Charles Dickens might have never known George C Scott, but I think he wrote the roll of “Scrooge” just for him. George was uniquely gifted to growl and wince in the fashion of the keeper of the Scrooge & Marley Counting House. His version came out on film in 1984, and was a remake of an earlier film version, and has been remade again. But I still think it’s my favorite.
Here’s a link to his encounter with the ghost of Jacob Marley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh_fUMgFomk
I was able to meet the old coot in 1996. He came to Tazewell County, Virginia, where I was pastoring at the time. He was shooting a movie called “Country Justice,” a rather bland film that tried to tell a tale about a child custody issue, set in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. It captured the beauty of the area well. I was asked to let the film crew check out one of my churches as a possible film location. They were thinking the neighborhood of North Tazewell would make a good place to shoot a particular scene. While in conversation with them I was able to help them find other church locations, and in the interchange between us, the subject of my relationship to George C came up. They encouraged me to come by a shooting one day and meet him if I wanted to. So one snowy January morning I trampsed over to Tazewell Town Hall and saw the commotion going on near the Stras Memorial Episcopal Church where this pivotal scene had been filmed. The house next door was where the action was this particular hour, though, so I walked across the snow-covered lawn, and made my way to the front door, all the while asking myself, “Do you really want to do this?”
In our family we had always been told that we were kin to George C. Scott. I met his dad and grandfather when I was a young boy at a family reunion outside of Wise, Virginia, across from the county fairgrounds at the Beverly house. Aunt Lily was always wanting the family to meet there and she hosted this reunion. We went because we thought George was going to be there, but he never showed. His grandfather Will, though, was the man of the hour. Pushing 90, he went around and hugged all the women, grinning and flirting. On the ride home I was told that George C and my dad were second cousins. I kept this in mind for many years.
Then I walked up to the house and knocked on the door, and was let in. One of the location guys recognized me and found out why I was there, grinning slightly as he told me to wait in the front hall while he checked on the possibility of making George’s acquaintance. He came back in a little while telling me that he would meet me, but that I needed to know he wanted to stay in character for the film, and would only give me five minutes. I said I didn’t need any longer than that, just shake his hand and say hello. I was ushered into another room where I was made to wait until George came in. He looks at me and says “Hello, Reverend.” The location guy had told him how I had assisted them, and I was able to tell him that we were kin, and I wished him well. He walked away, and the meeting was over. I came to find out that I was the only person in Tazewell County who was able to meet him during his stay there.
But that wasn’t all. It probably should have been, but it wasn’t.
There was a house in town that was pointed out to me, where a woman who lived in Florida for the winter had offered up her home to be the place where George C Scott was going to stay while “on location.” I thought about it, and decided he needed to see his family history, so I printed out what I had that showed our relationship, and our common ancestors back into the 1700s, and decided I would deliver it to him. Why, I still know not.
But I did.
It was still a snowy time, but the streets had been scraped, and the snow was probably a foot on the ground. I drove down the driveway, telling my wife the whole time “I shouldn’t do this.” But she encouraged me to go on. I went up to the door, rang the door bell and placed the manila envelope full of family history on the door step. Not getting a response, and not really wanting one, I went back to the car. As we backed out of the driveway, the door opened. A man stood there in long-handled underwear from neck to ankles. It was him! I sped off into the night and never heard another word.
I moved to Bluefield, VA this summer, in the eastern end of Tazewell County. I found out that the house next door to the parsonage was once owned by an uncle of George’s on his mother’s side of the family. He used to frequent the place as an escape from the Hollywood scene. Area residents tell me he would play poker with his uncle and whoever he invited to come over. Sometimes he could be seen at the local drug store lunch counter.
The grump who refused his Academy Award for “Patton” and who married more times than Elizabeth Taylor, was finally laid to rest beside his relatives in Powell Valley cemetery a few years ago, near Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Cousin George, my favorite Scrooge.