It’s a wonderful Christmas carol life!

Film still from It’s a Wonderful Life, director Frank Capra 1947

As we approach Christmas, I’m thinking about my favourite Christmas stories and films. For me, these are A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Scrooge with Marley’s ghost – illustration by John Leech approved by Dickens

A Christmas Carol is a book by Charles Dickens. It was written in six weeks after Dickens had visited the Ragged School, an establishment for street children in London and he published the title on 19 December 1843. Its themes of fairness, kindness and the transformation of Scrooge, a rich, but mean old man, into a generous benefactor to the Cratchit family at a time of great social inequality was well approved of by the public.  The picture below is Alastair Sim in the 1951 film of A Christmas Carol asking a passing boy to buy a big Turkey for the Cratchit’s.

Alistair Sim as Scrooge, 1951

Published on 19 December, the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve and by the end of 1844 thirteen editions had been released. From the 20th century and onwards, there have been many film and television adaptations of the story.

The fact that it still feels relevant in Britain over 170 years later, with food banks being normalised, child hunger, homelessness and bad housing still a problem, is clearly both intolerable and very sad. However, watching it again we can still feel hope that people and situations can change for the better. Like Scrooge helping the sick Tiny Tim survive.

Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim Cratchit as depicted in an illustration by Fred Barnard

It’s a Wonderful Life is loosely based on A Christmas Carol. Originally it was a self-published short story a hundred years after the publication of A Christmas Carol in 1943. It was then reworked into a movie that was released in 1947. Once again, it is a tale of social inequality with Henry Potter (played by the inestimable Lionel Barrymore) , the Bedford Falls bank manager, having control over money, loans and housing, he’s a slum landlord. But it is also how being kind and loving and generous, like the lead character George Bailey (played by the wonderful James Stewart), is the better method for having a ‘wonderful life’. George is loved and cared for, unlike Potter, who is, as George Bailey says, ‘a warped, frustrated old man.’

Lionel Barrymore as Potter

When George’s foolish Uncle Billy mislays a large amount their business’s money, George, the ultimate good guy, considers killing himself to give his wife and family his life insurance money after his. Potter tells George he is worth more dead than alive. As further proof of Potter’s mean character, the audience knows that Potter’s henchman found the money and Potter didn’t return it. 

Clarence Oddbody and George Bailey

Fortunately, Clarence Oddbody, the guardian angel (played by Henry Travers ) is sent to show George how important his life has been for so many other people and he mustn’t throw it away. Unlike Scrooge, Potter is never visited by any spirits, but does contribute some money to help George when the call goes out that George is desperate. We never know if this means Potter is a changed man, but the film encourages us to hope Bedford Falls is now a nicer place.

Merry Christmas All!

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Published by Yasmin Keyani

Writer

5 thoughts on “It’s a wonderful Christmas carol life!

  1. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, Yasmin, but I do share the, even if possibly misplaced, optimism for the future that both these stories and of course your post share. I wish you back all the best for tomorrow and the New Year this Christmas Eve and for more promising things to come!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never caught the (now obvious) connection between a Christmas Carol and IAWL Clarence is sort of the ‘Ghost of Christmas that Never Was.’ I read a Christmas Carol every year in December. I absolutely love the first stave, especially Marley’s “Mankind was my Business” rant. I often post it on facebook leading up to christmas. Neat post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jeff! I too didn’t see the link till much later. This was my fave film at 19 (because it’s about kindness) and talking about it got me into my Film Studies degree. Tbh that degree also got me a publishing job at Penguin too. So for me IAWL has been just that!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Working at a publishers was good, but what I really wanted to do was write my own stuff. So quit my job, left London and moved back to the city of my old University. Best thing I ever did!

      Like

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