Sunday, December 19, 2021

“Come In! And Know Me Better, Man!" | Alastair Sim (1951)

Alastair Sim's classic version begins this scene where the previous one ended, with Scrooge in bed moaning "no no no" in his sleep about the miserable visions of the past. He's quite beat down by his experience and doesn't want to repeat it with another ghost, as we'll see.

There are chiming bells coming from outside, but they're not yet tolling a specific hour. When they finally do though, it's 1:00, finally revealing which schedule this version's ghosts are on. Marley only announced that the first ghost would come at 1:00 and didn't say when the others would arrive, but it seems now that they're on the multiple night plan.

The tolling bell wakes Scrooge and he's immediately nervous about what will come next. He pulls back the bed curtains and sees his empty bedroom, but doesn't have to wait long before a light comes under the door from the next room and he hears a deep chuckle. 

Sims' performance is always funny even when he's scared and it's hilarious that he tries to lie down again and pull the covers over himself, hoping that he'll be allowed to go back to sleep. That's not happening though and the Ghost in the other room invites him to "come in." Scrooge closes his eyes in resignation, then nods and gets up. "Yes, I'm coming..."

As he walks toward the door, it opens on its own and the music swells, revealing the Ghost sitting atop a throne of bread and fruit and meat. Heavy strands of garland are hung from the wall behind him and the fireplace is blazing merrily. The ghost continues to laugh and it's here that I notice the echo effect laid on him by the sound design. It's otherworldly and doesn't ruin anything, but I don't love it. It's not really needed and feels like overkill.

The Ghost has a good look, showing even more chest than the Reginald Owen one. The robe is right and his hair and beard are both long, though not as full or jolly as the Owen ghost. He's a large, imposing presence, too. Later, when he's standing next to Scrooge, he looks like he's about a foot taller. 

He has the holly crown and though it has no icicles, so few versions have had them that I'm wondering if I even want them at this point. The one time they were there (in the Seymour Hicks movie), they didn't look that great. I know they're in at least one other production we haven't talked about yet, so I'll hold off judging at least until then.

I can't see the Ghost's feet in this version, so I don't know if he's wearing shoes or not. He does have something hanging from his belt that looks like it could be a sheathed dagger, but I can't tell for sure. It's too small to be a sword scabbard though and I don't know what else it would be. A dagger would be weird since it sends the exact opposite message that the empty scabbard does. The worst thing about this Ghost though is that he's missing his torch. That's a crucial part of the costume for me.  

Scrooge doesn't say the line about learning his lesson, but it's all there in the performance and in what he does say. Like I said earlier, he's beat down and exhausted by the ghosts so far. But there are still obstacles to his changing. His first reaction, for example, is to shake his head and try to go back into his bedroom. But the Ghost invites him once more to come in and know me better, man.

"You've never seen the like of me before, have you?"

"Never," Scrooge says, wearily. "And I wish the pleasure had been indefinitely postponed."

The Ghost asks if Scrooge is still unmoved by his experiences and Scrooge complains that he's too old and beyond all hope of changing. It sounds like he sees the need to change, but despairs that he'll be unable. He says something about being left alone to observe Christmas in his own way, which as we know is not to observe it at all.

The Ghost isn't having it though. "Mortal, we spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of our year. We live the whole three-hundred-and-sixty-five. So is it true of the child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men's hearts only one day of the year, but in all the days of the year. You have chosen not to seek him in your heart. Therefore you shall come with me and seek him in the hearts of men of good will." It's a good speech. I like it.

He holds out his arm and invites Scrooge to "Come. Touch my robe." Scrooge shuffles over resignedly and obeys. As the Ghost chuckles some more, the scene dissolves...


Caffeinated Joe said...

There’s something else I never thought about. The Spirit saying Scrooge hadn’t seen the likes of him before. I never got the double meaning of Scrooge never knowing the feeling of joyful abundance and maybe overindulgence. It would seem alien to him, and even scornful to the Scrooge from before these ghostly visits started a change within him. Interesting.

Michael May said...

Great observation!


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