Holiday Classics: “Scrooge” (1951)

The 1951 British film “Scrooge” (released under the title “A Christmas Carol” in the U.S.) is one of the best versions of Charles Dickens’ story ever to be put on screen. It embodies everything the story is supposed to be about. Alastair Sim plays the miserable Ebenezer Scrooge, as he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley (Michael Horndern) and, through visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, is convinced to change his ways and be a kinder person.

Scrooge (Alastair Sim) with the Ghost of Christmas Present (Francis de Wolff)

“Scrooge” does take some liberties with the original story, changes some aspects and adding more detail to others. Some of the additions add a great deal of depth to Scrooge’s character. For instance, the character Mr. Jorkin (Jack Warner) is added as a greedy businessman who tempts Scrooge away from the kind Mr. Fezziwig, partly explaining his decent into greed. The part of Scrooge’s housekeeper Mrs. Dilber (who is wonderfully played by Kathleen Harrison) is greatly expanded upon as well. The film does retain the darkness of the original story, which is aided here by the stark black-and-white cinematography; in particular, the scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come are extraordinarily creepy. Sim’s portrayal of Scrooge is nothing short of magnificent, and he embodies everything the character should be. His every facial expression is ripe with emotion, and he effortlessly makes Scrooge’s transition from grouchy to joyous convincing.

“Scrooge” was a hit in the U.K., but a bit of a flop in U.S. theaters. However, it has since gained an audience and is often lauded by critics as the best film adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”. Sim, meanwhile, got to play his greatest part one more time. In 1971, he and Horndern reprised their roles as Scrooge and Marley, providing the voices for the characters in Richard Williams’ animated adaptation of the story.

“Scrooge” can be viewed on YouTube here. Runtime: 86 minutes.

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