Sunday, January 11, 2009

FRED: Nephew & Good Ol' Boy

In most dramatized versions of Dickens' classic story, the emphasis is put on Scrooge's relationship with his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, and Bob's crippled son Tiny Tim. But if one returns to Dickens' original novel one will find that in the story's plot Scrooge never actually meets Tiny Tim. According to the plot of the story, Scrooges' most personal relationship is with his nephew Fred.

(Above: Patrick Stewart and Dominic West--as Fred--in the 1999 film version of "A Christmas Carol.")

In the original story Fred is the son of Scrooges' beloved dead sister, Fan. Scrooge has never been close to Fred, and Fred's recent martiage to a girl of whom his uncle disapproves has caused an even greater rift in their relationship. The story begins with Fred stopping by his uncle's office to invite the old man to Christmas dinner with him and his wife. Scrooge, of course, rejects the invitation which hurts and frustrates Fred. After Scrooge is redeemed, one of the last scenes in the plot is Scrooge showing up for Christmas dinner at Fred's home. The uncle and nephew are at last reconciled. "A Southern Christmas Carol" returns to these original plot elements from Dickens' novel.
(Pictured above: Old Man Scrooge is reconciled with his nephew Fred and his wife in the 2004 production of "A Southern Christmas Carol.")

In the original story Fred is presented as an average middle class young English gentleman. While good natured and open-hearted, Fred also has a sly sense of humor and a dry wit.

(Above: Barry MacKay as Fred in the 1938 film version of the story.)

In "A Southern Christmas Carol," Fred remains an average middle-class young man--good natured and open-hearted with a sly, dry sense of humor. But now he is a Southerner...something of a "good ol' boy," but in the best sense of the word. Looking to the 1930 icons of the American stage and screen, the role was written with a young Jimmy Stewart type in mind.

(Above: Jimmy Stewart as the quintessential idealistic young American male in Frank Capra's immortal 1939 film classic "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.")

True, Stewart was no Southerner (though later in his life he played in plenty of Westerns and rural dramas), but he was a unique average-Joe American type. During the Depression he emerged as one of the most popular young actors in film, and by the 1940's had become the embodiment of the idealistic young American male--usually funny and good natured, often times cranky, but always sincere. The talented Matt Gibson (below) perfectly captured this quality of the character in the 2005 prodouction of "A Southern Christmas Carol."

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