads of his erring descendants.

All the actors perform admirably including the more ancillary characters like David, the aunts and the family friend.  The script is warm and intelligent and the plot plays out in a streamlined eighty minutes.  In fact, I could have wished it had been a little longer.  As opposed to the bleak cinema that Britain produced in the 1960s this movie, based on a play by Wynyard Browne, is life-affirming and ultimately optimistic.  Highly recommended for Christmas time but really enjoyable at any time of the year.

25DEC2020 – OCF Update – Merry Christmas All You Wonderful People Out There!

As is now emblematic of 2020, this morning was as weird as any other day of the year.  Freight train winds rattled the house and frightened the dogs.  Torrential rains melted the foot of snow that was on the ground and roofs yesterday.  The little steam that feeds the pond is a raging torrent this morning and is swelling it up beyond it’s normal shores.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the spring peepers woke up and started singing.  Somehow the power hasn’t flickered and the internet connection is still intact.  But yes, it’s more of the good old 2020 pandemonium rolling along.

But Camera Girl is un-phased.  Potatoes are boiled and mashed.  The roast and the ham are in the oven.  The cakes and pies are baked.  The kids’ presents are wrapped (I helped with that!). The rolls are baked, the side dishes are cooked and the house is clean.  The various Christmas cookies are loaded into cookie jars and the table is set.

And right on cue the winds are dying down and the rain is down to a gentle tapping on the roofs.  The kids will be here in a few hours and we’ll have some fun.

Wherever you are I hope you get at least a little enjoyment from Christmas 2020.  These aren’t exactly the best of times but they are our times and we have to make of them what we can.

 

Merry Christmas to all of you folks out there and we’ll take what comes and try to make it better.

Christmas Cooking, Sony A7 III, Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens

 

The Inside Baseball of Film Versions of “A Christmas Carol” – Part 2

A couple of years ago, in the first installment of this essay, I wrote about the plot devices that were added in the 1951 and 1984 movie versions that weren’t written in Dickens’ novella.  And those two versions are my favorites.  The actors playing Scrooge in each case do a memorable job with the part.  And the productions are very good.

There are several other versions that I have watched several times.  There is a musical version with Albert Finney as Scrooge which has its points.  And the 1938 movie with Reginald Owens as Scrooge is acceptable.  But I’ve never cared for his acting style in the part.

But recently a friend told me he regards the 1938 version as his favorite.  Well, tastes differ so I just chalked it up to that.  But when this came up again during a conversation I asked if he thought Owens was the better Scrooge.  He said no.  What he liked about the 1938 version was the greater screen time given to the Cratchit family.  He thought that Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit and the rest of the family made the movie.

Since I had never analyzed the movie in that sense, I decided to give it another viewing.  In the 1938 version Gene Lockhart’s wife Kathleen plays Mrs. Cratchit and his daughter June Lockhart played Belinda Cratchit, one of the daughters.  Watching the various scenes they are in, it’s apparent that the Cratchit component of the story has been amplified.  The Christmas dinner scene is quite long and includes much more detail than any of the other versions.  And several other additional scenes involve Bob, Tim or Peter Cratchit interacting with either Scrooge or his nephew Fred.

And I noticed that Scrooge’s part had also been modified in this version.  Instead of the Ghost of Christmas Past bringing Scrooge to see his corruption by money he stops the ghost after the earlier Fezziwig scene.  Considered in the sense of time on the screen, the Cratchits are actually a larger part of the movie than Scrooge.  I think that is why someone might prefer this version.  It minimizes the amount of time spent with Scrooge.  So, if you aren’t primarily interested in Scrooge’s transformation then this would be the version that you would be drawn to.

Looked at in that light I understand the opinion.  But even though I will admit that the Cratchit family scenes in this version are attractive and enjoyable I have to go back to the story of Scrooge.  That is the center of the story and the reason for the action.

But it does bring up another trivia question.  Which is the best Cratchit family?  The most pitiable Tiny Tim is the one in the 1984 version.  He looks like he may keel over at any moment.  But for the rest of the Cratchit family including Bob I’d pick the ones in the 1951 version.  They seem the most authentic.

One thing that I notice is that no matter how many times I watch the various versions of A Christmas Carol I’m still affected by the emotions.  The Cratchits’ sorrow over Tim and Scrooge’s contrition and almost manic joy at being given a second chance always warm my heart.  Obviously, I’m over-sentimental and probably associate the feelings I felt when seeing these movies in my youth.  But whatever the reason they still work after all these years.  This is a tribute to Dickens’ genius but also to the culture that honored the humanity embedded in the Christmas spirit.  Peace on Earth, good will to men.  Or as Tiny Tim says, “God bless us all, everyone.

23DEC2020 – OCF Update – Christmas Holiday Notes

Well, that last post ( The Deplorables Are Waiting for a Sign ) must have hit a nerve.  I think a whole lot of people are just as fed up.  And as I said I think they’re right.  Words aren’t going to change anything so what’s the use of a lot of talk.

So I think I’ll take a couple of days and enjoy some really splendiferous food out of Camera Girl’s kitchen and spend some time with the family and think a little bit before I pontificate.  In the absence of a successful action to send Creepy Uncle Joe back to the cracker factory I think that local actions will be the only things that do any good.

I may have some reviews and maybe some links if anything good shows up but I’ll spend the next couple of days enjoying life.  I hope you do too.

Merry Christmas

photog

19DEC2020 – OCF Update

The Christmas season is upon us here and it is taking its toll on my writing schedule.  But I’ll crank somethings out as soon as something interesting catches my attention.  In the meantime I’ll be providing movie, music and book reviews as I finish them.

The election and its aftermath are the big question on everyone’s mind but I’m already focusing on how the two camps in our country will begin dealing with each other.  I’m expecting that there will be a reaction to the election fraud in some major way.  The idea of a new party is one version but some kind of organization will be needed and also a clear plan for making the needed changes to who represents us.  I’m also interested to see who step up to become the leaders of our new movement.  President Trump, of course will be in the forefront.  But what needs to be seen is who are the leaders for the future.  We also need governors and senators who aren’t losers.  No more McCains, no more Romneys.  And we need new media that won’t lie to us and stifle our voices.

On a personal note Christmas Eve and Christmas are shaping up nicely with Lasagna on the Eve and a Roast for Christmas.  And it looks like we won’t have bitterly cold weather but actually quite warm (50’s).  And I assume all you folks out there are spending less time on-line and more time with your holiday plans too.

 

So hang in there and I’ll have some interesting content soon.

 

 

Getting into the Christmas Spirit in 2020

With all the horror that 2020 has provided I thought it would be extremely difficult to enjoy my annual ritual of watching my favorite holiday movies.  Just to start it off correctly I watched both the 1951 and 1984 movie versions of “A Christmas Carol.”  Surprisingly, I enjoyed them even more than I did last year under much less trying circumstances.  The scenes with Scrooge after his repentance are exactly what I needed to start enjoying the holidays the way I like to.  Surrounded by the squalor of the election fraud and the forced isolation of the COVID overreaction I needed to see scenes of joy and heartfelt emotion to wake my spirit up to the feelings of the season.

Wherever we are, even those of us locked down in this sad sham of an epidemic, we have many friends and loved ones that we can reach by phone or e-mail or by sending a little gift with a card.  Doing that will relieve some of the isolation and it will do a great deal of good for both the recipient and you.

And even if you are completely alone, maybe you can make a special meal for yourself and read a good book or watch a pleasant movie and reminisce about better times and look forward to better times to come.  Life ebbs and flows.  There are bound to be highs and lows.  This is a low point.  It will improve.  But letting Christmas pass without acknowledging it would make it even worse.  And I’m definitely not saying people should spend a lot of money or go through elaborate preparations for a party that no one will be attending.  Far from it.  One of few advantages that the present situation provides us is extra time for reflection.

We all rush through life without considering if we’re missing the bigger point.  Children grow quickly and people age without us realizing it.  We drift in and out of the lives of friends and then we’re left standing at a funeral wondering what happened to the time.  There’s definitely room for re-ordering priorities and reaching out to those we’ve lost track of.

When the world is going to hell in a handbasket is probably the best time to get your own life into better shape.  And the natural time to do that is at the end of the year.  Christmas and New Year are the perfect time to reflect and not just on the negatives.  Even those of us going through extremely hard times can take some solace from memories of the better times.  Those good things were real and we did enjoy them.  Remembering that joy can get you through some tough days.  Reliving it with someone who was also there makes it even better.

I come from a large family that truly relishes dark humor.  We reminisce about the most awful circumstances that we lived through together.  But this year I’ll look to remind them of some of the happier things that came with growing up in a large family.  If nothing else we can celebrate that we’ve beaten the odds and are all still alive and relatively healthy.  And we’ve got kids and grandkids too.  None of us is starving and there isn’t even a really strong feud going on in the sibling group which is pretty remarkable for us.  We won’t be getting together for Christmas which will break a decades long tradition.  But we can have a video conference and we can exchange presents and greetings.  That will help.

So, this is long enough.  My advice to everyone out there is don’t let the bastards get you down.  Make an effort to revive your Christmas spirit and I’ll bet it will be well worth your effort.

Luke 2:1-20 King James Version (KJV)

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

24DEC2019 – Christmas Eve – OCF Update

Merry Christmas !

Posting will be less frequent today and tomorrow for obvious reasons.  Camera Girl and I will be visiting with the relatives and I will be eating entirely too much rich food.  To all the readers (even you atheists and woke weirdos) I hope you have the brightest and best holiday with those you hold dear.

“when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.”