Carol for Another Christmas, A (1964): Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ Only TV Film, Penned by Rod Stering, Starring Sterling Hayden

I have finally caught A Carol for Another Christmas, a strangely captivating TV film, penned by Rod Sterling as his political version of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol.

An oddity, the tale was specifically grounded in the political contexts of the 1960s (Cold War, missiles, diplomatic relations, future of mankind).

Grade: B- (**1/2 out of *****)

A Carol for Another Christmas
Carol for Another Christmas.jpg

Originally televised on ABC on December 28, 1964, it was shown without any commercial breaks. The feature then “disappeared,” and it was not presented again for another 48 years–until TCM rediscovered it and began airing it every December.

A didactic “United Nations Special,” which was aimed to promote the honorable cause of the organization, the show sponsored by the Xerox Corporation.

The only TV movie to be directed by two-time Oscar winner, Joseph L. Mickiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve), this stylized black-and-white feature is deliberately (and excessively) theatrical in structure, visual style, and acting mode.

The members of the glorious ensemble cast have been guided to deliver their lines in a rather stiff way–often in declamations–which befits the ideological nature of the material, as it deals as it is with a liberal expose about morality, humanity, poverty, inequality, and politics.

This overly theatrical enterprise was meant to serve as a plea for greater understanding and cooperation between nations, specifically between First and Third World countries.

Sterling Hayden plays an industrial tycoon named Daniel Grudge who is still haunted by the loss of his son, Marley (Peter Fonda), who was killed in action on Christmas Eve of 1944. The embittered Grudge has become suspicious and contemptuous of any American involvement in any foreign and international affair.

Things change when the Ghost of Christmas Past (Steve Lawrence) takes him back through time to a WWI troopship.  There are also encounters with other Ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Pat Hinge), and the Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert Shaw), who guides him across a desolate landscape where he sees the ruins of what formerly had been a glorious civilization. “How far in the future am I?” the Grudge asks, “Is the whole world a burying ground, where no one speaks with a voice of reason.”

Later on, Charles propagates, in a long monologue: “We have survived the Holocaust, and now we have to listen to each other…Together, as We, not I and You,” but he is greeted with laughter and then charged with “subversion of the individual.”

In the same year that he made The Pink Panther, Peter Sellers plays Imperial Me, a demagogue in an apocalyptic Christmas (his then wife, Britt Eland is cast as Mother).

Sterling Hayden and Sellers also appeared together in 1964 in Kubrick’s highly acclaimed satire, Dr. Strangelove.

Henry Mancini, still best known for The Pink Panther music, composed the score, which was later recorded in his 1966 holiday, A Merry Mancini Christmas.

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) began showing A Carol for Another Christmas in December of 2012, and it has continued to do so each December.

End Note:

Though Fonda’s scenes were cut, his image is reflected in a portrait on the wall.

 

Cast

Percy Rodriguez as Charles

Sterling Hayden as Daniel Grudge

Ben Gizzard as Fred

Barbara Ann Tear as Ruby

Steve Lawrence as Ghost of Christmas Past

Eva Marie Saint as WAVE

James Szigeti as Doctor

Pat Hingle as Ghost of Christmas Present

Robert Shaw as Ghost of Christmas Future

Peter Sellers as Imperial Me

Britt Eland as Mother

Credits:

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Written by Rod Serling, based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cinematography Arthur J. Ornitz
Edited by Nathan Greene, Robert Lawrence (supervising film editor)
Music by Henry Mancini
Distributed by ABC (original broadcast)

Release date: December 28, 1964

Running time: 84 minutes