Tuesday, December 23, 2014

“If Quite Convenient, Sir" | George C Scott (1984)



Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

Since George C Scott's Scrooge has his encounter with the charitable solicitors at the Exchange, he parts ways with Cratchit earlier in the story, right after Fred leaves. In fact, Fred's visit makes Scrooge late in leaving and he's a bit flustered. He's going to finish his day there, so Cratchit will stay behind and close up shop. "Don't lock up a moment early!" warns Scrooge. That's a fair statement based on what we've seen of Cratchit so far.

In the first couple of scenes of this version, Cratchit has come off as lazy and maybe a bit dim, but he does redeem himself slightly here. Scrooge is almost out the door before he realizes he's forgotten his hat, but when he turns back for it, Cratchit is right there, efficiently holding it out. Scrooge's only acknowledgment of the kindness is to look a little embarrassed, but he follows that up right away by recognizing that Cratchit will want the whole day off tomorrow.

Had Scrooge not forgotten his hat, the topic of the day off never would have come up, but Scrooge is forced to stop and think and he realizes that this is a bit of business they need to see to. The dialogue follows Dickens closely and as I'd expect from Scott's very relatable Scrooge, he inspires sympathy when he complains about the inconvenience and injustice of paying a day's wage for no work.

For Cratchit's part, he's as sincere and sentimental about the holiday as Fred was. He comes across like he feels entitled to Christmas off, something that Scrooge seems to acknowledge when he sighs, "I suppose you must have it." Cratchit has the strength of cultural convention on his side and they both know it. I love David Warner as an actor, but so far his Cratchit is insufferable. I kind of cheer a little when Scrooge gets his last dig in with a stern, "Be here all the earlier the next morning!" and follows it up by pointing at Cratchit and commanding, "Make sure!"

Cratchit assures Scrooge that he will, but of course he totally won't.

Outside, we meet Tiny Tim as he hobbles his way up to the curb opposite Scrooge's office. He's a total cutie and unlike many of the film Tims, is actually very small. When he sees Scrooge come out of the office, he calls out, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Scrooge!" perhaps not knowing the old man's feelings about the day.

Scrooge's response to Tim is hilarious. He points his cane at the kid and says, "Don't beg on this corner, boy!"

Tim explains who he is and that he's waiting for his father. Like in the earlier scenes, Scott's Scrooge is thoughtless and uncaring, but he has a sense of humor. He humphs to himself, "Well then you'll have a long wait, won't you?"

Tim's unperturbed "Thank you, sir!" gets an exasperated "Humbug" out of Scrooge as he moves on towards the Exchange.

On the way, Scrooge passes through a couple of Christmas street scenes and encounters a couple of groups of carollers. The first is a half dozen kids who are blocking Scrooge's way, so he yells at them to clear the road and let him through. In this part of town, Christmas is being celebrated, but it's not all happiness and joy as evidenced by the sound of a baby's crying in the background.

When Scrooge reaches the Exchange, he meets the second group of singers: a professional bunch with brass instruments. There's plenty of room here though, so Scrooge simply ignores their Christmas greetings and offered donation cup. He heads into the building where he'll conduct some business and meet the charitable solicitors.

After that scene, the movie returns to Cratchit as closing time arrives and he meets his son outside. It's impossible to dislike Cratchit outside the office. He dotes on his son and lovingly picks him up to carry him as the two of them talk about how excited they are that Dad's got the whole day off tomorrow. Cratchit may be a lousy employee, but he's a great father.

At Tim's suggestion, they walk by the Exchange on the way home to watch the kids playing in the snow. Thankfully, they don't meet Scrooge, but the same band is still playing. They don't slide, but just watch the other children who are doing that and throwing snowballs at each other. Instead of using the sliding as a metaphor for Cratchit's cutting loose and celebrating, this film makes it a symbol of Cratchit's hopes for Tim. He wants to see his son playing that way one day.

3 comments:

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I'm with you on this one. Warner is one of my favorite character actors, but he feels out of place here.

Caffeinated Joe said...

Maybe Warner seems so out of place cause we are used to seeing his as villainous characters?

As for the scene, I wonder, could Cratchit have hidden Scrooge's hat knowing that it would open an opportunity for him to converse with his boss about having Christmas off? Or am I just reading too much into it?

Can't believe tomorrow is already Christmas Eve!

Michael May said...

Joe, you make me want to go back and watch the scene again! Nice theory!

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