‘A Christmas Carol’ comes to Carson City
December 5, 2014
Released last month on Blu-ray, the 1938 version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" has long been a popular holiday movie for many families.
On Sunday, Turner Classic Movies and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will bring the Christmas classic back to the big screen for a special showing in more than 600 theaters nationwide, including the Galaxy Fandango theater. Shows begin at 2 and 7 p.m.
"It's a short film, only about an hour," said June Lockhart, 89, who made her film debut at the age of 13 as Belinda Cratchit in the movie. "The program also includes another holiday favorite, 'Christmas in Connecticut' starring Barbara Stanwyck."
"A Christmas Carol" is especially memorable for Lockhart because her father and mother also appear in the film.
"I thought my parents were wonderful as the Cratchits, and it was just great fun to see how a film was made," said Lockhart.
Prior to filming, Lockhart was familiar with the Dickens story.
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"We used to perform it every Christmas at home for our dinner guests," she recalled. "So I had already appeared in it, with my parents, in our living room for many years prior to doing it for MGM. We read from a script that my father had prepared from the original story. We would have wonderful actors like Doris Lloyd or Walter Kingsford playing parts, and Leo G. Carroll would play Scrooge."
Carroll, who played Mr. Waverly in the '60s spy series "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," was a close friend of the Lockhart family and cast as Marley's ghost in the movie.
Not surprisingly, the film remains a favorite of Lockhart's family today.
"My daughter, Junie, and granddaughter, Christianna, have never let me forget that the first words I ever spoke in movies were: 'I know, I know — sausages!'" Lockhart said with a laugh. "It's become a family joke and we all shriek with laugher when we watch it now. Watching the film has become a family tradition each year. And now, to be able watch it with my grandchildren – well, who gets to do something like that?"
However, the film did leave Lockhart with one unpleasant memory.
"One thing I do remember was feeling quite nauseated on the set one day from something I had eaten the night before," she recalled. "Then they placed a bowl of mashed parsnips in front of me during the Christmas dinner scene. The stench made me so ill, the prop man had to replace the dish with potatoes. I've avoided parsnips ever since!"
Lockhart went on to star in three TV series, "Lassie," Lost in Space," and "Petticoat Junction." In 1947, she won the Tony Award for Outstanding Performance for a Newcomer for her Broadway role in "For Love or Money."
Her father, Gene Lockhart (1891-1957), was one of Hollywood's most recognizable character actors throughout the '30s and '40s. Her mother, Kathleen Lockhart (1895-1978), had a 26 year movie career appearing in 40 films, about half alongside her husband.
But "A Christmas Carol" was the only time June appeared on film with either of her parents.
"So it always had a sweet spot in the hearts of the Lockhart family," she said. "It certainly lives on as a charming little picture and it's wonderful that people will get to experience it on the big screen again."
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for more than 450 magazines and newspapers.