Charles Dickens at Christmas is as much a festive tradition as the 3 p.m. address from The Queen and a Morecambe & Wise repeat. In this Radio 4 programme, Humbug!, the writer and broadcaster Brian Sibley explores the popularity of A Christmas Carol.
The tale that is “more widely known than read”, is part of the fabric of Christmas; a Dickensian Christmas offering a familiar and comforting vision at odds with the poverty and destitution of 19th century London that inspired the story.
In the programme you’ll hear performances and readings from Lionel Barrymore, Roy Dotrice, Albert Finney, The Goons, Alec Guinness, Patrick Magee, Mr Magoo, Daniel Massey, Walter Matthau, Ralph Richardson, Leonard Rossiter, Scrooge McDuck, Paul Schofield, Alastair Sim and Orson Welles.
Humbug! was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 22 December 1987. The readers are Norman Bird and Diana Olsson. The producer Glyn Dearman.
The story of A Christmas Carol has been retold many times. The BBC radio version starring Michael Gough and Freddie Jones is repeated on Christmas Day over on Radio 4 Extra. The best cinema version has to be The Muppet Christmas Carol and I see that in a Radio Times poll it came out as the second favourite festive film behind It’s A Wonderful Life – a film I defy you to watch without shedding a tear at the end. Dickens’s story also features in three other films in the Top 50: the wonderful Alastair Sim as Scrooge at No.9, Bill Murray’s retelling as Scrooged at No. 13 and Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol at No. 14.
There’ll be heaps more Dickens over the next year as 2012 sees the 200th anniversary of his birth. Read more on the Dickens 2012 website. More about Scrooge on Brian Sibley’s blog from where I downloaded the Ronald Searle illustration at the top of this post.