It’s Christmas in July! Cool Off with Frederic March and Basil Rathbone in Several Takes on the Dickens Classic
If you knew there was a 1954 version of A Christmas Carol starring Frederic March and Basil Rathbone, you’re a better man than I am, Tiny Tim. Originally presented by Chrysler’s Shower of Stars, this was the first color adaptation (though a black and white Kinescope is all we have left) and also the first musical version. And did I mention it was scripted by Maxwell Anderson and scored by Bernard Hermann? The two even collaborated on a few original songs!
The episode was nominated for four Emmys and won for art direction. And it’s the perfect tonic for our current molten state of
Shower of Stars was hosted by William Lundigan, who also did the commercials, dashing through the “snow” in a knit pompom cap and toggle coat. (I thought the idea of giving your loved one a car for Christmas was dreamed up by the creeps over at Lexus—every year when I see those ads I have to break it to hubs that he’s not getting one, and he seems fine with it—but apparently that trope goes back to at least the 1950s! Oh and this year I’m asking for the 1956 Town and Country station wagon, which is fecking awesome.)
In this version of the Dickens tale, March plays Scrooge to Rathbone’s Marley, but Basil went on to play Scrooge two years later in another musical take, The Stingiest Man in Town, on The Alcoa Hour (with Vic Damone as young Scrooge!). He reprised the role in 1959 for a British show narrated by March; for fans of Cliff’s Notes, that one clocked in at a brisk 24 minutes.
All three shows, starting with the 1954 version, are embedded below. So crank up the A/C, break out the flaming plum pudding, and may God bless us, every one!
- Posted in: classic film ♦ classic film stars ♦ Streaming Saturdays!
- Tagged: a christmas carol, basil rathbone, bernard hermann, bob sweeney, charles dickens, christmas, chrysler, classic film, classic television, maxwell anderson, ray middleton, rishard lundigan, shower of stars, the alcoa hour, the stingiest man in town