Stingiest Man in Town
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Keeping in mind that the source is a black-and-white 16mm kinescope, the quality of this new DVD release is excellent -- as is Basil Rathbone and the rest of the cast.
The news of STINGIEST MAN'S rediscovery and release broke on my blog on October 13. Please check it out at charlesdickensonscreen.com
You will also find information on STINGIEST MAN in my book; see link below. My commentary was based on viewing an incomplete copy years ago at the Library of Congress. Now that I've finally seen the whole thing I feel like I've died and gone to Dickensian heaven!
Merry Christmas -- and what a way to kick off 2012 and the Dickens bicentenary!
-- Fred Guida
A Christmas Carol And Its Adaptations: A Critical Examination of Dickens's Story And Its Productions on Screen And Television
Even if I had been able to see it, I probably would not have given the production much more of a mention than I did. My book, after all, dealt with the "Films" of Basil Rathbone, not his television appearances.
However, thanks to Video Artists International, a DVD of this 1956 musical version of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL is now available. It is a kinescope of a live black-and-white broadcast, so one should not expect the pristine quality found it most home video releases.
Certainly the strongest aspect of this Daniel Petrie- directed production is its score that features music by Fred Spielman and lyrics by Janice Torre. There are several memorable tunes in the show, such as "An Old-Fashioned Christmas," "Golden Dreams," "It Might Have Been" and the title song.
The problems with the production are more apparent today than, I think, they would have been back in 1956. Standards, after all, have changed.
Cast members like Vic Damone, Johnny Desmond and Patrice Munsel may have been marvelous singers and had major fan followings, but the play might have been better served had their roles been cast with actors who could sing, rather than simply fine singers.
Also, the cast, including Rathbone as Scrooge, seems to be giving stage performances, playing to the "upper balcony" rather than to the television camera.
Nevertheless, THE STINGIEST MAN IN TOWN is a very entertaining way to spend 81 minutes of the Christmas season, and we are grateful to Video Artists International for preserving this classic program for future generations.
© Michael B. Druxman
Broadcast on December 23, 1956, it's based on the Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol that would have been fit for Broadway. The music and lyrics are by Fred Spielman and Janice Torre, who've given us not only "Paper Roses", but also tunes sung by Melchior, Presley and Garland. The production values are superb; the video is a tad grainy or jumpy here and there, but for a TV show more than 50 years old, it's in remarkable condition.
What's most remarkable is the cast. Basil Rathbone sheds his pipe, violin and Dr. Watson persona to play the infamous Scrooge, and he is absolutely outstanding. Singing, dancing and snarling his way through this live broadcast, it's unfortunate his talent didn't grace more musicals. He's thoroughly credible, making the transition between the stingiest man in town to the most generous, happy and joyful with an ease and a style that's just wonderful to watch.
Rathbone is supported by some of the great talents of the period. Robert Weede, from Broadway's The Most Happy Fella and the Metropolitan Opera plays Marley's ghost (in a costume that frankly makes him look like a nun in chain bondage); from the Met we also have Patrice Munsel, who was in any number of musical television broadcasts. The Four Lads, the ultimate `50s pop group, narrate and play various chorus parts, and Johnny Desmond, fresh from replacing Sydney Chaplin in Funny Girl opposite Streisand, is nephew Fred.Read more ›
(The Most Happy Fella), The Four Lads and Betty Madigan round out the cast.
One word of warning, since this title has not been released, I have no way
of knowing the picture and sound quality of the DVD. I do, however, own the CD
and the sound quality is excellent, but that may not apply here.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wish I had found this the year it was first put on to a DVD (2011). But I have it now and am thrilled. It was an amazing production on early television. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kathryn K. Hansen
The soundtrack album has been a part of my family's Christmas since I was a kid back in the 50's. Its wonderful to FINALLY see the amazing LIVE TV production that the music came... Read morePublished 7 months ago by John Williams
Great musical. Performed in this musical as a child and seeing the original was a thrillPublished 8 months ago by FF2EMTVOL
Nobody does it like Basil Rathbone
I give this movie a *5* Star rating!
A pleasant time capsule, with catchy tunes, sometimes kitchy lyrics, and fine performance bt Basil.Published 18 months ago by Raymond C. Schafer
My parents loved this gift. It brought back old memories for them.Published 18 months ago by K. Burton
I'm probably spoiled by more recent renderings of A Christmas Carol, but this was an important addition to my collection.Published 19 months ago by Mr. Stephen A. Burke
In this second musical tv adaptation of Sir Charles Dickens yultide classic.."Scrooge"(played here by Basil Rathbone)learns about the true meaning of Christmas and caring... Read morePublished 19 months ago by KevinButler