Sunday, December 13, 2015

His Usual Melancholy Tavern | Walter Matthau (1978)



Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

After Cratchit leaves the office, Scrooge sticks around to put away the day's earnings. Shaking the container of coins, he thinks it sounds a little light and vows to dock Cratchit for anything that's missing. Tom Bosley's Humbug, who's also stayed behind, gets irritated at this and launches into the show's title song.

The show uses "The Stingiest Man in Town" the way The Muppet Christmas Carol uses "Scrooge" earlier in its storyline. As Scrooge makes his way through the city, townspeople (and animals) sing about what a horrible person he is. And it's reinforced by scenes of his acting out his greediness, cheating and tricking street vendors into giving him free stuff. He does stop in a tavern for dinner, but his newspaper is taken from a trashcan and he stiffs his server on the tip. It's not all that melancholy, but remember that this Scrooge isn't especially sad. He's just mean and wrong.

Here are the lyrics and you can watch the video below:

How can anybody be so stingy?
So stingy, so stingy?
How could anybody be so stingy?
He's the stingiest man in town.

Old Scrooge is such a stingy man
The tightest man since time began.
Oh, he's so tight, so tight I say
He wouldn't give a bride away.

It hurts him so to pay one cent,
He wouldn't pay a compliment,
He uses lightning bugs at night,
To save the cash he'd pay for light!

How can anybody be so stingy?
So stingy, so stingy?
How could anybody be so stingy?
He's the stingiest man in town.

When he goes by the children hiss.
No other man is tight as this.
One day he skinned an alley cat
To make himself a winter hat.

He has a house that's very tall,
With flowered paper in the hall.
And for his mother's funeral,
He cut the flowers off the wall.

How can anybody be so stingy?
So stingy, so stingy?
How could anybody be so stingy?
He's the stingiest man in town.

And when his hearse goes rolling by.
No man alive is gonna cry.
But you can bet his ghost will curse,
Because he's paying for the hearse.

And when it's time for him to go,
His soul will travel down below,
And when he gets there you can tell,
Because you'll hear old Satan yell...

How can anybody be so stingy?
So stingy, so stingy?
How could anybody be so stingy?
He's the stingiest man in town.



The Rankin-Bass cartoon is adapted from a live-action musical special that had aired in 1956 on the NBC anthology show The Alcoa Hour. It starred Basil Rathbone as Scrooge and I just watched it for the first time last year. It's good, but I'm too far into this project to want to try to squeeze it in and catch it up to the other versions. Still, for fun, here's the original version of the song. As you can see, it takes a mocking tone towards Scrooge instead of the righteous indignation of the cartoon.



Back to the cartoon, the scene ends with Scrooge's arrival at home. It doesn't bear much resemblance to the one Dickens describes. It's pretty much just a dark townhouse on a block of similar townhouses. There's a little iron fence around a small yard in front, but nothing about it feels secluded.

The scene does turn spooky though as Humbug narrates, saying that "there was something strange about that night" and suggesting that it was supernaturally dark. He paraphrases Dickens' line about the Genius of the Weather sitting in mournful meditation on the threshold, but changes the personification to Death, foreshadowing the ghostly events that are about to take place.

2 comments:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Scrooge here seems so mean that he is running for worst Christmas villain with The Grinch!

Michael May said...

I feel like that's definitely the vibe they were going for.

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