Holiday Classics: “Carol for Another Christmas” (1964)

Carol for Another Christmas” is one of the most interesting adaptations of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. It was director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s first foray into television after a profilic film career, and was based on a script by Rod Serling of “The Twilight Zone” fame. The TV movie was the first in a series of Xeroz specials promoting the United Nations and encouraging cooperation amongst various nations. Sterling Hayden played the Scrooge character, here a tycoon named Daniel Grudge who has detested American involvement in international affairs ever since his son Marley was killed in World War II. He is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past (Steve Lawrence), Present (Pat Hingle), and Future (Robert Shaw), who show him what a desolate place the world would be like if the U.S. didn’t involve itself in other countries’ affairs.

Sterling Hayden and Eva Marie Saint in “Carol for Another Christmas”

“Carol for Another Christmas” is essentially a propaganda piece, but Serling’s writing and Mankiewicz’s direction, complemented by a great cast and a score by Henry Mancini, take it to another level. It’s a darker movie than any of the more traditional adaptations of the story, with Serling adding his own themes regarding war and humanity to make the piece more timely. While some of its messages may seem dated today, individual scenes in the film are so haunting that overall it still holds up as a solid piece of TV drama. Some of the most memorable and disturbing scenes include children injured in the nuclear blast at Hiroshima, Peter Sellers’ cult leader Imperial Me, and Pat Hingle’s Ghost of Christmas Present feasting while refugees starve at his feet. Perhaps the film’s main flaw is that its Scrooge isn’t particularly Scrooge-y; Hayden’s Daniel Grudge has a reason for his grumpiness, and even then he seems to undergo a change of heart almost right away.

“Carol for Another Christmas” has just been discovered by a new group of viewers in the last several years. It aired on TV in December 1964, and was not aired again until TCM broadcast it in December 2012. It’s a Christmas movie, and while it’s far from your typical feel-good holiday fare, it’s worth your time.

Runtime: 84 minutes.

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