Some people collect stamps. Some people collect art. My husband and me? We collect movie versions of A Christmas Carol. You knew there was more than one, right? We have them in black and white, technicolor, animated, satired, new, old, musical – we’re always on the lookout for one we haven’t seen before.
Just in case you’re the one person in the world who is not familiar with A Christmas Carol, let me give you a quick introduction to this classic. Charles Dickens’ novella was first published in London in 1843. It’s the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter old man that cares about nothing but money. He has some ghostly visitors one Christmas Eve that show him his past, the present, and shadows of the future. The impact they had on Scrooge was life-changing. I don’t want to ruin the ending for you in case you really haven’t seen it, but let’s just say his transformation will put a smile on your face. OK – so I gave a little hint about how it ends – but it’s really the stuff in the middle that’s so captivating. When done well, that is.
The story has never gone out of print, and the movies keep getting made. Henry Winkler, Kelsey Grammer, Patrick Stewart (yes, from Star Trek) and George C. Scott are just a few of the big names that have taken on the iconic role of Scrooge. Here are five versions that merit discussion.
Scrooge, 1951 with Alastair Sim in the title role. This version is considered a classic – in spite of the fact that it took some liberties with the original text. One of the reasons I like this version is because some of the familiar backstory we see in most versions has new facts tossed in and expanded roles of some characters. It’s a little more fleshed out than some of the earlier editions. While it was released in color in 1989, I’m still clinging to our black and white VCR copy. (Don’t snicker – there’s no shame in still having a working VCR, people!)
Scrooged, 1988 with Bill Murray. You know when you see the name Bill Murray we’re dealing with a comedy. While I found Carol Kane obnoxious and shrill in the role of Christmas present (similar to the character she played in the TV show Taxi prior), I found the fresh spin of this classic-turned-love-story and Murray’s zany wit a lot of fun.
Disney’s A Christmas Carol, 2009 with Jim Carrey as the voice of Scrooge. This computer-animated version can’t be beat for special effects. It combines humor with the drama. Even if you don’t have the 3-D version, you feel like you’re right there in some of the scenes. While I’m not generally much a cartoon fan, I think this is a must-watch!
A Christmas Carol, 1938 with Reginald Owen. We just watched this version for the fist time recently and it’s one of our new favorites. It’s well-done, has a joyous vibe to it, and some nice surprises. Like the Lockhart family roles (remember June Lockhart – the mom in Lassie? Well, she’s just a kid in this movie!) The DVD we have has some fun extra features such as a cartoon that takes you back in time, the original movie trailer, and a vignette called Jackie Cooper’s Birthday Party which included the big-name stars from that era.
A Christmas Carol, 1954 with Basil Rathbone. Here’s one you can SKIP! We excitedly sat down to watch this version which stated in the cover description (in reference to the character who played the ghost of Scrooge’s partner) “many consider this to be the best and most chilling portrayal of Marley ever.” The only chills we got were the nails-scraping-the-chalkboard type with all that high-pitched singing. In addition to the seemingly unrelated songs that would not stop, the ghost of Christmas Present came across as a morph of Will Ferrell and Jethro Bodine. I know – you’re probably wondering what I really thought of it!
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE VERSION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL?