Tuesday, December 16, 2014

“If Quite Convenient, Sir" | Seymour Hicks (1935)



Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

After Scrooge's nephew leaves, the '35 Scrooge has a quick cut from the interior of the office to the exterior, looking in through a window. That could indicate some passage of time, but it doesn't necessarily. As we look in on Scrooge, some small silhouettes block part of the window and begin singing.

Their tune is "Good King Wenceslas" instead of Dickens' "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," but Scrooge's reaction is the same. He picks up a heavy-looking object that could be a ruler, but is more rod-shaped, and heads to the door with it. The boys run off, but we get a good look at one of them as they're singing and there's no joy in his performance. He looks tired. This is a job for him and it fits the mood introduced in the movie's opening scene. It's the holidays, but not many people are all that fired up about it. Fred seems to be in the minority.

As Scrooge turns back to the office after running off the carollers, the clock chimes and Cratchit starts shutting down his work. Scrooge barks at him, accuses him of being lazy, and declares that the office clock is fast. Cratchit defends himself though, politely. He doesn't appear to be afraid of Scrooge or of losing his job so much as he simply wants to avoid conflict. Sir Seymour Hicks' Scrooge is a weak, miserable, old man who complains a lot, but Cratchit seems to realize that there aren't any real teeth in his threats.

Scrooge brings up the day off, again throwing Cratchit into defensive mode about it's being only once a year. When Scrooge says that it isn't fair, it's just another complaint, so he doesn't create any sympathy. Cratchit's main challenge in his job is to endure Scrooge's griping and deflect as much of it as he can. That's a smart tactic, because apparently Scrooge likes to complain just to complain. Though he rumbles about Cratchit's leaving time, Scrooge immediately starts getting ready, too.

Scrooge and Cratchit walk out together and when Scrooge hands over the key to Cratchit, he does it at the same time that he instructs Cratchit to be there all the earlier the next day. I thought that maybe he's telling Cratchit that he has to open the office the day after Christmas, which would've been a nice touch, but when they get outside, it looks like Cratchit locks up and gives the key back to Scrooge. My print of the film is dark in that shot and it's hard to tell exactly what Cratchit hands his boss, but I think it's the key.

Which doesn't make a lot of sense, but Hicks' Scrooge doesn't always make sense. I wouldn't put it past him to display his power by making Cratchit turn the lock, but then take the key back as a sign of distrust. I feel bad for this Cratchit. He seems like a nice, capable man, but Scrooge sure keeps him on his toes.


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