Allan Esler Smith, originally from Bangor, who manages the Brian Desmond Hurst Estate tells us a bit more about a piece of Belfast art that is loved all over the world. It’s art on film and it is the Christmas classic Scrooge, released in the USA as A Christmas Carol in 1951 but it’s not just for Christmas it’s a film for the whole year and shines a light on the opportunity for a better future.
Brian Desmond Hurst directed Scrooge and he always saw film as a form of art. Hurst’s career almost defies belief. He was born in 1895 in East Belfast, went to school in East Belfast and worked there in a linen factory. He fought at Gallipoli and then travelled the world to various art colleges and ended up with John Ford seeing one of his paintings and asking about the artist and the rest, as they say, is history. Hurst was mentored by Ford and he went on to make more than 30 films over four decades in three continents but it is Scrooge that he will always be remembered for. Allan spoke to Love Belfast today and explained more.
“ I have lots of reasons for loving the film. It was released as Scrooge as the production company wanted it to be a film screened all year as it is essentially about a lucky twist and redemption. Everyone, even miserable old Scrooge can change! The American’s rebranded it A Christmas Carol which gave it a more limited screening season but the absolutely love it over there- it’s right up there with It’s Wonderful Life in the USA.
I like the glimpses of Old London in the film – and the snowy atmospheric filming. It’s stunning and you feel you are in Dickensian London in the winter of 1842 when Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. Some of the scenes have not changed a bit- at the start we see the tight fisted, inhuman Ebezener Scrooge dismiss a debtor on the steps of The Royal Exchange- the building just opposite the Bank of England. The Fizziwig shop and cobbled streets you see were filmed around Hays Wharf which is now a fancy dining area near Tower Bridge but which even today still retains much of its Victorian character and cobbled streets and is now home to expensive restaurants.
A notch above the snowy atmospheric photographic and authentic locations was the heartbeat throughout the film that is the performance of a lifetime delivered by Alistair Sim. In many ways it was the film that made Sim and he in turn made the phrase ‘humbug’ which has somehow been contrived over the years to bah humbug … anyway listen out for the humbug line on the Royal Exchange scene at the start and again towards the end when Scrooge looks in the mirror and is over-joyed at having the opportunity of another chance at life.
Watch out for some other familiar faces- Hattie Jacques (Mrs Fezziweg); Jack Warner who plays Mr Jorkins (anyone remember Dixon of Dock Green) and if not you might remember Minder … if you do you’ll spot a very young George Cole playing Scrooge as a young man.
Just sit back and watch and be enveloped by the whole thing – it can be found this Channel 5’s view again function this week and on Amazon TV. Remember it’s the story of change and that anything can change for the better so which is mighty handy as we go into 2021. Also anyone can get a lucky break at any time just as Brian did after his painting was admired in a shop window.
Interest is growing in Hurst and there is new book on Hurst out in February running to 600 pages and with a thousand images about his life and film art. It is written by Brian’s friend Stephen Wyatt who is a leading writer for TV, radio and theatre and designed by Hurst’s niece Caitlin Smith. It’s a visual treat and the youtube film released this week about Scrooge also shows the new book”.