The Many Lives of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Dickens’s miser may rival Doyle’s detective in reincarnations.

I haven’t compared lists of Ebenezer Scrooge’s and Sherlock Holmes’s appearances, but I’m willing to bet they’re neck-and-neck as the world’s most popular literary character adaptations.

These illustrations, gleaned via Wikipedia and Wikimedia, represent only a few of the cinematic adaptations of A Christmas Carol.

Dickens had to cope with people copying this work from the beginning, with the plagiarized version that appeared soon after he published the novella.

And ever since the book went out of copyright, it’s been fair game. But what I want to know is why Hollywood (and its international equivalents) can’t leave the text alone? Why do they have to make so many changes, when the original story is so very well written? In this it’s like Stevenson’s Treasure Island: you just can’t find a faithful transfer from the page to the performance.

I don’t mind so much the truly creative departures, like Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, but it seems that as far as what purport to be presentations of the original story, everybody wants to become a co-author, and re-tell it “their” way. The changes don’t add anything of value to the tale; in fact, they detract from it. Moreover, the altered versions are the ones that tend to stick in modern memories: do any of the people who see them ever go on to read the original book? If not, they’re missing the true masterpiece.





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