Wednesday, December 04, 2013
'You Wish to Be Anonymous?' | Reginald Owen (1938)
Scrooge's nephew, still maintaining his Christmas spirit after an unpleasant conversation with his uncle, wishes a Merry Christmas to two, incoming gentlemen as he leaves. Thanks to the set up of Scrooge's office in this version (with Scrooge having a separate room and Cratchit's occupying the foyer), the gentlemen greet Cratchit first and there's a lightly humorous moment as they mistake him first for Marley and then for Scrooge.
Scrooge comes out during this though and quickly corrects them. He doesn't know what they're here for yet, but he's already in a bad mood, possibly because of his encounter with Fred, but of course we get the feeling that he's sort of always that way. This is no way to address potential customers, but this Scrooge is so miserable that he doesn't care.
This version actually gives names to the two gentlemen: Twill and Rummidge. Further humanizing them, the script also allows them to share the conversation instead of following Dickens' lead and just having one of them interact with Scrooge.
We learn about Marley's death for the first time in this version when Scrooge explains it to the men, and the detail that it was seven years ago. That's just following Dickens, but it works just fine as exposition too, though we don't get a sense yet of the kind of man Marley was. Of course, that will become very clear later when we meet his ghost.
There's a nice reaction shot of Cratchit as he nods at Rummidge's explanation of the reason for their visit. Charles Coleman and Matthew Boulton are well cast as the gentlemen. They have a clean, pleasant look to them and both men communicate gentle kindness and compassion for the people they're trying to help. The music makes it an overly sentimental scene, but it's genuinely touching acting by Coleman, Boulton, and Gene Lockhart as Cratchit.
Scrooge on the other hand is just mean. This interaction has none of the brief glimpses of regret in Scrooge that we saw in his conversation with Fred. He's got no time for these guys and wants them out as quickly as possible.
They seem to get that he's not with them, but still hopefully offer him the line about being anonymous when he says he to put him down for nothing. They've given some disturbed looks prior to that in the conversation, but even then they don't quite believe that he's as mean and cold as he seems to be. They can't seem to imagine it until he offers the final line about decreasing the surplus population. At that point they look very concerned; about Scrooge as much as about anything else, which further illustrates their sincerity and compassion. They're really a wonderful pair and are going to be the ones to beat as my favorite portrayal of these characters.