An American Christmas Carol
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An American Christmas Carol, actor Henry Winkler
Henry Winkler's performance as a miserly financier anchors this often-elegant 1979 TV-movie adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic holiday story of kindness and redemption. Buried under layers of old-age makeup (by Oscar winner Greg Cannom), Winkler manages to bring forth both the bitterness and the pain that fuel Benedict Slade, an elderly finance company president who spends a Depression-era Christmas Eve crushing the spirits of his fellow New Hampshire residents by evicting debtors from their homes or repossessing their belongings. Upon claiming and attempting to destroy a valuable edition of Dickens's Christmas Carol, Slade is visited by a trio of ghosts (David Wayne, Gerard Parkes, and Dorian Harewood) who attempt to convince him to change his ways or suffer a terrible fate. Tony Award-nominated writer Jerome Coopersmith does a fine job of adapting Dickens's story, smartly adding political and financial details germane to the period that anchor its 20th-century American setting; director Eric Till capably balances the fantasy and everyday elements, and captures the period detail and snowy locations (Ontario, Canada, stands in for New England) with an eye towards the picturesque. But the film's success rests squarely on Winkler's shoulders, and the actor provides believable performances as both the youthful and aged Slade that did much to remind viewers that he was a far more talented performer than his most popular screen character, Fonzie of Happy Days, suggested. Shout Factory's full-frame presentation of An American Christmas Carol looks good, especially in comparison to other DVD releases of TV movies from the period, and offers a new eight-minute-plus interview with Winkler, who discusses his concerns about tackling the iconic story, as well as the challenges presented by the considerable makeup design. --Paul Gaita
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Top Customer Reviews
However, I was transfixed by this adaptation on the Dickens story and was genuinely moved by Winkler's ( Benedict Slade ) transformation at the end. Winkler is simply superb: believable, funny, dramatic, and imminently likable even as the curmudgeon. The supporting cast is wonderful as well even though most of them, with the possible exception of David Wayne, will be unknown to most viewers. The actor who plays Thatcher (the "Cratchit" character in the Dickens novel) does a wonderful job of being as compassionate as the role demands without being too "soft".
The actors playing the roles of Mr. Brewster and Helen Brewster also hold their own and give Winkler solid performances to react to even with limited screen time.
The movie looks and feels like I would imagine turn of the century and Depression era New England to look and feel like to an outsider: quaint, majestic, proud; yet tired and despairing.
My only problem with the movie, and this is REALLY nitpicking, is that they simply made Winkler look too old for the latter Slade ("Scrooge") part. the movie does an excellenet job of letting us know when things are happening, even in the Christmas Past scenarios, e.g., we know Slade and Helen broke up around 1917 because of the backdrop of the war effort (WW I). The contemporary story is set in 1933 and Slade looks like he has aged forty years instead of only 16 or so. He looks MUCH older than his contemporaries. However, maybe they intended to achieve this effect to accentuate his gnarliness.Read more ›
The movie translates Dickens' classic story from 19th century England to Depression-era New England. The result is very effective. For me, an American born to parents who grew up in the Depression, the 20th century setting made the story feel very real. The writers and director made excellent decisions in their choice of sets. Three notable examples were the New England furniture factory as the setting for Slade's youth, the newly-conceived idea of consumer credit as the source of his subsequent wealth and avarice, and the choice of an African-American as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come ("You must be Future," Slade declares, cowering before him).
Winkler's performance is brilliant. He captures the essence of Slade perfectly, and makes the gradual transformation from miser to redeemed man seem natural and believable. The scene at the Thatcher (a.k.a. Cratchit) household at the end of the film never fails to bring tears to my eyes and those of my family. The supporting cast performs ably as well, making this a Christmas classic that one can watch every year.
"An American Christmas Carol" debuted in 1979, midway through Winkler's popular "Happy Days" television series run. After a few years of reruns, it disappeared from view until recently, when it became available on DVD and video. I heartily recommend it for your holiday DVD collection.
Most recent customer reviews
We are very happy with our purchase. Henry Winkler is great in the movie.Published 21 days ago by phyllis kelly
I bought this because it was shot near where I live, but I watch it every year because it is very good.Published 22 days ago by Wendy
Filmed in Canada in Elora Gorge and that is why I bought it this is a smal town I love.Published 2 months ago by lsgoodall
Always thought that Henry Winkler's Christmas Carol was the best!Published 9 months ago by Lorna Royston