19 December 2015

On the Radio and Around the Tree

Standing in the Spirit at Your Elbow, Craig Wichman
Since its publication in 1843, Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been adapted into movies, television specials, and plays. At least one book devotes itself to following all the film versions of the reformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, that "tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!" But between the time Dickens' miser appeared on film and on television, his story was heard regularly on the mass medium of the 1920s-1950s, the radio.

Wichman, an audio actor in his own right, has written this unique little book chronicling all the broadcast and recorded versions of A Christmas Carol, including that granddaddy of Christmas traditions, the performances of Lionel Barrymore as Ebenezer Scrooge. To modern audiences used to George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, and Mr. Magoo as being "traditional" in terms of the Carol, at one time the Barrymore presentation of Scrooge was just as beloved and repeated for eighteen years, only killed by the advent of television. His version was even recorded for posterity on shellac and then LP records.

Wichman was able to interview some of the performers involved with the Carol (sadly not all of the adult principals), mostly young performers like Arthur Anderson and before-he-was-a-Mouseketeer Lonnie Burr who recalled working as Tiny Tim or "the turkey boy." This gives us an even more authentic look behind the scenes at the actors and the era. Completing the book are reprints of newspaper advertisements and publicity photos and album covers, plus the author's list of known Carol radio performances.

A neat, interesting-written niche publication for fans of radio and/or of A Christmas Carol.

Round the Christmas Tree, edited by Sara and Stephen Corrin
This is a little volume of Christmas stories suitable for children, and children of all ages. Usually when you find these collections they are of well-known stories or of vintage tales where the copyrights have run out, but this one, originally published in England, contains at least half of its stories from Scandinavian sources. They range from pseudo-fairy tales like "The Big White Pussy-Cat" and "The Voyage of the Red Cap" to tales about children living their everyday lives (including "The Christmas Train" which sounds like it might have come out of The Railway Children) to absurd encounters with supernatural folk, as in the very funny "Another Mince Pie" to a Christmas story by Beatrix Potter that isn't "The Tailor of Gloucester." For the young and the young at heart.

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