Home » Long Live the Colored Race!, The Black Archives, The Black Version

The Black Version: John Grin’s Christmas!

24 December 2007 16 Comments

Charles Dickens’A Christmas Carol is one of the most re-made stories in the history of literature, and if you have never seen the black version, John Grin’s Christmas starring Robert Guillaume as the Scrooge character, you are far from alone. If you missed it the one time it aired in 1988, then let me tell you all about it.

Robert Guillaume produced and directed John Grin’s Christmas and enrolled a semi c-list and fabulous black cast. First, as the Tiny Tim character, a fatherless West Indian boy named Rocky, we had Alfonso Ribero at that cute age back when he used to dance all the time. Then, one of my favorite actors of all time, the black renaissance man Roscoe Lee Browne as the Ghost of Christmas Past. The ghost of Christmas Present, a buppie sporting khakis and a sweater tied across his shoulders, was played by Ted “Isaac from Love Boat” Lange. Completing the cast of ghosts as the Ghost of Christmas future was a pre-Boomerang Jeffery Holder (you know, Strange’s big bald sidekick). Factoid: Robert Guillaume’s real-life son, who I’d still recognize, played the Bob Cratchitt character.

The story, of course, is timeless. Aside from the cast, what made it a great black version were the little touches – instead of saying “Bah Humbug” John Grin always said “Fa la la la la” with a smug roll of the eye. Instead of carolers on the streets, there were holiday breakdancers. And on a deeper level, while most versions of Scrooge paint old Ebeneezer as a money grubber through being a cheating skinflint while the rest of the characters are mysteriously broke and a little lazy, John Grin was firmly nouveau black upper-class. His hatred of Christmas came from a childhood electrical fire (watch those plugs, kids) on Christmas Eve that turned him into an orphan. Once at the orphanage he worked harder than any other kid there, and ended up being “adopted” into an apprenticeship (read:sold) and hadn’t stopped working since. Even the Tiny Tim wasn’t crippled, all he wanted was a job at Grin’s toy factory, and the Christmas Future that John Grin is shown is one where the black community is filled with homeless people and hustlers. The conclusion: Work Hard, Give Back, Stay Black.

Of course anything this good isn’t available on DVD, and all I could find online was this measly commercial, half of which is for a Perry Como Christmas Special. Does this commercial jog your memory at all? I’m willing to accept the fact that perhaps the only five people in the world who remember this TV-movie are in my nuclear family, but if you do please comment.



    Merry Xmas, sister!!

  • Regina said:

    Sad to say I was probably one of the handful of people who saw this, and I just vaguely remember it (Largely because I had a crush on Issac from the love boat!). There has to be a copy somewhere…

    Anyway Ms. Thembi,
    Have A Very Merry Christmas! May You Receive All That God Has For You!
    Peace, And Love To You And Yours!
    Blessings, Regina.

  • Ill Mami said:

    You are bringing it back! Why do I remember this? It’s like you feather-dusted some obscure corner of my mind to reveal this small piece of Black history.

    Have a great Chrismahanukwanzaa!

  • aj said:

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

  • Dara said:

    i could seriously drop a tear thinking about how glorious this movie was (is) and the fact that ill probably never see it again, buried in a sea of vhs in the family “video library.”

    we should utilize modern technology and make a late 80s tv-movie medley DVD. we really just HAVE to.

  • jjbrock said:

    Merry Christmas, I don’t think I every watched it.

  • Qucifer said:

    Your Obscure shit pulling always hurts my heart and my head…. and I think the myspace love note that I just got and posted yesterday trumps your lovely ones … at least for a month

  • LaJane Galt said:

    I vaguely remember this. Didn’t they put Benson in a red sweater and put powder in his hair?

  • alexwilliams1@cox.net said:

    I HAVE TO FIND THIS. Amazing! Happy Holidays, lady! And I promise your gift is on its way. I’m just a little delinquent. :)


    Yoohoooooo…uhhh, xactly how long is the hiatus?? I miss your posts! i’m soooooo selfish!

  • AJ said:

    Stopping by to say “Hi!”. Hope to see you around soon.

  • Muze said:

    wow i don’t remember this…looks interesting though. lol.

  • Regina said:

    Hey Thembi,
    Just dropping by to say hello. I pray that everything is going well for you and yours.


  • Anonymous said:

    A friend of mine had this on an old VHS tape and recorded over it !!!!! Someone out there has to have it !!

  • Anonymous said:

    Let’s flood his agent with request letters and see if we can stir some interest. Considering Mr “G” is about 80 years of age, we may be running out of time in getting this released to the public once again. Sad, cuz it was a great TV movie.

    Write to Robert at:
    Robert Guillaume
    c/o Alan David Management
    8840 Wilshire Blvd
    Beverly, Hills, CA 90211-2277

  • Stevan Dupree said:

    We had a copy on VHS. We recorded it the one time that it aired. It was a year family favorite. However during an extended stay at the hospital for our youngest daughter it was lost at Children’s Hospital in Oakland CA. Have been looking for a copy ever sense…


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