SCREEN SCROOGES: All Day Tomorrow?

     At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived; with an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his candle out and put on his hat.

     “You’ll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.

     “If quite convenient, sir.”

     “It’s not convenient,” said Scrooge, “and it’s not fair.  If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound.”

     The clerk smiled faintly.

     “And yet,” said Scrooge, “you don’t think ME ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”

     The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

     “A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin.  “But I suppose you must have the whole day.  Be here all the earlier next morning!”

     The clerk promised that he would, and Scrooge walked out with a growl.  The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great-coat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its being Christmas-eve, and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman’s-buff.

     There is little more indicative of Scrooge’s nature than a delicious “You’ll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?”  Most screenwriters can’t resist it, and any actor playing Scrooge who doesn’t insist on full stage during it just isn’t taking advantage of the role.

     Note that Dickens’s Scrooge takes it for granted, albeit crankily, that he must give Bob some time off, and pay for it.  In two versions, Cratchit gets nowhere near that kind of understanding.

     At 5 P.M., Matthau says he supposes Bob will want the whole day tomorrow.  “I didn’t think I’d have to ask for it, sir.  It is Christmas, sir.”  “A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December,” Scrooge snarls, but then goes on to work himself up into a tearful state about having to pay a whole day’s wages for no work when business is so bad.  In spite of B.A.H. Hum bug’s warning, Cratchit weakens, and finally says he doesn’t need that day’s pay.  Scrooge brightens at once.  “First sensible thing you’ve said all day.  Be here all the earlier the day after.  Now, be off with you.”  Bob moves out, groveling a bit more as he does so.  “Oh yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.  Merry Christmas!  Sorry, sir.  I know, sir.  Bah humbug, sir.  Said it with you, sir.  Good day, sir.”  He then slips and falls in the snow.  “Fool!” mutters Scrooge.

     McDuck puts this right after the coal scene, to continue the persecution of Bob Cratchit.  Bob here asks for only half a day off, and gets it, but loses half a day’s pay into the bargain.  We learn that he has been paid two shillings a day until three years ago, when he started doing Mr. Scrooge’s laundry, and was raised to two shillings ha’penny.  Scrooge tosses him another bag of shirts.  Later, as night falls, Cratchit hears the clock strike seven and cheerfully closes his book.  Scrooge casually checks his pocket watch.  “Two minutes fast.”  Bob jumps back onto the stool and re-opens the book, but Scrooge grants him those two minutes off.  “Oh, thank you!  You’re so kind!”  “Never mind the mushy stuff!  Just go!  But be here all the earlier next day!”  (Hmmm?)  Bob wishes him a merry Christmas in leaving; Scrooge growls “Bah!”  Scrooge himself does not leave the office until nine P.M.

     In Owen, this sequence is a turning point in the plot.  Cratchit here actually puts an ear to the clock to make sure it’s still running.  At 6:30, Scrooge catches him checking the time again.  “You keep close watch on closing time.”  Bob replies that it is a half hour past closing time.  “Then close up, close up!” Scrooge barks.  “Don’t work overtime!  You might make something of yourself!”  As they move through the dialogue about the whole day off, Scrooge takes a sharp, scolding tone, and concludes with “Then be off!”  Bob lingers, finally having to remind Scrooge that his wages fall due today.  Scrooge grumbles about people who can’t wait to spend their money, but does count out the coins.  Cratchit departs.  Scrooge spots the bottle of port Fred left behind and is about to throw it away when he realizes there is some left; he slips the bottle into his tail pocket.  Outside, in place of the ice-sliding scene, Bob becomes the target of a volley of snowballs.  He takes this in good spirit, and rushes over to show the young rascals how to make snowballs.  There is a call that a man in a tall hat, traditional target for rascals with snowballs, is coming.  Bob lets a snowball fly with deadly accuracy, realizing too late he has just knocked off his employer’s hat.  Running to retrieve it, he is too late; Scrooge’s hat has been run over by a passing carriage.  Bob is summarily dismissed.  The clerk summons his courage to point out that his contract allows him a week’s notice; Scrooge snaps that that week’s pay will do to buy him a new hat.  No, in fact, that hat cost more than a week’s wages for the clerk, so Bob owes him an additional shilling.  Bob pays him and Scrooge stalks off.  The boys apologize to Cratchit for getting him into trouble, calling Scrooge an old stinker.

     Two other versions bring Tiny Tim to the office for a first meeting with Ebenezer Scrooge.  Scott is leaving for the exchange when he has the discussion with Bob about having the whole day off.  On his way out, he growls at Tim, whom he thinks is a beggar; Tim replies cheerfully, and waits outside for his father.  When Bob finally does reach closing time, Tim asks if they can go home by way of Cornhill, so he can watch the boys and girls gliding and playing in the snow.  Bob agrees to this, and tells Tim about having tomorrow off.  “Hurrah for Christmas!” cries Tim.  They watch the children play; Bob tells Tim that he’ll be doing that himself soon.  Tim says he is sure he’s getting stronger every day.

     Curry’s Cratchit blows out his candle as the clock strikes seven.  A small boy enters the counting house; Scrooge, thinking this is another beggar, prepares to strike him with a walking stick.  Cratchit’s dives to stop him, explaining the boy is Tim Cratchit.  Scrooge was unaware that his clerk had a family, and notes, “He’s awfully…Tiny.”  While Bob and Scrooge discuss the day off, Tim gets acquainted with Debit.  The dog, dubious at first, warms to the boy.  Scrooge snuffs out the candles, setting one in his pocket to use at home.  Dismissed, Bob tells his employer “And a very merry…er, merry evening.”  Bob and Tim leave; Debit is sent to put out the rest of the lights.

     Versions which do not materially change the scene still add their bits of business.  Scrooge’s belief that Cratchit is leaving early, the fact of payday coming around, and Cratchit’s pause to wish, or not wish, his employer a merry Christmas become almost standard.

     Hicks is upset to see Cratchit blowing out his candle while the clock is still striking seven; he reminds Bob that this clock is fast.  They move through the dialogue as Bob helps Scrooge on with his coat.  At the end, for one fleeting moment, it seems as if Scrooge might give Bob some little gift of the season.  He is merely reaching for the key, so Cratchit can do the locking upBob wishes his employer a merry Christmas; with a “Bah! Humbug!”, Scrooge marches out, giving not so much as a glance to the beggar on the street.  Bob locks up and walks out among the jovial crowd.  When he sees the boys sliding, he has one go at it himself before hurrying home.

     Sim I checks his pocket watch, closes his book, deliberately closes and sets away a bag of money, and turns down the lamp, all without a word.  Cratchit fetches Scrooge’s coat; during the discussion of the day off, he tries to excuse himself.  He’s asking for the time off just for the sake of his family, who :put their hearts and souls into Christmas, as it were, sir.”  “And their hands into my pockets, as it were, sir!”  When finally granted the day, Bob says “Thank you, sir.  It’s more than generous of you.”  “Yes,  I know it is.  You don’t have to tell me.”  Bob wishes him “Merry Christmas, sir.”  Turning, Scrooge demands, “Merry Christmas, sir?” and moves to the “I’ll retire to Bedlam” speech, with a chuckle of contempt.  After he has departed, Bob joyously locks up.

     March is told by his clerk, “It’s six o’clock, if you don’t mind, sir.”  March snaps at him about having the whole day.  After they have performed a shortened version of the scene, Bob turns for the door.  He pauses there, as if to wish Scrooge a merry Christmas, thinks better of it, shrugs a little, and moves on out.

     Having disposed of Fred, Rathbone barks, “Cratchit!  Time to close up!  And don’t forget to put your candle out!”  He shuffles on his coat, and then steps out to stand nose-to-nose with his clerk to deliver “You’ll want all day tomorrow, I suppose.”  They perform the dialogue much as written; Cratchit even smiles faintly when he’s supposed to.  Scrooge concludes the scene, taking himself off with a “Merry Christas!  Bah! Humbug!”

     Magoo observes that it is closing time, and adds “We’ll finish tomorrow.”  “Oh, but sir,” says Cratchit, “Tomorrow is Christmas Day.  I have a holiday tomorrow.”  Scrooge squints at him.  “You’ll want all day, I suppose?”  “Oh, yes, sir.  Please, sir.  You see, I….”  “I know!” Scrooge snaps.  “It’s Christmas!  Oh, Lord help us.  The whole population is mad!”  He has been having trouble fixing his scarf; he now pushes Cratchit away, cutting off Bob’s attempts to help.  “Fool!  I’m quite capable!”  As Scrooge stalks out, Bob calls “Merry Christmas to you, sir!”  “Christmas!  Ha!  Bah, humbug!”  Scrooge slams the door and turns to address it.  “Merry Christmas!  Out upon Merry Christmas!” and declaims that bit about every fool being boiled in his own pudding, and so on.

     In Haddrick, we watch the gaslights being lit.  Once Cratchit has been through the usual dialogue, and achieved his day off, he leaves quickly, kicking up his heels with a cry of “Tally-ho!”  He enjoys a goofy bit of business with an organ-grinder’s monkey.

     Cratchit helps Sim II don a coat through the dialogue.  They leave the building together.  We can see clearly that Scrooge is taller and wider of shoulder than his clerk.

     When the clock strikes, tinnily, a smiling Cratchit moves to Finney to announce, “It’s seven o’clock, sir.”  There is a long pause before Scrooge replies, not looking up, “Correct, Cratchit.”  Cratchit does not like to be impertinent, but he would appreciate receiving his wages.  The trouble with Cratchit, Scrooge declares, is that he thinks only of pleasure and of squandering money.  “You’ll be wanting the whole day,” he continues, and they move through the written dialogue.  Scrooge closes the discussion by stating that he does not pay good money for Cratchit to be forever on holiday.  “I appreciate your kindness, sir.”  “It’s my weakness.  I’m a martyr to my own generosity.  Give you one Christmas Day off and you expect them all.”  “Merry Christmas, mr. Scrooge.”  “Be gone from here and take your infernal merry Christmas with you.”  “:Beg your pardon, sir.  No offense, sir.”  Finney closes with the “I’ll retire to Bedlam” speech.

     Cratchit enters Caine’s office to explain that it is closing time.  “Very well,” says his employer, “I’ll see you at eight tomorrow morning.”  Pushed to it by the bookkeepers, Cratchit points out, “Sir, tomorrow’s Christmas.”  Scrooge acknowledges this, saying “Eight-thirty, then.”  Gathering his courage, Cratchit suggests rhat half an hour for Christmas hardly seems customary.  “How much time off is customary, Mr. Cratchit?”  Bob’s courage is flagging, but he swallows and replies, “The whole day.”  When Scrooge demands “The entire day?”, the bookkeepers back off, murmuring about that being a mistake of Cratchit’s.  But Bob persists.  Everything else will be closed, he informs his employer; there will be no one to do business with.  Opening the office will merely waste valuable coal.  “It’s a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December,” grumbles Scrooge, dashing everyone’s hopes.  “But as I seem to be the only person around who knows that,” he continues, “Take the day off.”  The bookkeepers cheer him until he barks at them to stop it.  He departs, and Charles Dickens explains, in credibly Dickensian dialogue, that the bookkeepers can now enjoy their holiday.  The musical number “One More Sleep ‘til Christmas” accompanies the closing of the office and their participation in a penguin party, which involves a lot of sliding on the ice.  We close with Cratchit looking at the moon and stars; just back of him we see the little caroler from the previous segment, who sits, teeth chattering, in the shelter of a heap of trash.

     Stewart finds the clock striking seven as he returns from chasing the carolers.  Without a word, he fetches his coat.  Almost reflectively, he begins the discussion of the next day’s work; he becomes fierce as the dialogue continues.  Cratchit does try to smile on “It’s only once a year, sir.”  At the end, departing, he says “Merry….” Before remembering where he is.  Scrooge turns on him, alert for weakness.  “You were about to say something, Cratchit?”  Bob smiles in an ingratiating way.  “Nothing, sir.”  With a sneer, Scrooge marches out.


     In Owen and in Finney, we find this section followed by episodes in which Cratchit shows a little of what he is like outside the office.

     Fired by Owen over that incident with the snowball and the hat, Bob walks morosely through the streets.  He gradually notices that the man walking ahead of him is carrying a freshly killed goose over his shoulder.  The way the goose’s head sways back and forth as the man walks fascinates Bob, who starts to laugh and ends by wishing everyone a merry Christmas.  Those within earshot return the greeting, and he jumps to complete his errands.  He has what’s left of his wages, and he has a shopping list, and Christmas is coming.

     Laden with his own goose, apples, lemons, potatoes, oranges, and hot chestnuts, he struggles through the little door of his house.  Mrs. Cratchit is thrilled to see him, and the children, dressed for bed, rush to see what he has brought.  They take turns guessing what’s in the big bundle, but no one gets it right until Bob has unwrapped it to display the goose.  The children rush to stroke the bird.

     “Go to the fire and have a warm, Bob,” says Mrs. Cratchit.  “Did you get the day off for the holiday?”

     “Without hardly any trouble at all.”

     “Wasn’t Mr. Scrooge angry?”

     “Well, you might say he was and you might say he wasn’t.”

     “Meaning what?”

     “Meaning I got the day off and we don’t want to talk about Mr. Scrooge tonight.”  He then calls the children over to share out the hot chestnuts in his tail pocket.

     In Finney, Bob comes upon his youngest daughter, Cathy, standing with Tim peering through a window at some mechanical toys.  (Mechanical toys seem to say “Victorian Christmas: to filmmakers.)  He apologizes for being late.  “Mr. Scrooge and I had a lot of last-minute business to attend to.”  Then he asks which toy each child likes best.

     Cathy at once chooses the doll in the corner, but Tim won’t budge from the statement that he likes them all.  “You said I couldn’t have none of them, so I might as well like ‘em all.”  His father tells him he is a philosopher and a gentleman.

     Bob now reveals he has fifteen shillings in his pocket, thrilling the children.  They move on to buy supplies, to a song about the joy of being young during Christmas preparations.  Everything Bob buys is contrasted with what someone richer is buying nearby.  Bob purchases “mystery presents” wrapped in brown paper, four for a shilling, from a man dressed as Father Christmas.  This man knows Bob has five children, and slips in an extra for free as another shopper staggers out of a store with huge presents wrapped in shining paper.  Bob buys apples from a street vendor while a customer in the fruiterer’s shop is choosing oranges and pineapples.  A man is buying fine wine (the 1846 vintage, specifically) while Bob fills a bottle from a keg, so as to have the basic ingredient for Christmas punch.  “Christmas punch is a Cratchit specialty.”  They also pay fourpence for a ready-made pudding.

     Reaching home, they find it well-decorated.  Mrs. Cratchit wants to show off what she and the older children have been doing.  As Bob reaches to light another candle, the scene shifts to Scrooge blowing out his own candle.

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