Friday, December 06, 2019

“Why, It’s Old Fezziwig!” | Campfire’s A Christmas Carol (2010)

Scott McCullar and Naresh Kumar give almost two pages to Fezziwig's party. It begins with Old Scrooge and the Ghost appearing in the warehouse and Fezziwig's desk is elevated above everyone else. Dickens never says why this is so, but the way the office is laid out in this version makes me wonder if it's so Fezziwig can keep an eye on everything. Not in any kind of micro-managing way, naturally, but just so he can know what's going on at a glance if he's needed. And maybe so all the employees can know if he's available.

That's one thing different about this version: all the employees. It's not just Scrooge and Dick at work; there's a whole staff. I suppose that's to help explain the crowd at the party, but in Dickens the party-goers seem to be made up mostly of Fezziwig's household (maids, bakers, cooks, milkmen, etc.) and people who don't have anywhere else to celebrate. It's hard for adaptations to point out that social outsiders make up so much of the party, but this one obfuscates it even more by creating a whole other source of celebrants. It doesn't even specifically mention Fezziwig's family, though the crowd does grow when the party begins, so clearly it's not just employees.

We never get a great look at Fezziwig or his hair, but he does seem a bit plump and he's probably wearing some kind of old-fashioned, brown wig.

True to Dickens, Old Scrooge points out Dick Wilkins and mentions that "poor Dick" was "very much attached" to Young Scrooge without going into any more detail about what that means or whatever happened to Dick.

Fezziwig instructs Scrooge and Dick to put up the shutters, which is curious since there are so many other employees in the room as well. As Fezziwig's apprentices, maybe Scrooge and Dick have some kind of leadership responsibilities over the rest of the staff.

There's just one panel of the actual party and I couldn't pick out the fiddler in it. It's just a shot of people dancing with narrative text describing food and festivities of the evening. If Belle is there, she's not mentioned.

Scrooge watches most of this pensively, but there's a little smile on his face throughout. Text from Dickens tell us that "his heart and soul were in the scene," but he's not visually exuberant about it. Which is totally cool. The impression I get is that the scene is giving him some peace and I very much like that. I've been running a theory that this Scrooge's ghosts and visions may all be in his head and that his mind is working to heal itself after a lifetime of building unhealthy, perhaps even sociopathic walls between him and the rest of the world. He may or may not have supernatural assistance in this, but either way, Scrooge's brain would be trying to calm itself by recalling these scenes. And it seems to be working.

The text mentions Scrooge and Dick's "pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig," but it's during the party, not after. The party-goers don't even leave the warehouse until a couple of panels later as Scrooge is still defending Fezziwig's generosity.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

“Why, It’s Old Fezziwig!” | A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel (2008)

The Fezziwig scene gets five pages in Classical Comics' version by Sean Michael Wilson and Mike Collins, so there are a lot of details included that were missing from Classics Illustrated and Marvel's version. The first panel inside the warehouse has Scrooge and the Ghost looking up at Fezziwig from the floor below, so his desk is pretty high up there. And then later we see Fezziwig hopping down from it. He's wearing a wig, but it's not a Welsh wig and it's not powdered white either. It does look old-fashioned though. And Fezziwig is pleasantly plump.

Young Scrooge and Dick Wilkins look like preteens in this version, which isn't something I'd considered as a possibility. They're apprentices, so it makes sense; I'm just used to so many versions introducing Belle as a love interest at this point, so Scrooge is usually at romancing age: In his late teens or early twenties.

Scrooge refers to Dick as "poor Dick" and follows up with a "dear, dear," which is right out of Dickens. I didn't call attention to it when I reviewed Dickens' text, but "poor Dick" makes it sound like maybe something bad happened to young Mr Wilkins. Hard times or an untimely death? I don't think we ever find out, but Scrooge clearly feels sorry for his former friend. He also mentions that Dick "was very much attached to me," implying that maybe Scrooge didn't reciprocate Dick's attachment or appreciate the boy as much as Scrooge now feels he should have. It's another sign of growth, which is characteristic of Wilson and Collins' version. Their Scrooge is well on his way to becoming a better person.

Fezziwig calls for the boys to help close up the shop and clear away furniture for the party. And there's a panel showing them putting up the removable shutters. Another smaller panel has Young Scrooge sweeping up as Dick carries away a chair. And then the guests arrive.

There's a page-and-a-half dedicated just to dancing and fiddling and looking at food. The fiddler is never explicitly shown sitting at Fezziwig's desk, but there are a couple of close-up panels where he stops to mop his brow and then starts fiddling again, and behind him you can see the same bookshelf that was behind Fezziwig when he was at the desk. I like the attention to detail. The fiddler could have been stationed anywhere the way the panels are framed, but clearly Wilson and Collins are working to be as faithful as possible.

The party itself has no dialogue (except for some general merrymaking sound effects: "hurrah!" "whoop!" "hoho!" etc.) or even narrative text, so if you're not familiar with the story you don't know who everyone is. I spotted at least a couple of Fezziwig's daughters, but I didn't see any of their suitors and there's no way you'd know that any of the guests are people who've been marginalized by the rest of society. These just seem to be Fezziwig's friends and family.

Young Scrooge does have a dance partner in one panel, but she's not named and her hair appears to be a different shade from Belle's, once Belle appears in the following scene. I imagine that Scrooge's dance partner is just someone at the party - maybe even one of Fezziwig's daughters - and not someone he has a particular attachment to.

The narrative text reappears after the party to explain what Old Scrooge has been feeling during all of this (using Dickens' words, of course). And it fits with the expressions we've seen on Scrooge during the scene. He's wide-eyed and smiling; thoroughly taken in by the whole experience. And though there's no scene of Young Scrooge and Dick praising Fezziwig after the party, Old Scrooge of course gets to defend Fezziwig to the Ghost. And he looks sorrowfully thoughtful in the last panel as he expresses his desire to talk to Bob Cratchit just then.

Sleigh Bell Cinema | Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Noel Thingvall (Masters of Carpentry, Schumacast, Greystoked, Thundarr Road) and I take a sleigh ride to New England and spend the hunky-dunky holidays flippin' flapjacks with Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, Una O'Connor, and SZ Sakall.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Essentiality of Magic

I've started reading Briana Saussy's book Making Magic. I'm not pagan, but my Celtic ancestors undoubtedly were and I increasingly share paganism's focus on and admiration of nature. What most attracted me to the book though was its promise to discuss "a way of directly engaging with the extraordinary in your everyday life." I'm skeptical by disposition, but like Fox Mulder, want to believe. And I do believe that there is much more in the universe than I'm aware of. Call it faith or magic or whatever you want, I love the idea that some things are best left mysterious and not fully knowable. And I paradoxically love that idea even as I can't help skeptically seeking to uncover those mysteries so that I can know and understand the truth behind them. It's a weird, inconsistent balance.

My hope for Saussy's book is that it'll help me embrace and celebrate and even seek out mysteries that I don't intend to solve. I'm encouraged by this passage early on:
"All mysteries, so we are told, have been discovered, named, bagged, and tagged. There is nothing unknown, nothing of wonder to find here, nothing to see. This conventional wisdom has been the greatest teacher in the present age, and it has taught us incorrectly. A world without wild things is greatly diminished; this we know. The same is true for lives lived without the touch of magic. In all places we look, magic is a mark carrying depth and scope, an essential ingredient for a life well lived."
I'm even more encouraged by this insightful and sensitive paragraph a couple of pages later. It begins with a warning about cultural appropriation and ends with reassurance that magic can be found wherever we live without stealing it from someone else:
"Many who seek magic look for it in faraway places and exotic lands, convinced that it has been housed and preserved in its pure form somewhere out there by indigenous peoples and tribes. The hard truth is that no culture exists in pristine form, unfractured, unfragmented. Further corrosion of these already damaged cultures takes place with each attempt to capture, cage, and smuggle out ways, traditions, and practices from their native lands, transplanting them, without thought to harm or health, into unfamiliar habitats that are not made to support them. Appropriation of indigenous cultural practices is often done in the belief that some people in some places have a deeper relationship to the things that matter than we are capable of in our wealthy, developed, formally educated societies. While it is true that there are tribes and communities of people who live within vast wilderness areas with a high diversity of wild creatures, it is also true that access to the wild animal that is magic has never been truly closed - even, sometimes especially, in the most urban concrete-and-asphalt streets or the most urbane boardrooms and classrooms, and even in such unlikely places as the digital realm. Our work is to see this and remember it. Furthermore, we shall come to realize that the intentional or unintentional theft of another person's or people's magic comes at great cost - the ignorance and neglect of our own deeper good and the harming of those we claim to hold in highest esteem."

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Hellbent for Letterbox | Deadwood, Season 1 (2004)

This month on Hellbent for Letterbox, Pax and I are celebrating Deadwood December, continuing our streak of weekly episodes through the end of the year and leading up to Hellbent's 75th episode! In this one, Pax and I start with the first season of the HBO series Deadwood from 2004.

“Why, It’s Old Fezziwig!” | Marvel Classic Comics #36 (1978)

Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

Marvel gives two pages to Fezziwig's party in its adaptation. Weirdly (for Christmas Carol adaptations), Fezziwig appears to be just a normal, everyday businessman. He wears no wig of any kind, isn't even fat, and his desk is just the normal kind.

Dick Wilkins is named and Scrooge observes, "Look -- look what a good friend he was to me!" It's an odd exclamation, because at that moment Dick isn't really doing anything other than standing with Scrooge and receiving instructions from Fezziwig. But that doesn't really matter. Scrooge is feeling the emotion of his old friendship and it doesn't have to be because he's actually witnessing a particular act at the moment. Just seeing Young Scrooge and Dick together again is enough to trigger the memory.

Which makes me wonder now whatever happened to Dick. I don't think Dickens ever says and I've never thought about it before. Maybe he's dead by Scrooge's present?

Fezziwig instructs Scrooge and Dick to "have the shutters up" and "clear the room." We don't get to see them putting up the removable shutters, but there's a panel of them scooting desks and chairs away to make room for the food tables and dancing that will replace them.

As a crowd of people enter the room (the fiddler among them), a caption box lets us know about the guests. It mentions Fezziwig's three daughters and their "followers." The text also says that the other guests are made up of Fezziwig's other employees, both from the warehouse and in his household. There's no mention of anyone that makes Fezziwig sound like he's especially compassionate towards outsiders, though. He's very kind and generous towards his guests, but they're all already his people. Belle is not one of them either, but that's a) true to Dickens, and b) to be expected from a version that's already condensed for space.

So far Marvel's Scrooge has appeared to be seriously mentally ill. He had extreme mood swings and hallucinations in the opening scenes, but I found even more evidence at the schoolhouse flashback. That flashback may have been more therapeutic than I realized (in conjunction with the Ghost's possibly putting a healing touch on Scrooge's head), because Scrooge seems better at Fezziwig's. He enjoys watching the party and he defends Fezziwig's kindness when the Ghost facetiously questions it. And he looks appropriately remorseful when Fezziwig's kindness makes Scrooge think about his own treatment of Bob Cratchit. This is the first time I've actually felt any kind of hope for this Scrooge. I wonder if it'll continue to get better. Since most of my reading is based on trying to make sense of inconsistent art - which is a problem I doubt improves as the story progresses - I'm fearful that we're going to get a relapse at some point. Fingers crossed.

There's no scene of Young Scrooge and Dick praising Fezziwig after the party. As with the Classics Illustrated version, Old Scrooge's defense to the Ghost takes place during the party itself and then the Ghost whisks them both away to the next scene.

Monday, December 02, 2019

“Why, It’s Old Fezziwig!” | Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)

Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

The Classics Illustrated version is only a page-and-a-half, so as usual with this adaptation there's not much room for anything but laying out facts. And as with the schoolhouse scene, Fezziwig's warehouse and its inhabitants are just colorless, ghostly outlines: figures for Scrooge to observe, but there's no temptation to interact with them.

Fezziwig is a slightly overweight, jolly-looking man in an old-fashioned powdered wig. We see him at his desk, but only in close-up, so there's no telling how high the desk might be.

Dick Wilkins is named and a caption box identifies him as Scrooge's fellow apprentice (with a note to young readers that an apprentice is "one who is learning a trade"). There's no sense of Scrooge and Dick's relationship other than co-workers. Scrooge is excited to see him, but he's been enthusiastic about all of these visions so far. He might just be into the experience of seeing these memories brought to life. Although we did see signs of (supernaturally assisted) empathy at the schoolhouse, so maybe that's genuine pleasure Scrooge is feeling about seeing a former chum again.

Fezziwig instructs the boys to clear away the shop for the party, but we skip right past the preparations and go straight to a single panel of Scrooge watching ghostly people dancing. There's no mention of who any of them are and you can't even see the fiddler. Certainly there's no Belle.

There's also no sign of Fezziwig's being an especially kind person. He is kind and he certainly loves Christmas, but there are no signs that he takes a special interest in Scrooge or anyone else. There's not even a conversation between Scrooge and the Ghost about Fezziwig's effect on his employees. He's just a good, nice boss. 

Scrooge enjoys watching the party though and a caption tells us that "his heart and soul were in the scene." He's not necessarily learning any more empathy, but the Ghost is at least successful at lowering Scrooge's defenses and making him less mean. It's a small victory though and I still feel like this Scrooge has a long way to go before he sees a real need to change.

Of course there's no scene of Young Scrooge and Dick cleaning up after the party. Old Scrooge is still enjoying the scene when the Ghost says that they need to get moving. Time is growing short.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

“Why, It’s Old Fezziwig!” | Dickens

Illustration by John Leech.

As I talk about Dickens' original version of the scene, I'm going to copy the entire text in bold italics and insert commentary. That'll help identify elements that we want to pay attention to in the adaptations.

Although they had but that moment left the school behind them, they were now in the busy thoroughfares of a city, where shadowy passengers passed and repassed; where shadowy carts and coaches battled for the way, and all the strife and tumult of a real city were. It was made plain enough, by the dressing of the shops, that here too it was Christmas time again; but it was evening, and the streets were lighted up.

The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.

“Know it!” said Scrooge. “Was I apprenticed here!”

They went in. At sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh wig, sitting behind such a high desk, that if he had been two inches taller he must have knocked his head against the ceiling, Scrooge cried in great excitement:

“Why, it’s old Fezziwig! Bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again!”

A Welsh wig isn't an actual wig as depicted in most adaptations. It's a knit wool cap. I doubt we'll see an actual Welsh wig in any version, but it's something to keep an eye out for. I like the antiquated, powdered wig that's most identified with Fezziwig, so I'm not complaining. It makes Scrooge's old boss seem pleasantly old-fashioned and out of touch.

I'm curious to see if any adaptations have Fezziwig's extremely high desk.

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands; adjusted his capacious waistcoat; laughed all over himself, from his shoes to his organ of benevolence; and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice: “Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!”

According to Michael Patrick Hearn's Annotated Christmas Carol, most shops of this kind closed around nine o'clock, so Fezziwig is shutting down super early.

From the description of his "capacious waistcoat," Fezziwig's jolliness extends to a healthy appetite, so let's see which versions play this up.

The "organ of benevolence" refers to the part of Fezziwig's skull just above his forehead. It's a phrenological term, referring to the pseudoscience of using skull shape and size to indicate someone's character and mental ability. Phrenology was popular in the nineteenth century, but Dickens doesn't seem to be actually endorsing it here with any editorializing about Fezziwig's faculties. It's just a Victorian pop culture reference.

Scrooge’s former self, now grown a young man, came briskly in, accompanied by his fellow-’prentice.

“Dick Wilkins, to be sure!” said Scrooge to the Ghost. “Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very much attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick! Dear, dear!”

We'll keep an eye out for how important Dick Wilkins is to the scene. I'm especially curious about the Reginald Owens version, because it mentioned Dick as one of Scrooge's schoolmates in the previous scene.

“Yo ho, my boys!” said Fezziwig. “No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Let’s have the shutters up,” cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, “before a man can say Jack Robinson!”

Jack Robinson is another pop culture reference, but it goes back all the way to the late seventeenth century. There was a popular song about a guy named Jack Robinson who would show up to parties and then leave again before he could even be announced. So, he'd be gone before the doorman could say, "Jack Robinson."

You wouldn’t believe how those two fellows went at it! They charged into the street with the shutters—one, two, three—had ’em up in their places—four, five, six—barred ’em and pinned ’em—seven, eight, nine—and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

I like the image of having to go outside to put up the store's removable shutters. I wonder if any versions will have that. And if not, what other preparations will they assign Scrooge and Dick instead?

“Hilli-ho!” cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with wonderful agility. “Clear away, my lads, and let’s have lots of room here! Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer!”

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn’t have cleared away, or couldn’t have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter’s night.

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother’s particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them! When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, “Well done!” and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But scorning rest, upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.

I love the image of the fiddler playing from atop Fezziwig's lofty desk. Let's see if that shows up in versions. There are some interesting characters among the guests that we can keep track of, too. For instance, how many adaptations feature the three Fezziwig daughters and their suitors?

I've seen a stage adaptation that identified the "particular friend" of the cook's brother as his gay partner. I don't recall seeing that on screen or comics page anywhere, but it's a cool interpretation. The Fezziwigs appear especially receptive and kind to society's outsiders. I love how their guests include a kid "from over the way" who's not getting enough to eat from his own employer and a girl or young woman who's being abused by hers. The Fezziwigs clearly don't care about convention or appearances. They care about taking care of their people. And their people includes anyone who needs help. I'm going to keep an eye out for adaptations that convey this compassion for outcasts in some way.

People with more beer knowledge than me probably already know this, but I had to look up that the "porter" the fiddler plunges his face into is a kind of ale.

There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind! The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up “Sir Roger de Coverley.” Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.

There are a lot of party terms in this paragraph. A forfeit was any king of turn-taking game where if you missed your turn you had to pay a penalty. Originally it was small amounts of money, but by the early 1800s that had been changed to a kiss. The whole fad was out of favor with the London crowd by Dickens day, though, so this is another example of the Fezziwigs' being sort of antiquated and just really not caring.

Negus was a wine (usually a port or sherry) mixed with hot water, sugar, nutmeg, and lemon juice. So I guess you could call it a mulled wine? Sometimes there would be an orange stuck with cloves that would get dipped in or float in the punch bowl.

I'd never heard of Cold Boiled, but it's exactly what you'd think. Like Cold Roast it's a way to prepare beef or mutton. First you boil it, then you leave it out to cool and serve it cold.

I don't imagine that mince pie needs a lot of explanation except that I learned the ingredients were intended to suggest the wise men's gifts and the pie was often oblong, like a manger.

The "Sir Roger de Coverley" was a popular country dance. It was especially energetic, so it was often the last dance of the evening.

I love the description of some of the dancers as "people who were not to be trifled with." These folks take their dancing seriously, even if they don't do it very well.

But if they had been twice as many—ah, four times—old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that’s not high praise, tell me higher, and I’ll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig’s calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn’t have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, hold hands with your partner, bow and curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig “cut”—cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.

A lot of dancing terms to comment on, starting with "hold hands with your partner." That's a term that Dickens was apparently uncomfortable with, because he changed it several times through various drafts and even printed editions. For instance, my copy of Hearn's annotated edition has "hold hands with," but the version on Project Gutenberg has "both hands to your partner." Other ways that Dickens tried to describe it were "seize" and "turn." According to Hearn, Dickens was trying to describe a move where the dancers take the hand nearest to each other when they're standing side by side, so "hold hands" is a perfectly natural way to describe that. Maybe there's something else he had in mind, too, though, that "hold hands" doesn't perfectly capture.

A corkscrew is a move where everyone joins outstretched hands while face to face, then the couple at the top end of the row threads their way in and out of the other couples doing little turns with the other couples as they go. When they get to the end of the line, they take their place there and the next couple at the top go.

Threading the needle is a complicated figure where the bottom couple joins hands to make a horseshoe shape, then the top couple threads their was down the line pulling the rest of the dancers behind them and somehow it all ends up okay at the end. I can't even imagine. British country dancing is hard.

Fezziwig's "cut" describes his jumping into the air and quickly crossing and uncrossing his feet before landing on the floor again.

When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas. When everybody had retired but the two ’prentices, they did the same to them; and thus the cheerful voices died away, and the lads were left to their beds; which were under a counter in the back-shop.

A lot of adaptations insert Belle into this scene, either as Scrooge's introduction to her or just the audience's. She doesn't appear in Dickens' version until later, but I'll keep an eye out and see which versions bring her in early and what they do with the opportunity. It makes sense to have an early scene when she and Scrooge are happy, just as contrast to their break-up scene later on.

During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation. It was not until now, when the bright faces of his former self and Dick were turned from them, that he remembered the Ghost, and became conscious that it was looking full upon him, while the light upon its head burnt very clear.

The Ghost continues to use the same tactic it used in the schoolhouse scene: showing these vivid memories to Scrooge in order to get past the mental defenses he's built up over the years and speak directly to his emotions. It seems to be working.

Every iteration I can think of highlights this, so I won't comment on them individually, but it's worth pointing out in the novel as part of Scrooge's transformation. He's forced to remember what it was like to be an outsider - part of the "surplus population;" a "silly folk" as the Ghost says next - himself.

“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”

“Small!” echoed Scrooge.

The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said,

“Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?”

I know at least one adaptation has Scrooge and Dick praising Fezziwig after the party. Let's see if there are any others.

“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

He felt the Spirit’s glance, and stopped.

“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.

“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.

“Something, I think?” the Ghost insisted.

“No,” said Scrooge, “No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all.”

His former self turned down the lamps as he gave utterance to the wish; and Scrooge and the Ghost again stood side by side in the open air.

Seeing his younger self at school gave Scrooge empathy for the young urchin singing in the cold in Scrooge's present. Likewise, remembering his own early days as an employee has created empathy in him for Bob Cratchit. I imagine that Scrooge has intentionally suppressed these early memories of hurting and needing comfort. It's an understandable tactic. But forgetting is harmful when it makes us unable to relate to people who are currently going through circumstances that we've already overcome. That's exactly the moment when we should embrace and deepen that connection in order to comfort someone whose experiences we've shared.

So here's what we're on the look out for this year:
  • Fezziwig's appearance. Does he have the wig? Is it an actual Welsh wig? Is he fat? Does he sit at a ridiculously high desk?
  • Dick Wilkins. Is he named? How close do he and Scrooge seem? I want to pay especially close attention to Reginald Owen's version since that one also had Dick and Scrooge as childhood schoolmates.
  • Does Scrooge help close up and get ready for the party? If so, what's he doing? Are there shutters?
  • Is the fiddler sitting on the desk at the party?
  • Does Fezziwig have three daughters? Does the adaptation mention or focus on their suitors at all?
  • Do the guests seem like social outsiders? If not, is Fezziwig's compassion for outcasts conveyed in some other way?
  • Is Belle at the party? If so, how does the adaptation foreshadow her future relationship with Scrooge?
  • How does Old Scrooge react to this whole scene? Is he having a good time? Is he learning empathy?
  • Is there a moment where Scrooge and Dick praise Fezziwig after the party?

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Sleigh Bell Cinema | National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

Michael DiGiovanni (Classic Film Jerks, Pop Culture Retrofit) and I consider Clark Griswold and his slapsticky attempt to create Christmas memories for his family. Is it just dumb fun or is something shockingly profound going on?


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