Screen Scrooges: Jacob Marley

     After several turns, he sat down again.  As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in this room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building.  It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing.  It swung so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house.

     This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour.  The bells ceased as they had begun, together.  They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine-merchant’s cellar.  Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

      The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below, then coming up the stars; then coming straight towards his door.

     “It’s humbug still!” said Scrooge.  “I won’t believe it.”

     His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes.  Upon its coming up, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried “I know him!  Marley’s Ghost!” and fell again.

     The same face, the very same.  Marley in his pig-tail, usual waistcoat, tights, and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pig-tail, and his coat-skirts, and the haor upon his head.  The chain he bore was clasped about his middle.  It was long, and wound about him like a tail, and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.  His body was transparent: so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.

     Scrooge had often heard it said the Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

     No, nor did he believe it even now.  Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes, and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.

     “How now!” said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever, “What do you want with me?”

     “Much!”—Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.

     “Who are you?”

     “Ask me who I was.”

     “Who WERE you, then?” said Scrooge, raising his voice.  “You’re particular—for a shade.”  He was going to say “to a shade”, but substituted this, as more appropriate.

     “In life, I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”

     “Can you—can you sit down?” asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully at him.

     “I can.”

     “Do it then.”

     Scrooge asked the question, because he didn’t know whether a ghost so transparent might find himself able to take a chair; and felt that in the event of its being impossible, ot might involve the necessity of an embarrassing explanation.  But the Ghost sat down on the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he were quite used to it.

     “You don’t believe in me,” remarked the Ghost.

     “I don’t,” said Scrooge.

     “What evidence would you have of my reality, beyond that of your senses?”

     “I don’t know,” said Scrooge.

     “Why do you doubt your senses?”

     “Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them.  A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheat.  You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.  There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

     Scrooge weas not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then.  The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror, for the spectre’s voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones.

     To sit, staring at these fixed, glazed eyes, in silence for a moment, would play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him.  There was something very awful, too, in the spectre’s being provided with an infernal atmosphere of its own.  Scrooge could not feel it himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the Ghost sat perfectly motioness, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated by the hot vapour from an oven.

     “You see this toothpick?” said Scrooge, returning quickly to the charge, for the reason just assigned, and wishing, though it were only for a moment, to diovert the vision’s stony gaze from himself.

     “I do,” replied the Ghost.

     “You are not looking at it,” said Scrooge.

     “But I see it,” said the Ghost, “nonetheless.”

     “Well!: returned Scrooge, “I have but to swallow this, and be for the rest of my days persecuted by a legion of goblins, all of my own creation.  Humbug, I tell you—humbug!”

     At this, the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chains with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon.  But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round his head, as if it were too warm to wear in-doors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast.

  Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.

     “Mercy!” he said.  “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”

     “Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, “do you believe in me or not?”

     “I do,” said Scrooge.  “I must.  But why do spirits walk the world, and why do they come to me?”

     Look at that atmosphere.  Look at the timing.  Look at the way Dickens builds up Marley’s menace.  And look quick, because you won’t see much of it on screen.  As far as filmmakers are concerned, except for removing the head bandage customary for a Victorian corpse, Marley doesn’t do much for them but talk.  They frequently take away even his main ghostly power—walking through the door—because making bolts slide back by themselves is more dramatic.  They like the chinstrap, Scrooge’s discussion of indigestion (especially that line about more of gravy than of grave)and they keep Marley’s cry—sometimes anger, sometimes despair—right after that, but they really want to get on with this so we can see more active ghosts.

    To save you the trouble of checking these things on the Interwebs: “particular to a shade” was a phrase meaning someone was extremely particular; Dickens makes Scrooge one of those miserable sinners who indulges in puns.  In ancient days, when love was believed to reside in the heart and intellect in the brain, compassion as considered a function of the bowels, so that Marley, when living, was accused of having none of that quality, and Dickens is again making a little joke.  Some filmmakers get his and some can’t be bothered.  Oh, and that chinstrap was meant to hold the lower jaw up so the dead person did not lie open-mouthed through the viewing and funeral; there is, eerily, a deathbed sketch of Dickens himself, who is wearing just such a chinstrap.

     Hicks is troubled, suspicious, as a bell starts to ring.  The sound grows louder, more violent; his face becomes one of solid fear.  He runs to the window, to look below and see if someone is ringing his doorbell.  His bedroom door swings open, and a voice intones, “Look well, Ebenezer Scrooge, for only you can see me.”  (There’s no one else in the room except, of course, those of us in the audience.)  From the moment his name is pronounced, Scrooge believes implicitly.  He needs no further convincing, so the rest of this passage is omitted.

     When Owen looks at the swinging bell-pull, it stops.  “Humbug!”  It begins again, and the sound is joined by that of a church bell, and some alarm bells, outside.  Mystified, Scrooge looks around; the sound stops short.  Booming steps approach, and Marley steps through the door.  He is well-dressed but transparent, with a face like that of a bad-tempered cat.  Scrooge trembles.  They discuss Marley’s existence; Scrooge does not mention gravy and the grave.  When Scrooge refuses to believe, Marley cries out in despair.  Scrooge orders him to be quiet, and runs to the window to call the nghtwatch.  Marley seems offended; he made this visit for Scrooge’s benefit.  When the watchmen arrive, there is, of course, no ghost to be seen; the head watchman suggests that Scrooge has been indulging in other spirits.  The three old soaks then suggest they wouldn’t mind a sip of what Scrooge was enjoying.  Scrooge orders them out; as soon as they have left, Marley reappears.  Scrooge now believes, but is more angry than frightened.

     At another moan of “Scrooge!”, Sim I lets his spoon drop into his bowl.  Odd noises move him to clean his ears with his little fingers.  Now he is sure he hears a bell, but the bells in his room are not moving.  He glares several times with suspicion at the clock.  When the ringing stops, he shrinks into his chair and reaches for his spoon.  The sound of footsteps turns his face into a mask of “Not more!”  The door bangs open; he leaps to his feet.  A well-dressed man materializes.  Marley’s head tips to one side as if he was hanged.  His eyes roll up.  When he delivers the line “Much!”, Scrooge laughs and replies, “In that case, CAN you sit down?”  Marley does, shifting some of the noisiest chains in the business.  This is the only version which includes the toothpick sequence (and nicely done, at that.)  Marley is fairly dignified until he wails at Scrooge’s continued disbelief.  Scrooge goes to pieces at once.  Marley delivers his next lines as if in great pain.

     March hears a whirl of sound: music and bells.  He clutches his head.  Marley fades through the door, dressed in garments of the Regency era, and moving like a sleepwalker.  Turning slowly, he spots Scrooge: the sights seems to render him speechless.  “I won’t believe it,” Scrooge growls, “He’s been dead these seven years.  What do you want with me?”  “Much.”  “You a humbug or are you….”  “Ask me who I was.”  “Who were you, then?  You’re particular, for a ghost.”  “In life, I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”  “No doubt a bad dream, brought on by something disagreeable I dined on.”  Scrooge moves on to the speech about gravy and the grave.  Marley demands, “I am nothing to you?”  “Nothing at all.  Often heard it said in your lifetime you had no bowels, and now I see it’s true.  But that isn’t proof enough.”  Marley moans softly, in anguish; he has escaped torment to try to rescue someone else and is not believed.  He sits and  solidifies in a chair, settling one hand on Scrooge’s wrist.  “Look at me, Ebenezer.”  This for some reason horrifies Scrooge, who cries “Mercy, dreadful being!” and so forth.

     Rathbone watches a handbell rise from the mantel by itself and ring once.  Scrooge is mildly surprised, and simply mutters, “Ah, humbug!”  The sound of chains makes him turn.  “No,” says he, “I won’t believe it.  It’s humbug.”  He looks a bit more troubled when Marley walks through the door.  The speeches are reduced to a minimum.  “Jacob Marley!  What do you want with me?”  “You don’t believe in me.”  “I do I do I do!”

     Blaming sour gruel for Marley’s face in the fire, Magoo sets off for bed.  His candle blows out.  He figures he forgot to lock the cellar door.  Hearing footsteps and chains, he speculates “Rats?”  You can tell from his face he does not believe this.  “What nonsense is this?”  Marley walks through the door and calls his name.  “Don’t you believe in knocking?”  “Would you have unbolted the door to let me in, Ebenezer?”  “That door WAS bolted,” Scrooge recalls.  They progress through the discussion of whether Marley exists, though here Scrooge blames all his hallucinations on that crummy gruel.  Marley’s fists are clenched during the wail of anger.

     Haddrick’s bell is a handbell, which rises into the air and rings by itself..  Scrooge trembles, but when the sound stops, says, “It’s humbug still.  I won’t believe it.”  There is a sound of footsteps and chains, and Marley simply appears in the room, a huge skull surrounded by flames atop a white nightgown.  A hot wind may be involved.  If the living Marley looked like this (Scrooge recognizes him at once), the firm must have had not trouble collecting its accounts receivable.

     In Sim II, three bells on the wall ring briefly; the sound of wailing and the clank of chains reach Scrooge from outside.  His candle flickers.  Marley steps through the door, head tipped back, eyes staring, his lower teeth exposed; an infernal atmosphere makes his clothes rise.  He wavers a bit left and right.  The discussion of his existence is greatly abbreviated, but does include the gravy and the grave.  When Marley undoes his chinstrap, his mouth drops a lot farther than possible for the living.  Scrooge cowers at the sight.  This lower jaw does not move when Marley speaks again.

     As Finney investigates a draft, a cobwebbed bell begins to ring.  Two bells next to it join in; the sound grows louder and louder.  Scrooge backs away from the spectacle, and a church bell joins in, followed by other bells outdoors.  He covers his ears, and the sound shuts off.  Footsteps approach, accompanied by a sound of dragging chains.  His candle goes out, and he rushes to lock the door.  At a call of “Scrooge”, he catches up a fire iron.  The bolts of the door slide back, and a pale delicate Marley strolls in,, walking as if his joints are no longer working together.  He is not transparent.  The door eases shut behind him.  When he speaks, he is hoarse.  When asked to sit, he draws up a chair and then seats himself in the empty air next to it.  Scrooge expands on the underdone beef speech, defiantly eating his gruel, and finally snapping, “That’s what you are: an old potato!”  Infuriated, Marley rises into the air, trembling, banging a pair of strongboxes from his chain together.  Scrooge drops to his knees and begs the ghost to stop.

     Matthau is asleep, dreaming bad dreams.  Hearing chains, he wakes up; when he sits up in bed, his automatic candle blinks on.  B.A.H. Humbug tells us a ghost appeared; we watch a dark, wispy shape resolve into a definite shadow, which then becomes Jacob Marley: a long-faced, hollow-eyed, big-nosed chap with a chinstrap.  He announces his name, and Scrooge snaps, “Ridiculous!  You’re nothing but a humbug!”  “See me!” shouts Marley, “How can you doubt your senses?”  Without waiting for an answer, his head expands to become nearly as tall as the bed, and wails.  Cowering, Scrooge calls “What do you want of me?”  “Much!” says Jacob Marley.

     McDuck’s Marley walks through the door and slips on Scrooge’s cane.  Scrooge is immediately convinced that this is his old partner.

     In Scott’s room, a bell covered with cobwebs rings; other bells join in.  Scrooge puts a hand to his head.  His expression at the first clank of chains and thud of feet is one of alarm and disbelief and perhaps a few other things.  His bolts slide back.  Determined not to see this, he turns his back to the door.  “It’s humbug still!  I won’t believe it!”  The door slams open and he charges up.  A short, stiff, somewhat broken Marley ambles in, looking as if he has just risen from the grave and checked his worms at the door.  He makes much of undoing his chinstrap.  Scrooge tries to laugh on “Who WERE you then?” and again on “More of gravy than the grave.”  Marley’s wail is a roar of anger.

     Caine stares when a bell on the wall rings a bit.  It rings again, more wildly; Scrooge becomes apprehensive.  His fire goes out; he breathes faster and faster in the darkness.  Up jump the chalky blue-white Marley Brothers, Jacob and Ribert, a sneering, jeering tag team of insult.  From the moment they heckle his pun on gravy and the grave, he believes in them.

     In Curry, green rays stream from beyond the door.  Debit approaches the door first, with Scrooge behind.  The bolts slide back; the key rattles and falls to the floor.  A floating, slightly bloated Marley glides into the room, apparently held to earth only by the weight of the chain and strongboxes.  Debit tries to bite him, and is terrified when those fangs touch nothing solid.  Marley’s cry in response to the gravy/grave gag is one of fury; rays of  green lightning flash around him.  Scrooge retreats until he burns his backside at the fire.  Extinguished, he implores, “Mercy!  Why do you haunt me?”

     Stewart hears one bell; others join it.  He looks to his locks, and sees them secure.  The sound of feet makes him jump.  “No.  I won’t believe it.”  Marley more or less melts through the door.  He has white hair; a strong wind seems to be blowing it back.  After he sits, Scrooge looks at his long, long chain, shakes his head, and sits down, looking away.  They exchange the dialogue Dickens provided, slightly abbreviated.  Marley is visibly offended by the discussion of indigestion.  “Moldy cheese?” he demands, “An underdone turnip?”  He may be affronted by a topical jab at British beef.  At the line about gravy and the grave, he rises, wailing.  Then he undoes his chinstrap, and his lower jaw drops so far it gets stuck.  Scrooge has to reach out and push it back up before Marley can speak again.  This apparently convinces him.

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