Saturday, 2 March 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1951: Alastair Sim in Scrooge

Alastair Sim did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge also known as A Christmas Carol.

The Christmas Carol is a story that has been adapted many times to various degrees of success. I find the best version is easily this one that makes use of a great score, an excellent screenplay that actually adds all new material to the story, and of course its lead performance which is essential to the success of every version.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a character who is that of three acts each which must be played convincingly to succeed in the part. In the beginning Scrooge starts out as a greedy miser who over works and underpays his employee Bob Cratchit. This is the point where some actors like Sim's predecessor Reginald Owen fail miserably in the part by making Scrooge a constantly angry, almost deranged in his attitude. It is hard to believe that Scrooge would have been able to build a business even as this angry old man, who just seems like he needs to relax more than anything else. Alastair Sim is far more effective by showing Scrooge as a man perfectly relaxed in his state.

Sim portrays the cold calculation in this business man there is a simple bluntness he brings to the part that reflects Scrooge's view of the world. Sim is calm in his depiction and it makes Scrooge's greed, and general hatred and disbelief in Christmas. Sim's method here is perfect in making Scrooge's reasoning on things like the poor far more believable. He is not an angry about other people cheerfulness instead he is somewhat bemused and disgusted by it. When the two men ask for money for the poor Sim plays it as Scrooge is almsot partially enjoying what he sees as foolishness, and only when pressed does he openly announce his distaste for their ideas which Sim still properly underplays.

Sim doesn't make Scrooge a man angry at everyone and everything for no reason, and almost some sort of otherworldly creature with his bizarre anger as some lesser Scrooges seem to make him. Sim instead makes this the most humane Scrooge in that Sim portrays him as a man who once perhaps had humanity but it has left him due to the events of his life. Sim's Scrooge is not disgusted by those who claim to be happy for no reason, but he honestly finds their feelings intolerable. Sim's demeanor could not be better because he is absolutely genuine in portraying these beliefs. His Scrooge doesn't believe in their happiness, and Scrooge here properly sets up the history we later learn about Scrooge.

Scrooge really is an odd man to have as the protagonist of a story as he is suppose to be unlikable. Some version certainly due take this approach a little too directly and are rather boring because of it. Sim on the other hand certainly plays up the nastiness to just the right degree, but he does it with a certain amount of humor in his portrayal. He never overplays it for a moment the offering it mainly in that bemusement shown in Scrooge's reactions to others, and Sim in a way almost urges us to laugh with Scrooge and most certainly not against him. He also is an all together charismatic performer who is just entertaining to watch all by himself making it easy for us to follow him through his journey.

Scrooge finds when he returns home this night that he there is something odd going on and his old business partner Jacob Marley comes as a ghost to tell him to change his ways. Sim is terrific in this scene because of the fact he plays Scrooge as a man with very real fears. Sim never loses this and is incredible in his portrayal of the scene where he talks to Marley. The reason is even when Scrooge claims to doubt his senses in an attempt to try to laugh it off Sim always shows the very real fear Ebenezer is feeling even while he tries his best to pretend the apparition is not real. Sim never loses this fear instead building until he does what most people would do in that situation, run and hide under some covers, making the scene far more believable than any other version of the story.

Scrooge is told by Marley that he will be visited by three ghosts starting with the Ghost of Christmas Past who shows Scrooge his past. Sim does very well by taking a realistic approach, and importantly reflects just how much seeing his past does affect him. One particularly powerful example of this is when he sees his deceased sister again, many other actors who have portray the scene far too matter of fact fashion, Sim though shows the full emotional impact that seeing his sister again really does have on him. He makes it a moving moment by portraying the sadness in reflecting on his past that he has since lost, but at the very same time the happiness of being able to live over the better moments of his life once again.

Sim depiction of the middle part of Scrooge is journey is excellent because he goes about the transformation in an effective fashion. Alastair Sim is quite good because he able to indicate that what Scrooge is seeing does make him lose that coldness of before rather quickly, but at the same time he eases into the full transformation properly. Sim does this throughout every scene through his moving reactions to the various events he witnesses from his past, and later the present and the future. Sim's portrayal has a great deal of self reflection in his performance that suggests his movement away from the Scrooge from the beginning.

One particular moment that Sim does well is when Scrooge is celebrating along with his younger self at the Christmas part of his former employee. Scrooge remarks about the joy his old boss brought to everyone so well, and Sim is terrific as he quietly shows Scrooge reflect on his own actions at the same time indicating his movement toward changing. Sim importantly earns the transition in Scrooge particularly well as there is some hesitation. He really does not make it hesitation to be the same as he was, but instead a sadness that causes this hesitation which leaves him believing he is just too old to change and makes any difference.

Sim is terrific in every scene of this film and through each of the observances Scrooge is forced to make gets the most out of each situation. In every moment of the story Sim adds a poignancy, and emotional strength to each through his sincere presence. He builds up the weight of each scene and makes the journey that Scrooge goes through a moving one that it should be. Honestly it would be easy to either leave their scenes on their own or allow Scrooge to be somewhat forgotten in face of them, but Sim never lets that happen. He always succeeds in bringing the power each scene deserves, and never forgets to show exactly how all of what he sees moves him toward being a changed man.

Sim's performance successfully brings Scrooge through the cold beginnings, through the transition period, but his best scenes come at the end of the film when Scrooge has finally fully changed. Sim is terrific in this scene because he doesn't show any hesitation here, he makes Scrooge a man who really has been given a second chance. He is incredibly enthusiastic in his performance, and he makes Scrooge a man who is genuinely happy to be allowed this chance to honestly redeem himself. Sim makes this the beautiful revelation in this man it should be. Sim  makes it a truly joyous moment for Scrooge as he finally sees that he has been blind for so long.

This is a great performance by Alastair Sim that gets every part of his depiction right. He is the perfectly cold calculated greedy man, the man who is broken open by his past, present and future, and the entirely reformed good man at the end. Sim properly connects every part of this path and none of it seems rushed or ineffectual. He handles the transformation brilliantly to bring the proper power to the story of Scrooge. There are many adaptations of this story by this version is easily the best due to Alastair Sim's outstanding central performance that propels the story forward in a wonderful fashion. He makes the story one that can be believed through his portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge who he makes into a complex compelling character.


RatedRStar said...

does it feel odd to watch a christmas film in March lol =), I enjoyed this film of course, my favorite versions are this, the Muppets version and the Albert Finney version.

Houndtang said...

Well said, brilliant performance by a superb actor - one of the under rated greats of British cinema

houndtang said...

Louis, have you seen him in An Inspector Calls? That was a nomination worthy performance as well.

Anonymous said...

What does everyone think of the George C. Scott version?

RatedRStar said...

ive never seen it but it looks pretty good, George C. Scott rarely does anything bad.

houndtang said...

The George C Scott is actually not bad.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Scott was okay.

Louis Morgan said...

houndtang: I haven't seen it but I will have to check it out as I have been meaning to see more films with Sim in it.

Anonymous: It is a pretty solid version. I like Scott's performance for the most part. He could have brought a little more to the finale though.

Louis Morgan said...

Well I saw An Inspector Calls, Sim was brilliant and he is in my top five supporting for 54 now.

houndtang said...

Good show Louis

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Charles Heiston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Louis Morgan said...

Scrooge, is the US title.