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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: September 2009

6 - Bill Murray's Christmas Carols


Convention has it that the translator betrays the text: the Italian bon mot sets traduttore (translator) against traditore (traitor), finding as the difference the change from u to i. How much more so, convention notes, when a classic fiction is turned into a Hollywood film. I want to argue against this received wisdom, using as my proof-texts two films of the comedian, Bill Murray. Each film is a translation and adaptation of Dickens's A Christmas Carol: not inferior versions of a sacrosanct original but powerful reconceptualizations in their own right of Dickens's powerfully theatrical original. Scrooged (1988) purges the Carol of the Victoriana customary to adaptations, bringing to twentieth-century life the experiences of healing and renewal commented on by Dickens's early readers. Murray's later film, Groundhog Day (1993), crystallizes the issues of time and identity of A Christmas Carol, just touched on by Scrooged. In so doing, Groundhog Day, less true to the original narrative, is perhaps truer to the central themes of Dickens's tale. In them we discover gateways to Dickens's text hard to come by in other forms.


Scrooged (1988) was directed by Richard Donner, and written by Mitch Glazer, who later supplied the script for Alfons Cuaron's Great Expectations discussed by Pam Katz in chapter 9. His script tells a tale of the consequences of isolation and separation on the personality of the main character, Martin Cross, played by Bill Murray.

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Eigner, Edward. 1989. The Dickens Pantomime. Berkeley: The University of California Press
Falx, Neil M. 1978. “Written Pictures: The Visual Arts in Goethe's Literary Work.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University
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