Everyone knows the story of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, although I’m not sure many have read the tale directly. (It’s a free download for Kindle from Amazon.) But we know it so well because of its many stage and film versions. There are some 22 film versions and at least another 25 small screen versions. Among them are classics — Mr. Magoo, anyone? — and some modern riffs — “Scrooged.” But the 1951 British adaptation “Scrooge” (or “A Christmas Carol” here in the US) with Alastair Sim is the true Granddaddy of them all.
I’d never seen this version. And while it holds fairly close to the short story, it opens with a scene at an early financial market and as he leaves the building he is approached by a man who owes him money. He begs for more time to repay the loan. “Did I ask for more time in paying you initially?” bellows Scrooge, and we see his well-known character immediately. This Scrooge is harsh.
He next goes for a meal, and asks a waiter for a bit more bread with his soup. When he finds out it’ll cost him extra, he waves the waiter away, “No more bread!”
After his arrival at Scrooge and Marley, he is greeted by two men asking for donations for the poor. “Are there no prisons?” he asks. The men are shocked, and finally ask him what they can put him down for. “Nothing!” “You wis to remain anonymous?” “I wish to be left alone!”
We meet Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s faithful employee, and his nephew, Fred. It is Christmas Eve, and Scrooge is just awful. He goes home, muttering “Humbug!” a few dozen times. Enter Marley’s ghost.
The special effects are quite something seeing that the film came out in 1951. Scrooge’s travels with the Ghost of Christmas Past expand quite a bit, and are a bit different from the book. We see him at his beloved sister Fran’s deathbed; she dies in childbirth (which is why he dislikes Fred so very much). We meet his fiancee Alice who works with the poor (another departure) and announces that Scrooge has changed too much. We watch as Marley dies and he tries to tell Scrooge that he was wrong about life.
In his interactions with the Ghost of Christmas Present, the story of Christ comes in briefly. The spirit mentions how the birth of Jesus makes an impact on how people are treated.
You know the story, so I will only say this: Scrooge awakens to the knocking of his house maid Mrs. Dilber, and he is unbelievably giddy. She is freaked out. As he dances around exuding joy and laughter, she is so terrified she ultimately screams out. After his transformation on Christmas Day is shown, the film ends with a scene in the late spring of good ol’ Ebenezer still changed, still transformed, helping others and finding deep meaning in life.
How can this get anything other than:
If you haven’t seen this classic, you really should!
Next Up: Nativity!