I love Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. There are Trekkies, LOTR’s, Twilighter’s, and other fan-atic’s…mine is the cinematic world of Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Cratchit, et al. I love them all (I’m a bit of a snob, I must admit) and with the Spirit of Christmas upon us, I’ll give you the run-down of my favorites in film.
*THE VERY BEST*
“Scrooge” (1951) with Alastair Sim
Perfect casting and a terrific screenplay that actually includes a backstory of how Scrooge met Marley and how they teamed up to take over Fezziwig’s establishment! Shot in glorious B&W and even has a blooper at the end (look for a cameraman in Scrooge’s mirror at the end). Sim’s performance is considered to be THE quintessential Scrooge in cinema history. He even reprised his role (voice only) in Richard William’s TV animated version of “A Christmas Carol” in 1971.
“A Christmas Carol” (1984) with George C. Scott
Originally released as a theatrical movie in England, it was a TV movie here and scored HUGE. Sure George has no accent at all, but his acting was enough to make you overlook that. A damn fine script and a great British cast coupled with a great score and some very nice humorous touches made this a Holiday hit. Just overlook Tiny Tim looking at the camera so much!
“Disney’s A Christmas Carol” (2009) voiced (many times) by Jim Carrey
This animated version stuck close to the book and with director Robert Zemeckis at the helm, this film could do no wrong. Aside from the “kiddie stuff” thrown in for the little tikes in the audience, this decidedly adult version has some very scary moments that were refreshing to see in an animated version. Really creepy and dark, just like Dickens would have wanted it.
“Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol” (1962) voiced by Jim Backus
Backus (that’s Mr. Howell from TV’s “Gilligan’s Island”) voiced the perennial near-sighted geezer that plays Scrooge “on stage” in a Broadway version… sort of a play within a play cartoon. What makes this cartoon stand out is the unique script which, believe it or not, didn’t dumb it down for the TV audience. Its tone is Dickens through and through with a terrific score and musical numbers that, to this day, are still catchy and singable. “Razzleberry Dressing”, “I’m All Alone in This World”, “Laugh”, are just a few of my fav’s.
“The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992) with Michael Caine
Lord, how I love this movie! Caine is great as Scrooge along with Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit and Miss Piggy as his wife! With Gonzo (as “Charles Dickens”) and Rizzo the rat as your narrators, this movie is SO good that you can’t help loving it from start to finish. The music, done by the equally great Paul Williams, is just the icing on the cake. It’s interesting to note that the “suits” at Disney actually deleted the beautiful song “Where Love Has Gone” from the movie because they deemed it “too depressing”. You can only see/hear this song in certain DVD versions of the movie…or on YouTube.
“Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (1983) voiced by Alan Young
Animated short film with Scrooge McDuck (of course!), Mickey as Cratchit, Donald Duck as Fred, and Goofy as Marley. Really cute and silly, but having a singular distinction in Disney cartoon history: this is THE only Disney cartoon in which you will ever see Mickey Mouse cry (over the death of Tiny Tim).
“Scrooge” (1970) with Albert Finney
No Christmas is complete with THE best musical version of “A Christmas Carol” ever. Finney headlines this excellent version with a stellar cast of singers, dancers, and Sir Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley. Richly filmed, it boasts high-quality in sets, cinematography, and dance numbers that are crazy-good! Okay, so Finney isn’t a singer, but the sentiment is there. The Fezziwig song “Thank you very much”, has become a classic and so popular that it’s been used in many Christmas Carol plays around town.
*THE VERY WORST*
You can’t have the good without the bad, and there have been some real stinkeroo’s in Christmas Carol films:
“A Christmas Carol” (1999) with Patrick Stewart
The TNT version with Captain Picard, sorry…I mean, Patrick Stewart. It was supposed to billed as a “by the book” version that, on the surface, must have seemed like a good idea at the time. But Stewart (as his attempt to play Ahab in “Moby Dick”) just didn’t make a good Scrooge. That and the script was TOO by the book and didn’t have the luxury of going BEYOND the story. It drowned in its own juices.
“A Christmas Carol” (1938) with Reginald Owen
There are plenty of other forgettable 1920-1950 oddball versions, but the very worst of them is the 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Scrooge. With a horrible screenplay, terrible casting, ridiculous over-acting, and lousy direction, this is by far THE worst version you’ll ever see. Points why: Cratchit is fired by Scrooge and his salary taken from him, yet he is cheered up by a dead goose swinging from a man’s back! WTH? Tiny Tim is TALLER than his father!! WTH?? Scrooge is SO cheered up by The Ghost of Christmas Present that third Ghost isn’t even necessary! WTH?? Yes, it’s a complete train wreck. A rare MGM misfire of a classic adaptation…