John Irving so admires Charles Dickens that I felt compelled to give this author, who had been foisted upon me to no good effect (except for A Christmas Carol; I always loved that) some 50 years ago in junior high and high school, another chance.
Lo and behold! I managed to get through Great Expectations in a few days (I had read in in high school but must have been in such a daze that all I remembered was that stange old woman in her wedding gown and the cruel yet beautiful young girl--Miss Havisham and Estella). Dickens is actually quite good at devising plots (probably better than Irving) although his characters seem more cartoonish than real.
Just as I was about to pick up Oliver Twist (which I never had read before), on TV came the Mister Magoo musical version of A Christmas Carol. Jim Backus singing may not be a sheer joy, but this hour special did indeed take me back 50 years. It was made in 1962, and I remember looking forward to seeing it every Christmas season in the sixties. Winter Was Warm; We're Despicable; Jingle Jangle; Razzleberry Dressing...cute if not quite award winning songs.
I watched it again Saturday night before plowing into Oliver Twist and am so close to finishing the tale of Oliver, Fagan, and the Artful Dodger that I had to stop in at the library today to pick up "the best of times and the worst of times" (I don't think I'm ready for a thousand pages of David Copperfield yet), so I'll have something other than the new Jefferson biography to read when I visit my brother and points north this week.
God bless us every one, and a Merry Dickensian Christmas to you all.
Ellen Gray: 'Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol' Mr. Magoo isn't Scroogin' around
* MR. MAGOO'S CHRISTMAS CAROL. 8 p.m. Saturday, NBC 10.
I USED TO BE a little embarrassed that my favorite Scrooge was Mister Magoo.
The adult choice, I knew, was Alastair Sim, the Scottish actor whose 1951 portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is considered the gold standard for holiday-movie misers.
Sim, who has one of the more entertaining entries on Wikipedia - really, you should check it out - is probably a worthier candidate than, say, Bill Murray, a fascinating actor whose "Scrooged" wasn't exactly one for the ages. And yet Murray's is easily better than the hundred or so "Christmas Carol" ripoffs cable networks visit upon us every year.
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