I love Dr. Seuss. I’ve read basically all of his children’s books and cited one of his political cartoons in my undergrad thesis. Congratulations again to the reference librarian who found it based on my description. Anyway, I’m such a Seuss-geek that I can recite nearly all of this book from memory… in Karloffian lisp. That being said, screw the live-action movie. The only version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the animated short.
This was also probably one of my earliest exposures to Boris Karloff and all the macabre joy he can bring. Thank you great-grandfather for stepping in and letting my five-year-old dad watch this special in 1966!
Anyway, I’ve said a lot about how great the Grinch is, but I haven’t really said why. Well, I’m glad you asked…
First of all, it’s Dr. Fucking Seuss! Seriously. The man is a genius with words, and this special is no exception. Especially with the vocal talents of Boris Karloff and Thurl Ravenscroft behind them. There are no unnecessary lines, and every one sparkles. What is a sot? It’s obviously not as bad as a “sinful sot,” but it doesn’t really matter. The Grinch is one, and it’s bad. It’s also an awesome word.
Secondly… Chuck Jones. Dr. Seuss is not meant to be anything but animated, and the Grinch is an aesthetic piece of candy. The colors are amazing… characters expressions are divine. Max, the long-suffering dog, is adorable. And so is little Cindy-Lou Who, who was no more than two. It’s all typically Jonesian; not too cute and not too zany. But still tons of both, and that suits the subject matter perfectly.
Thirdly is the music. Ravenscroft doesn’t get enough nods for singing the Grinch song. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy does a pretty good rendition of the song, but no one comes close to Tony the Tiger. I saw an interview where he expressed regret that people never asked him to sing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” when they met him. The song is great highlight of the special, and the one thing the book can’t do.
Finally, the story itself… it’s familiar but not trite. Yes, it’s still the “X discovers the true meaning of Christmas” formula, but with a few unfamiliar twists. The Grinch is kind of materialistic, but he’s not concerned about whether he gets any gifts and shows no interest in keeping the Whos’ loot for himself. He just wants to destroy it, so they can’t have Christmas. Usually the formula is a person too concerned with what they’ll get for Christmas… and it’s another check in Ted Geisel’s favor that he could come up with something so familiar, yet fresh, that people are still talking about it nearly 50 years after the fact. Not a lot of people can say that. Then again, it’s Dr. Fucking Seuss.
There’s still a day before January 6th. Go watch the Grinch.