Monday, December 09, 2019
“Why, It’s Old Fezziwig!” | Alastair Sim (1971)
Richard Williams' cartoon makes great use of animation to facilitate scene changes. The Ghost and Old Scrooge are looking at Boy Scrooge in the schoolhouse, then there's a rapid series of aging Scrooges. The scenery around him changes, but his posture stays the same. In the first several he's reading a book like he was at school, but then that changes into a book that he's writing in until the series settles on Scrooge writing in a ledger at Fezziwig's warehouse.
Old Scrooge - who's been remarkably humble and compliant since Marley's visit - is full of giddy wonder at seeing his old boss again. Fezziwig is fat, he does sit at a high desk, and he's wearing an old-fashioned brown wig (though not officially a Welsh one). He orders Dick and Young Scrooge to "clear away," but he doesn't specify how and we just see the apprentices move some books and chairs.
Old Scrooge never actually mentions Dick. He says the line about "he was very much attached to me," but he's referring to Fezziwig in this version. And that does seem to be the case. Fezziwig pays special attention to Young Scrooge. Since we don't know anything about Dick, I can only speculate why Fezziwig focused on Scrooge, but putting this together with Dickens' description of Fezziwig's compassion for outsiders, I imagine that Fezziwig saw that Scrooge - whom we know was a sad child - needed extra love and encouragement
The scene cuts from the clearing away to the fiddler on the desk as Fezziwig welcomes his guests. None of them are named, so we don't know how any of them are connected to Fezziwig, but Young Scrooge does dance with a young woman at one point. She has a different hair color than Belle will in the next scene, so it probably isn't her, but it's nice to see Scrooge enjoying himself.
Since Dick is hardly mentioned in this one, there's no scene where he and Young Scrooge praise Fezziwig for the party, so the Ghost just comments on what a "small matter" the party is while watching the celebration.
Old Scrooge defends Fezziwig as usual and I like how this version handles Scrooge's connecting Fezziwig's treatment of him with his own, abusive attitude toward Bob Cratchit (who also seems to be a monumentally sad person). Instead of having him get wistful and the Ghost asking him about it, Williams cuts from the gaiety of the party to a flashback of Scrooge leaving Cratchit as the office from earlier in the film. There's even an abrupt change of music from the merry fiddle to sinister woodwinds as the vision rushes into Scrooge's mind. It's quite effective. It's so quick that the Ghost doesn't even seem to notice. It just grabs Scrooge's wrist and tells him that they have to go, "Quick!," to their next scene.