Friday, December 24, 2010
Alastair Sim in the 1951 British production of A Christmas Carol is the only Scrooge who makes you believe it. His meanness feels genuine, his indifference is not a put on. What's more he doesn't make the mistake most Scrooge's make of changing too quickly. Right up until the end he is adamant that he is too old and set in his ways to change. When he sees his name on the headstone he reaches a depths no other Scrooge has come within miles of. The howl of despair he makes is other-worldly. Likewise no other Scrooge was ever more joyful at the story's end. Delirious happiness is bursting out of him so much that he can hardly stand still. It's infectious.
I can think of no greater performance that goes more overlooked than this one. Sim's work is relegated to the Christmas movie ghetto, and forgotten. Yet pretend for a moment A Christmas Carol had not been done so thoroughly to death and take it simply as an adaptation of English literature. Maybe then you get a sense of Sim's brilliance. It is one of the great screen performances.