The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge is timeless with over two dozen film adaptations of Charles Dickens' classic. George C. Scott and Henry Winkler have both starred in the title role. But for many, the 1970 musical version called Scrooge with Albert Finney stands out from the rest.
Ricky Beaumont was 8 years old when he landed the role of Tiny Tim in Scrooge with an innocent and emotion filled performance, especially when he's in the spotlight for his signature song. WMRA's Chris Boros tracked down Ricky who lives in the UK to discuss being in Scrooge.
WMRA: How did you land the role of Tiny Tim in Scrooge?
Ricky Beaumont: Well it started when I was four years old; I was sent to a theater school. My brother and sister, who are older than me, wanted to go to this theater school but I was too young. But the theater school took me in at the age of four. And since the age of four, I was auditioning for stuff all the time and suddenly the big audition for Scrooge came about. And I remember going into the audition and surrounded by lots of kids. And the director Ronald Neame picked me up and stood me on this big grand piano and I sung Where Is Love. And that was it really, from that moment.
WMRA: What do you remember most about making the movie?
RB: Just going onto these massive sets because obviously in those days there wasn’t the CGI stuff going on. If you were on a Dickensian street, you all were in a Dickensian street - all of the extras and the amount of people and crew that were involved in such a huge process and you’ve got all these extras around and they’re all doing their singing and dancing there, it’s not false, it’s all just happening.
WMRA: I assume at the age of eight, you didn’t realize how lucky you were to be working alongside a guy like Albert Finney who played Scrooge. What was he like?
RB: He was lovely, they all were because it was such a sterling cast with names that were absolute icons of the industry. I was so fortunate to be with them. And also that sort of tender age, they took me under their wings.
WMRA: Do you remember what things you learned from Albert Finney?
RB: He basically said “Stop acting, just be yourself,” which was great advice because once you start acting the scenes the dialogue tends to come out very stilted and you’re just sort of saying words and not necessarily knowing what they mean.
WMRA: The song you sing in the film The Beautiful Day has been making grown men like me cry since 1970.
RB: I think it made me cry at the time. It was quite a huge responsibility for a child at that age to have the whole focus on you and to do the whole song.
WMRA: Can you recall what you thought about the song when you were first present with it? I know you were a young kid but what was your feeling about it?
RB: I thought it was a lovely little song. It sort of goes into Where Is Love a bit. And it was like Oh, OK. This is that little song.
WMRA: Can you remember how the director, Ronald Neame, prepared you before the cameras started rolling?
RB: Well it was done in two takes which was a fantastic achievement. It’s all there and once again going back to Albert Finney saying “think about what you’re saying.” And I think I took the acting tips from Albert Finney and put it into the song – this sort of little message of hope.
WMRA: When I was watching the scene today, I noticed the woman who played your mother, it looks as if she looks away from you during the scene. Was there anyone on set when you were doing it that were getting choked up?
RB: There was a lot of emotion because I’m sure for the crew and director they were all quite shocked that it was going as smoothly as it was. And that was just one of those fortunate things, it could have been one of those thirty-seven takers. But I think the fact that it was done in two takes really helped it.
WMRA: As an adult, when you hear the song now or see that scene, how do you feel about it?
RB: I feel really proud that I was fortunate enough to be involved in such a project and to have such a vital little role that has meant a lot to other people.
WMRA: I found other versions of the song online with other people singing it but none of them really did anything for me. So it made me realize that the reason this version moves me so much is because of you. It’s your performance that does it – it’s not just the song.
RB: It is the innocence of the child. There’s so many things like Dionne Warwick, for instance, singing Where Is Love. Yes, it’s a lovely version but it’s not the innocence of Mark Lester doing it. So there is that innocence where you think actually this is really sweet. The beauty of it and with Ronald Neame there, he didn’t direct me as such to say at this point you’ve got to look there, they just got the cameras and said rolling and we just did it.
WMRA: So they didn’t direct you to do that thing with your hands or when you lift your arm up in the sky? That just came natural to you.
RB: Yeah. Because I knew I was on a wide shot so I knew that suddenly my arm wouldn’t disappear out of shot.
WMRA: Wow, I thought for sure you have been directed to do all of that.
RB: No, I just sort of did my thing and Mr. Neame was pleased with it which was fantastic. We whizzed through it in just under an hour.
WMRA: What’s it like to get praise for something you did fifty years ago when you were a kid?
RB: It’s lovely. I just feel so honored that people still feel and hold the film close to their hearts because obviously it made a huge impact on my life. And wow, what a start, how fortunate was I to be cast in that role and for it to go so well.
WMRA: Every Christmas, this movie is watched in my house, it’s been a part of my life since I was a little kid. Do you hear from other people with this sentiment?
RB: Yes, yes. There’s a few people particularly from the USA that email me and I email them back and it means something to them. And after all these years if it can mean something to somebody and makes their Christmas more or brings a smile to their face I’m absolutely delighted and honored to be able to do that.
WMRA: You’ve continued to work in the arts and theater and drama. So tell me, Ricky, what have you been doing over these past fifty years?
RB: I worked extensively in film and television up to the age of about sixteen or seventeen. And then adolescence took its toll and my nose grew too big for my face and I wasn’t very attractive for screen so then I went off to the stage and doing lots of stage work. And then on one of the tours we were doing for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat I met my wife. And we thought actors getting married it’s not really a good mix because we’re touring and there’s temptation so we decided to sort of just make our own work so we set out to start up a theater company. And from the theater company we now run a youth group and teaching kids performing arts stuff, we concentrate mainly on the drama.
WMRA: When’s the last time you sat down and watched Scrooge?
RB: We watch it practically every year because now with my daughter who’s in the business, my wife, and now I’ve got grandchildren as well, so it’s nice for them to see grandad doing his thing. And also it gives them a little thought of “oh he did it, so why couldn’t I?”
WMRA: And how do you feel when you watch it today?
RB: I love it. I absolutely love it. And once again, there’s this overwhelming pride of being part of it and not everybody can say that so I’m very happy with it.
WMRA: I’ve seen a lot of versions of A Christmas Carol. And for me, Scrooge, 1970, has the best Ebenezer Scrooge with Albert Finney, the best Jacob Marley with Alec Guinness, the best Ghost of Christmas Future, and the best Tiny Tim played by an eight-year-old Ricky Beaumont.
RB: Oh, Chris you’re just saying that, thank you so much. Have a brilliant Christmas. And God bless us, everyone!