Cast & Crew
On Christmas Eve, in 19th century London, Ebenezer Scrooge, a stone-hearted, penurious businessman, dismisses a plea by men collecting for the poor and disdainfully refuses an invitation to Christmas dinner from his cheerful nephew Fred. Scrooge, who browbeats his underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, grudgingly tells Bob that he can have Christmas day off, but warns that he should report earlier the following day. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cratchit happily buys food for Christmas dinner while their lame son, Tiny Tim, wistfully looks at expensive toys in a shop window. After having dinner alone in a tavern, Scrooge approaches the door to his house and is startled when the face of his long-deceased partner, Jacob Marley, seems to materialize on the doorknocker. Once inside, Scrooge is unnerved by the distant sounds of Marley's voice and the ringing of bells. As Scrooge prepares for bed, the door to his sitting room flies open and the ghost of Marley, who died on Christmas Eve seven years before, appears. Though frightened, Scrooge orders the chain-laden Marley to be seated and dismisses him as "humbug," a figment of his imagination and the result of badly digested food. Marley's screams and demeanor soon convince Scrooge that he is real and he relates that he is destined to roam the world in chains, the consequence of ill things he did in life. He warns Scrooge to amend his ways because his chains will be even heavier, then announces that Scrooge will soon be visited by three spirits, and that their visits will give him a chance to avoid his partner's fate. Terrified now, Scrooge rushes to his bed and closes the curtains around it. At 1:00 a.m., Scrooge is awakened by a less frightening ghost, the Spirit of the past. The spirit tells Scrooge to follow him for his own reclamation and transports them back to a Christmastime in Scrooge's childhood: At his old school, young Ebenezer is the only boy not going home for Christmas. He is surprised by a visit from his beloved sister Fan, who tells him that their stern father finally has agreed to let him return home. Scrooge is touched by the scene and is reminded by the spirit that Fan died in childbirth, just as his own mother had. Now Scrooge is transported to an ebullient Christmas party given by Mr. Fezziwig, his former employer and a man who was kind to everyone. Scrooge has a twinge of regret as he thinks of Bob, then observes his younger self happily engaged to Alice. Scrooge continues to observe as time passes and sees Fezziwig refuse to sell his business to Mr. Jorkins, saying that there is more in life than money. The spirit then takes Scrooge to Fan's deathbed: There the disconsolate Ebenezer leaves before hearing Fan ask him to promise to take care of Fred. After Fan dies, Ebenezer leaves Fezziwig for a higher paying position with Jorkins and meets Marley, another young clerk who shares Ebenezer's new views on the importance of money. Soon after Fezziwig is ruined by Jorkins, Alice breaks her engagement to Ebenezer because she feels that money has replaced her in his affections. Seeing this, Scrooge is stricken by Alice's tears and begs to see no more, but the spirit takes him several years further into the future, when Jorkins is ruined, due to the manipulations of Marley and Scrooge. Many years later, Scrooge is informed of Marley's impending death and refuses to leave the office before closing to see him. When Scrooge does see Marley, he does not understand Marley's words to "save" himself and callously takes over his dead partner's house and property. Now Scrooge awakens in his bed and is beckoned by the jovial Spirit of the present, who takes Scrooge to see what is happening on this Christmas. He observes the impoverished but happy Cratchit family and sees that of all of Bob's beloved children, the lame Tiny Tim is the most dear. When Scrooge asks the spirit if Tiny Tim will live, he is stung by a reminder of words he once callously uttered about reducing the population of the needy. Scrooge is further ashamed and startled by Bob's toast to Scrooge's health. Next, Scrooge is given a glimpse of the party that Fred and his wife are giving for friends, and hears Fred describe his uncle's bad opinion of Christmas. In another part of London, Scrooge observes Alice as she is now, selflessly nursing impoverished women in a workhouse. The spirit then shows Scrooge two starving children who represent the world's problems, and Scrooge runs away in horror. He is stopped by a black-hooded figure, the Spirit of the future. Scrooge sobs that he is too old to change, but the spirit wordlessly guides him back to the home of the Cratchits, who are grieving the death of Tiny Tim. Moments later, Scrooge sees his maid, Mrs. Dilber, a laundress and an undertaker bring things to a pawnbroker as they speak disparagingly about a man who died alone. At the stock exchange, businessmen joke about a man's death, and Scrooge begins to wonder who has died. As the spirit takes Scrooge to a cemetery, Scrooge asks if these are things that will be or might be. The spirit does not answer, but points to a headstone that has Scrooge's name on it. On his knees, Scrooge cries that he has repented and is not the man he was. Scrooge is now awakened by Mrs. Dilber's knock on the door. She does not understand his giddy exuberance after she tells him it is Christmas morning, and is shocked when he gives her money as a Christmas present and raises her salary. He then calls to a young boy in the street and offers a reward for him to summon the butcher. At the Cratchit house, the family is surprised by the anonymous delivery of a turkey, and laugh when Tiny Tim says he thinks it might be from Scrooge. That night, Scrooge goes to Fred's house and is warmly greeted by Fred and his wife, who invite their uncle to dance with them. Early the next morning, Scrooge arrives at the office before Bob and pretends to be cross that his clerk is late, than laughs and says he is raising Bob's salary. Scrooge states that he has come to his senses and wants to help Bob raise his family, then tells him to get more coal for the fire in his office. Scrooge laughs uproariously at his new happiness, and from that day forward is a changed man.
Francis De Wolff
Constance Da Pinna
W. H. Lindop
Mr. M. Steiner
A Christmas Carol (1951)
The 1951 version was not, however, an instant classic. In fact, for decades it fell in the shadow of the 1938 version starring Reginald Owen. After being released in its native England under the title Scrooge, the film was shipped to America (retitled A Christmas Carol) for its holiday premiere by United Artists, its North American distributor. It was scheduled for a showing at Radio City Music Hall until the Hall's management expressed the belief that the film was too depressing for its audience. What movie the management of Radio City Music Hall was thinking of remains a mystery.
When A Christmas Carol was finally released in the states, it didn't help that its premiere night wasn't Christmas but... Halloween. Well, it is a ghost story, it's true, but the spirit of the story belongs in a different hemisphere altogether. The box office was meager and as quickly as it came, it went. Three years later, it received a television showing and slowly, like another Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life (1946), it began to gain ground in the realm of Christmas Carol adaptations. As the decades rolled on its popularity increased until, by the eighties, it was the most beloved adaptation of the novella committed to film. A large part of that success is due in part to the extraordinary talents of Alastair Sim.
Playing Ebenezer Scrooge is not an easy thing to do for an actor. One must hit the sour notes, playing a ruthless, miserly Scrooge just enough to make the audience recoil but not so much that redemption would seem impossible. A twinkle of the decent spirit inside, the noble vestige of the youthful Ebenezer, must show through, if just a bit, lest the climax place our Ebenezer in the uncomfortable position of appearing phony. His redemption must seem and feel real, not forced, and with Alastair Sim that transformation is not only exquisite in its perfection, but joyful in spirit, both of the character and the story. And the story in this adaptation succeeds despite a bit of tinkering with the designs of Dickens. It's not commonly accepted as wise to rewrite the masters of the English language and while this is no exception, the changes do work, mainly for two reasons: Jack Warner (the actor-comedian, not the producer/studio head) and Kathleen Harrison.
In this adaptation, a new character, Mr. Jorkin, was created to act as the sinister, tempting force that lured Scrooge away from the light and into the dark. It's a change that is not only unnecessary but counter-intuitive. The lesson of Scrooge is not that some dark side lurking within was tempted away but, rather, disillusionment with life and the world around him and great family loss drove his spirit into the ground. It's a feeling nearly everyone can understand, a feeling of "why bother?" It also functions as a way out for Scrooge. Knowing that it was disillusionment, and not the temptation of greed, that was his undoing it is thus conceivable that three spirits could, in the course of one night no less, rekindle the spirit of Ebenezer still smoldering in the ashes of his youthful despair.
So how does the creation of Mr. Jorkin work then? It works because Jack Warner, the actor-comedian playing him, is wonderful. Good casting can usually overcome any setback and A Christmas Carol is no exception.
The other change, much less but still noticeable, was the expansion of the role of Scrooge's charwoman to that of second lead. Well, at least for the credits, that is. Playing his charwoman, Mrs. Dilber, is Kathleen Harrison and it's impossible to conceive of a better actress for the part existing in the world in 1951. Harrison received high praise for her performance and no surprise: at the climax, as Ebenezer compliments her and gives her a healthy sum of earnings, her reaction from shock to gratitude to elation is a master class in acting all by itself.
The rest of the cast fill their roles beautifully. Mervyn Johns, famous as the dreaded dream weaver of Dead of Night (1945), and Hermione Baddeley play Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit splendidly. Michael Hordern and Patrick MacNee fill the shoes of Jacob Marley, old and young, respectively (with Hordern filling his chains as well as his ghost) and Ernest Thesiger (Bride of Frankenstein, 1935) works his magic as the undertaker. It's not a big role but it is Ernest Thesiger and that's a plus for any film. Playing the life changing spirits are Michael Dolan (Christmas Past), Francis De Wolff (Christmas Present) and C. Konarski (Christmas Yet to Come). In the role of Tiny Tim, the child that touches Scrooge's heart, Glyn Dearman does well in what must be one of the most thankless roles in all of cinema: Look sickly, be chipper and say every line with a smile. Dearman does as well as any and probably better than most.
A Christmas Carol is a treasure of spirit and good will with which any holiday season is incomplete. Alastair Sim plays Scrooge so magnificently his performance has become the standard by which all other Scrooges are compared. It's hard to believe now that the film had such a slow start, such an uneven and unheralded journey on its way to becoming a classic. But it did become a classic and for that we can be thankful, forever and without condition. The spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come gave Scrooge the gift of redemption. The 1951 A Christmas Carol gives the gift of entertainment, laughter and joy to all of us. Everyone.
Producer: Brian Desmond Hurst
Director: Brian Desmond Hurst
Screenplay: Noel Langley (from the story by Charles Dickens)
Cinematography: C. Pennington-Richards
Music: Muir Mathieson
Film Editor: Clive Donner
Art Direction: Ralph Brinton
Cast: Alastair Sim (Ebenezer Scrooge), Kathleen Harrison (Mrs. Dilber), Mervyn Johns (Bob Cratchit), Hermione Baddeley (Mrs. Cratchit), Michael Hordern (Jacob Marley, Marley's Ghost), Ernest Thesiger (The Undertaker), Michael Dolan (Ghost of Christmas Past), Francis De Wolff (Ghost of Christmas Present), C. Konarski (Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come), Glyn Dearman (Tiny Tim).
By Greg Ferrara
A Christmas Carol (1951)
A Christmas Carol (1951) on VHS and DVD
VCI's DVD edition of A Christmas Carol includes an introduction and closing comments by Patrick MacNee - they bookend the feature - which appear to be an attempt at a "Masterpiece Theatre"-like presentation. Though completely unnecessary, it is interesting to note that MacNee appears in A Christmas Carol in a minor role as the real young Jacob Marley. The DVD also includes cast biographies and the Technicolor cartoon by animator Max Fleischer, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which is in desperate need of restoration; though viewable, it is a less than pristine presentation of this popular cartoon. A Christmas Carol, however, has been fully restored and re-mastered from the original 35mm negative which was recently discovered in England. Though there are a few occasional visual imperfections which exist on the master (some print damage, speckling, etc.) this is the best-looking version of A Christmas Carol currently available on DVD and VHS.
For more information about A Christmas Carol , visit VCI Entertainment. To order the DVD of A Christmas Carol, visit Movies Unlimited.
by Jeff Stafford
A Christmas Carol (1951) on VHS and DVD
At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.- Portly Gentleman
Mortal, we spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of the year. We live the whole 365. So it is true of the child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men's hearts only one day of the year but in all the days of the year. You have chosen not to seek him in your heart.- Spirit of Christmas Present
Come in! Come in, and know me better, man!- Spirit of Christmas Present
Waiter! More bread.- Ebenezer
Ha'penny extra, sir.- Waiter
No more bread.- Ebenezer
No. Mrs. Dilber--I'm not mad.- Ebenezer
Even if I look it!- Ebenezer
The opening title cards of the viewed print read: "Renown Pictures Corporation Ltd./ Alastair Sim as/ Scrooge adapted from Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol.'" The film was copyrighted and released in the United States under the title A Christmas Carol, but released in Great Britain as Scrooge. According to information in copyright records, the American release May have changed the opening title card to read: "George Minter presents Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge."
Just before the action begins, a shot of the title page of Dickens' novel is shown. Narrator Peter Bull then reads the famous last sentence of the first paragraph of Dickens' novel: "Old Marley was as dead as a doornail." When the action opens, Bull delivers the first line of dialogue as a businessman in the stock exchange. At the end of the film, Bull is again heard in voice-over narration, relating words from the end of the novel. Like the novel, the film ends with the words, "And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!"
As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was produced at Nettlefold Studios, Walton-On-Thames. According to contemporary sources, prior to the film's production, Renown received financial backing from United Artists, which distributed the picture in the United States. According to press information contained in copyright records, for several key scenes in the film, director Brian Desmond-Hurst recreated vignettes from well-known illustrations of the book, among them the four color plates by John Leech, who illustrated the novel's first edition in 1843.
There have been many film and television adaptations of Dickens' story. For information on other versions, please consult the entry for the 1938 M-G-M production, directed by Edwin L. Marin and starring Reginald Owen and Gene Lockhart in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.
Released in United States 1951
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States 1951