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What to Watch Next If You Liked Scrooge

All mentioned films in article
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Christmas comes but once a year and it wouldn't be the same without at least one screen adaptation of Charles Dickens's festive classic. According to scholars, there have been over 400 different versions of A Christmas Carol and Cinema Paradiso will highlight some of them in marking the 70th anniversary of the best one of them all, Brian Desmond Hurst's Scrooge (1951).

A still from Scrooge (1951)
A still from Scrooge (1951)

Over the past few years, Cinema Paradiso has attempted to spice up your festive viewing with such articles as 12 Films of Christmas Past, 12 Films of Christmas Present and Santa's Wishlist For Grown-Ups. We've even done a Top 10 Films Set in Department Stores. This year, we turn to a story that so epitomises the Christmas message that it has been retold on film and television in live- action and animated form. Indeed, the lessons to be learned from the nocturnal experiences of Victorian miser Ebenezer Scrooge remain so relevant that at least 10 variations have gone into production in the last couple of years.

Yet, while it has become an essential part of our seasonal celebrations, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol less to comment on people's potential for redemption than to rebuke Victorian Britain for the capitalist callousness of the industrial economy and the social misery it heaped upon those on the lowest rungs.

The three spirits were designated to guide Scrooge towards recognising the error of his ways. But, in fact, it's the fiancée who is about to jilt him who forces him to examine his conscience by scolding him for placing material wealth above things that really matter, such as love and charity towards his fellow beings. Given the current state of our world, this is something we should all remember, as we prepare to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.

What the Dickens

Charles Dickens started writing A Christmas Carol in October 1843 because funds were running low after the disappointing sales of his favourite novel, Martin Chuzzlewit. It wasn't the first time he had turned to the season for inspiration, as a story he had published in Bell's Weekly Messenger was recycled the following year as 'A Christmas Dinner' in Sketches By Boz (1836).

The same year saw a digression entitled, 'The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton', found its way into The Pickwick Papers and it's not difficult to see similarities between Ebenezer Scrooge and Gabriel Grub, a curmudgeonly gravedigger who is taught to see Christmas through new eyes after the King of the Goblins forces him to view the past and the future through a magical portal.

According to Bharat Nalluri's The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017), Dickens (Dan Stevens) drew on his own father, John (Jonathan Pryce), as the inspiration for Scrooge. As a 12 year-old boy, Dickens had spent time in a shoe-blacking factory after his father had been taken to a debtors' prison in 1824 because of his financial recklessness and Charles had never forgiven John for the humiliation. Indeed, his experience of the Marshalsea also shaped the action in Little Dorrit, which was epically filmed in two parts in 1987 by Christine Edzard before Andrew Davies adapted it for the BBC in 2009. Yet, it seems likely that Scrooge's personality also owed much to renowned misers, John Elwes and Jemmy Wood, while his name came from a combination of local trading firm Goodge and Marney and the Edinburgh gravestone of corn merchant Ebenezer Scroggie.

In adapting Lee Standiford's novel, Nalluri and screenwriter Susan Coyne also credit an Irish nursemaid called Tara (Anna Murphy) with persuading Dickens to end his story on a redemptive note. In fact, it was a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School that prompted the inspirational denouement, in which Scrooge recognises the error of his ways and devotes himself to charitable works and the care of clerk Bob Cratchit's sickly child, Tiny Tim.

It's also pushing things a bit to claim that Dickens 'invented Christmas'. The festivities as we know them acquired many of their traditions during the early Victorian era. But this had much to do with Prince Albert, who followed the lead given by Queen Charlotte - who was played to Oscar-nominated effect by Helen Mirren in Nicholas Hytner's The Madness of King George (1994) - by decorating a spruce tree at Windsor Castle. It's amusing, therefore, to see Victoria (Miriam Margolyes) and Albert (Jim Broadbent) getting into the festive spirit in Richard Curtis and Ben Elton's Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988).

Meeting a tight deadline, Dickens personally paid for the publication of his novella on 19 December 1843. Priced at five shillings (which would be the equivalent to £25 today), the 6000 copies sold out completely by Christmas Eve and publishers Chapman & Hall rushed out two further editions before New Year's Eve. It has never been out of print since.

Yet, despite the fine illustrations by John Leech, it failed to make the profit that Dickens had hoped. Nevertheless, he wrote several more stories with a Christmas flavour during the ensuing decade: The Chimes (1844); The Cricket on the Hearth (1845); The Battle of Life (1846); and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848). The latter pair appear to have never been filmed, but British director Thomas Bentley made The Chimes in 1922, while D.W. Griffith is among those to have adapted The Cricket on the Hearth. although his 1909 short is less well known than Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin's 1967 animated version.

But what about the screen versions of A Christmas Carol? Let's take a look at the offerings made prior to 1950.

Scrooge Finds His Voice

For once, Georges Méliès didn't pip his fellow pioneers by making another screen first. Instead, the honour of directing the first screen version of A Christmas Carol goes to the British film-maker, Robert W. Paul. Thanks to the BFI's R.W. Paul: The Complete Surviving Films 1896-1908 (2006), Cinema Paradiso users are able to see Daniel Smith take the title role in Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1901). Only a three-minute fragment survives, but the use of superimposition for the spirits is highly ambitious for an artform that was only six years old.

It's intriguing to think that some of the people who saw this film also heard Dickens give one of his live readings before his death in 1870. The same goes for the first American rendition, as Dickens frequently crossed the Atlantic. Marc McDermott played the miser in J. Searle Dawley's A Christmas Carol, a 1910 Edison production that also featured as Bob Cratchit the same Charles Ogle who had been the first incarnation of the Creature in Dawley's take on Frankenstein (1910). There's also a horror connection with the first feature version of Dickens's classic. Having directed himself as Scrooge in The Right to Be Happy (1916), New Zealander Rupert Julian would go on to star Lon Chaney in the enduringly thrilling silent version of The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Two of the last silent takes were made in Britain, with Henry Esmond headlining George Wynn's Scrooge (1922) and Russell Thorndike doing likewise in Edwin Greenwood's A Christmas Carol (1923). This country also had the distinction of producing the first sound feature, although Phonofilm inventor Lee DeForest had invited British thespian Bransby Williams to speak a few lines into a microphone for his 1928 short, Scrooge.

Seymour Hicks had already played old Ebenezer many times on stage and in a 1913 short before Henry Edwards recruited him to recreate the role in Scrooge (1935). Three years later, compatriot Reginald Owen landed the lead in the first Hollywood talkie adaptation, A Christmas Carol (1938), after Lionel Barrymore (who had made the part his own on the radio) was too incapacitated by arthritis to star in Edwin L. Marin's MGM retelling. However, Cinema Paradiso regulars can hear Barrymore in Orson Welles's 1938 radio broadcast on A Dickens of a Christmas (2009), which also examines the story's origins.

A still from Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988)
A still from Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988)

MGM's version proved to be the final one before the Second World War, after which television took over as the new home of Dickens's morality tale. That said, there is more than a hint of Scrooge's redemption in the harrowing experiences of George Bailey (James Stewart) in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946). See Cinema Paradiso's What to Watch article on this enduring festive favourite, as well as our Instant Expert's Guide to Capra himself.

John Carradine and Taylor Holmes led the cast in live versions respectively screened on Christmas Day in 1947 and 1949, with the latter boasting Vincent Price as the narrator (now why did no one ever think of casting him as Scrooge?). This version is available from Cinema Paradiso on Silent Night & A Christmas Carol, with the former history of the popular carol starring James Mason.

The BBC hired Bransby Williams for its first small-screen interpretation in 1950, while the following year saw Ralph Richardson headline a Fireside Theater playlet for NBC. But Richardson's timing proved unfortunate, as he was about to be upstaged by the finest screen Scrooge of them all.

Bah, Humbug!

When Irish director Brian Desmond Hurst announced that he was going to remake A Christmas Carol, British cinema was in the middle of an impressive run of Dickens adaptations. It had started with David Lean's Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948) and would continue with Noel Langley's The Pickwick Papers (1952). The Lean pair drew plaudits and protests in equal manner, with Alec Guinness's portrayal of Fagin even being accused of anti-Semitism. Not that the furore cost Guinness the chance of playing the lead in Scrooge (1951), however, as Hurst had known his star before he had commissioned a screenplay from Noel Langley.

As we shall see in the next section, Alastair Sim was primarily known as a comic actor. However, the Scot was quite capable of conjuring a darker side and he was so determined to play Dickens's skinflint that he declined a number of stage and screen proposals in order to be free whenever Hurst started shooting.

Built on the soundstage at Nettlebed Studios in Walton-on-Thames, Ralph Brinton's sets do much to stress the chasm between the classes. Scrooge lives in a large house, but it's cold, dark and forbidding, unlike the welcoming abode of his nephew, Fred. Similarly, while the Cratchit household may be cramped and bare, it comes across as cosy because of the warmth generated by the family members.

Even the business premises are starkly different. In the case of Jorkin and Scrooge, time is money and there is no room for bonhomie and compassion. Scrooge even refuse to waste coppers on coal, unlike his first employer, Fezziwig, who treats his staff with courtesy and generosity. Indeed, his annual party is replete with the goodies that have become synonymous with Christmas fare.

There is also a contrast between the bustle of the street vendors and the shop windows bulging with treats and presents and the gloomy, narrow streets where the poor shiver in their hovels and the rich lock themselves in heavy-doored mausoleums. The influence of Expressionism is evident throughout, with the lowering shadows created by cinematographer C.M. Pennington-Richards almost taking on a noirish aspect to emphasise the soberness of existence and the possibility of something sinister lurking around the next corner.

The supernatural visitations bring to mind Scandinavian chillers like Victor Sjöström's The Phantom Carriage (1921) and Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (1932). But Hurst had such Shakespearean ghosts as Banquo and Old Hamlet in mind when he directed Michael Hordern as the spectral Jacob Marley, as he wanted to give the action a highbrow feel.

Despite the special effects playing a key part in proceedings, no one is actually credited with their creation. Much of the time, Hurst simply employs double exposure to achieve the desired supernatural look and many modern reviews take him to task for settling for such bloodless imagery. Michael J. Dolan, Francis de Wolff and Czeslaw Konarski are admirable as the spectres, but Hurst wants the audience to focus on the visions that will unharden Scrooge's heart rather than the dread he feels at being whisked out of his bed in the middle of the night and taken across the rooftops of London to relive his life and discover his potential fate.

A still from What's New Pussycat (1965)
A still from What's New Pussycat (1965)

The sequences are deftly edited by Clive Donner, who would make his name as a director with new wave hits like Nothing But the Best (1964) and What's New Pussycat? (1965) before making his own version of A Christmas Carol (see below). Reinforcing the atmosphere is Richard Adinsell's score, which includes original compositions, as well as a handful of carols and the folk tunes, 'Sir Roger de Coverley' and 'Barbara Allen', which reinforce the contrast between merry-making. miserliness and melancholy.

The latter tune plays during the conversation between the younger Scrooge (George Cole) and his sister Fan (Carol Marsh) before being sung at the party that is hosted by Fan's son, Fred (Brian Worth), whom Scrooge had never forgiven for killing his mother in childbirth.

Langley's screenplay offers other reasons why Scrooge might have gone astray and invents the character of Jorkin to show how he abandoned the good practice he had learned from Fezziwig (Roddy Hughes) after Jorkin offers Scrooge and Marley (Patrick Macnee) the chance to make their fortune following the failure of their late employer's company.

The role was created specially for Jack Warner (the future doyen of Dixon of Dock Green, 1955-76), who was one of the most popular British stars of the postwar period. He was frequently teamed with Kathleen Harrison (notably in the features to be found in The Huggett Collection), whose role of charwoman Mrs Dilber also required a little textural tweaking, as she played little part in Dickens's story.

The remainder of the cast was also first rate, with Mervyn Johns and Hermione Baddeley being well matched as the Cratchits, alongside child star Glyn Dearman as Tiny Tim. Among the minor roles, keep an eye out for Miles Malleson as Old Joe the fence, Ernest Thesiger as Mr Stretch the undertaker and a young Hattie Jacques as Mrs Fezziwig. Also watch out for Teresa Derrington Cozens-Hardy as Fred's maid, as she had been the last surviving member of the ensemble before her passing at the age of 89 in January 2021.

Her uniform was designed by Doris Lee, who uses costume to convey character, as well as to highlight the changing fashions during the first half of the 19th century. The finery of the guests at Fezziwig's gathering and Fred's dinner party contrast with the rags of the street children, the threadbare jacket worn by Bob Cratchit and the stiff formality of Scrooge's shabby attire. He may be wealthy, but he merely sees clothes as a means of imposing his status and authority. Compare his high collar and starched cuffs with the more modish and comfortable styles being worn by Fred when he drops into the office and the benevolent gentlemen who come collecting for charity.

Such generosity is beyond Scrooge, of course, hence the need to bring fantasy into a world of bitter reality, as Hurst seeks to echo Dickens in laying bare the best and the worst in human nature. Scrooge is brilliantly played by Alastair Sim and no one has become more synonymous with the role. Although renowned for his comic characterisations, Sim always had an aura of lugubrious menace. Indeed, he had played a handful of villains earlier in his career. But the way in which he conveys Scrooge's joy at becoming a new man is both infectious and mischievous, as he tries to pretend that he is still a gloom-monger until he can no longer suppress his newfound exuberance.

Thanks to Sim, the film feels spirited rather than sentimental, as Scrooge emerges from a genuinely dark night of the soul to enjoy the thrill of bringing goodwill to all. Contemporary critics weren't unanimously impressed with his performance, however. The BFI's Monthly Film Bulletin suggested that Sim resembled 'a dour dyspeptic' rather than a miser, while Variety declared the film 'a grim thing that will give tender-aged kiddies viewing it the screaming-meemies'. The Washington Post, on the other hand, felt that Dickens would have approved of the screenplay and the tone of the acting. But Sim was used to dividing opinion.

Sim-ply the Best

The British film industry never really knew what to do with Alastair Sim. On stage, he played such complex Shakespearean characters as Prospero and Shylock. Yet, on screen, he was variously cast as indolent headmasters, imperious police officers, incompetent newspapermen, ingenious baddies and impish pillars of the community.

Bald from his mid-20s, Sim was never going to be a romantic lead. But he possessed a mellifluous speaking voice and the expressive pliancy that enabled him to change mood with disarming alacrity. Yet when Sim was given the opportunity to play it straight, as in Guy Hamilton's adaptation of J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls (1954), the producers felt the need to warn moviegoes in the press that Poole was not a comic part and urged them not to spoil the film for others by laughing.

Born on 9 October 1900, Sim was the son of an Edinburgh tailor whose wife could only speak Gaelic when she left the Hebridean island of Eigg. Alexander was hardly the most supportive father, as he frequently opined, 'Mark my words, that boy will end on the gallows.' Indeed, when he became a governor of Alastair's school, he reassured the staff that they could beat him if he misbehaved and later fired him from the family firm for playing cricket when he should have been delivering a suit to an important customer.

Leaving school at 14, Sim scarcely lasted longer at a men's outfitters, as he was so bad at wrapping purchases that he was only allowed to sell ties. In 1918, he started studying chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, but was called up for service in the Great War and spent the next couple of years wandering the Highlands as an itinerant labourer.

On his return as a teetotal, left-leaning atheist, Sim (who had wanted to be a hypnotist as a child) took a job at the borough assessor's office and began giving public poetry readings. After winning a prize at the Edinburgh Music Festival, he was hired to teach public speaking at the Dalry further education college and this led to his appointment as the university's Fulton Lecturer in Elocution in 1925.

Consequently, Sim was a late bloomer as a performer. He took his first role as a priest in a 1925 amateur production of The Land of Heart's Desire. In 1929, he approached the playwright John Drinkwater about pursuing his ambition to direct, but wound up making his professional acting debut the following year alongside Paul Robeson, Peggy Ashcroft and Ralph Richardson as the Messenger in Othello. Sim made his sole appearance on Broadway as a Renaissance cardinal in The Venetian in 1931 and spent the next two years with the Old Vic, where he began to attract critical attention.

A still from The Renown Pictures Crime Collection: Vol.2 (1962)
A still from The Renown Pictures Crime Collection: Vol.2 (1962)

However, a slipped disc meant that he spent a year out of work before osteopath Edward Hall saved his career, which took off after his turn as a sycophantic banker in Youth at the Helm (1934) led to him being offered his first film. He was originally cast as a Cockney copper in Albert Parker's The Riverside Murder (1935), but persuaded the producers to let him play a Scotsman nicknamed 'Mac' instead and Cinema Paradiso users can discover this breakthrough role on Volume 2 of The Renown Pictures Crime Collection.

Having signed a three-year deal at Twickenham Studios, Sim started to tone down his Edinburgh burr, as he learned screen craft from such polished performers as Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen in Leslie S. Hiscott's A Fire Has Been Arranged (1935) and Edward Everett Horton in Maurice Elvey's The Man in the Mirror (1936). Sim even got to co-star with his wife, Naomi, in Campbell Gullan and Alex Bryce's Wedding Group (1936) before studio chief Julius Hagen went bankrupt and cancelled Sim's contract.

He responded by becoming a perpetual freelancer and teamed with George Formby in Monty Banks's Keep Your Seats, Please (1936) and Jessie Matthews in the musical trio, Gangway (1937), Sailing Along (1938) and Climbing High (Carol Reed, 1939). The latter trio (the first two of which were directed by Sonnie Hale) can be rented from Cinema Paradiso on Volumes Four and Five of The Jessie Matthews Revue.

Sim demonstrated his gift for eccentric malevolence in Richard Bird's adaptation of Edgar Wallace's The Terror (1938) and in the RKO quickie, The Mysterious Mr Davis (1939), which is notable for the fact it was directed by Claude Autant-Lara and co-scripted by Jacques Prévert, the poet who had helped shape French Poetic Realism (see our Brief History) in conjunction with director Marcel Carné. Regrettably, however. it's not possible to see Sim hamming it up to joyous effect as bungling sidekicks Lochlan Macgregor in This Man Is News (1939) and This Man in Paris (1940), and Sergeant Bingham in Inspector Hornleigh (1938), Inspector Hornleigh's Holiday (1939) and Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It (1940).

The latter trilogy brought Sim to the attention of emerging writer-directors Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who would keep him gainfully employed after the war. He also owed a debt to playwright James Bridie, who wrote several stage shows for him and also introduced him to Alfred Hitchcock, with whom he had collaborated on The Paradine Case (1947) and Under Capricorn (1949). In 1950, Sim essayed Jane Wyman's father in Stage Fright (1950) and, two years later, he paid tribute to Bridie by persuading Launder and Gilliat to rework his play, It Depends What You Mean, as Folly to Be Wise (1952), in which Sim played an army chaplain who organises a brains trust to boost morale at an army camp.

Sim had actually spent time entertaining troops between doing his bit to boost morale in such wartime thrillers as Anthony Asquith's espionage gem, Cottage to Let (1941). It was on the ENSA circuit that Sim bumped into Sidney Gilliat, who felt he had matured as a performer and cast him as Dr Montgomery in the home front melodrama, Waterloo Road (1944).

A still from Green for Danger (1946)
A still from Green for Danger (1946)

Then, when Robert Morley proved unavailable, Launder and Gilliat summoned Sim to play Inspector Cockrill in their hospital whodunit, Green For Danger (1946). The sequence in which Sim reads a crime novel in bed and slowly realises he has failed to identify the culprit is priceless and would only be matched by his pantomimic attempts to get himself arrested for shoplifting and burglary in Mario Zampi's Laughter in Paradise (1951). But Sim seemed incapable of giving a bad performance around this period, even in lesser Launder and Gilliat offerings like the Irish biopic, Captain Boycott (1947), and the Austerity comedy, Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951).

Such was Sim's box-office appeal that Ealing tried to lure him back to play the professor in Henry Cornelius's Passport to Pimlico and the Macroon in Alexander Mackendrick's Whisky Galore! (both 1949) after his comic-book scribe had illuminated the studio's first trademark comedy, Hue and Cry (Charles Crichton, 1947). However, Sim refused to be tied down, although his turn as the fake medium in Gilliat's London Belongs to Me (1948) did apparently inspire Alec Guinness's portrayal of Professor Marcus in Mackendrick's The Ladykillers (1955).

Very much a reluctant star, who refused to sign autographs or give interviews, Sim continued to delight audiences as contrasting head teachers Wetherby Pond and Millicent Fritton in Launder and Gilliat's The Happiest Days of Your Lives (1950 and The Belles of St Trinian's (1954) and Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957). In addition to donning drag in the first of the Ronald Searle adaptations, Sim also played Miss Fritton's crooked brother, Clarence, alongside prodigy George Cole's wheeler-dealing spiv, Flash Harry. Yet, Sim surpassed these outings in Scrooge and An Inspector Call, which he followed with a display of patrician generosity, as the Laird in Frank Launder's Geordie (1955).

While spending more time on the stage, Sim ventured into television for the likes of Dennis Vance's take on James Bridie's Burke and Hare melodrama, The Anatomist (1956). But Sim and Ian Carmichael - his co-star in Gilliat's Left Right and Centre (1959) and Robert Hamer's School For Scoundrels (1960) - came to seem out of place among the angry young men of the social realist new wave. He proved he could still excel, as the assassin Hawkins in Robert Day's comic masterpiece, The Green Man (1956). But he fell out with Launder and Gilliat over his desire to make a scurrilous black comedy, while his reputation was damaged after he sued the makers of a baked bean commercial for having Ron Moody impersonate his voice. Consequently, having played solicitor Julius Sagamore in Anthony Asquith's adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's The Millionairess (1960), Sim vanished from the big screen for over a decade.

He returned in voice only alongside Michael Hordern to reprise their 1951 roles in Richard Williams's Oscar-winning animated version of A Christmas Carol (1971). However, he stole scenes in the supporting roles of Bishop Lambton in Peter Medak's The Ruling Class (1972) and as Mr Greig in Richard Lester's Royal Flash (1975) before bowing out as the Earl in Clive Donner's BBC reworking of Geoffrey Household's thriller, Rogue Male, which was transmitted a month after Sim died of cancer on 19 August 1976.

Seven Decades of an Oft-Told Tale

A still from The Trouble with Harry (1955)
A still from The Trouble with Harry (1955)

Although Scrooge was a major box-office hit in the UK, it fared less well in the United States, where Sim was relatively unknown. The prevailing wisdom was that the story was better suited to television than cinema, although familiar faces like the Emmy-nominated Fredric March and Basil Rathbone were paired as the misers in the first musical variation of A Christmas Carol in 1954. The lyrics were provided by playwright Maxwell Anderson, while the music was composed by Bernard Herrmann, who was just about to embark upon a seven-film partnership with Alfred Hitchcock that ran from The Trouble With Harry (1955) to Marnie (1964). This was also the first colour telling of the tale, although only a black-and-white recording remains (alongside a colourised version of Sim's performance).

Rathbone was promoted to the lead alongside crooner Vic Damone in a second musical rendition, The Stingiest Man in Town (1956), before the first animated variation, Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, graced small screens in 1962. Back in Blighty, Talbot Rothwell came up with a teleplay to bring Sidney James's Scrooge up against Terry Scott's Frank N. Stein (with Bernard Bresslaw and Barbara Windsor as his creations) and the unlikely duo of Frankie Howerd and Hattie Jacques as Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett. The 1969 Carry On Christmas show can be rented from Cinema Paradiso as part of the Carry On Christmas Specials collection.

Following the unexpected Oscar success of Carol Reed's Oliver! (1968), Ronald Neame was entrusted with Leslie Bricusse's musical, Scrooge (1970). Golden Globe winner Albert Finney made a decent fist of his songs and received fine support from Alec Guinness as Marley and Edith Evans and Kenneth More as the first two ghosts. Equally accomplished were Michael Hordern in the BBC's A Christmas Carol (1977) and Walter Matthau in the Rankin-Bass animation of The Stingiest Man in Town (1978).

Further cartoon versions followed in quickish succession, most notably the Warner Bros duo of Bugs Bunny's Christmas Carol (1979), which can be found on Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales, and Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas (2006), which sees Bugs narrate a new interpretation built around Daffy Duck.

It's not currently possible to bring you Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983), which centres on Scrooge McDuck. But a number of other cartoons featuring well-known characters offer an easy introduction to Dickens's classic. So, this year, why not let Cinema Paradiso treat your youngsters to such frolics as Brer Rabbit's Christmas Carol (1992), A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1995), Barbie: A Christmas Carol (2008), Dora the Explorer: Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure (2009), The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol (2013), and Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends: Thomas' Christmas Carol (2016) ?

A still from Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001)
A still from Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001)

While the combination of Tim Curry and Whoopi Goldberg in A Christmas Carol (1997) eludes us for the moment, few will be able to resist Jimmy T. Murakami's Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001), which brings you Simon Callow as Dickens and Scrooge (roles he would recreate in a 2018 one-man show), Kate Winslet as Belle, Rhys Ifans and Juliet Stevenson as the Cratchits, Jane Horrocks and Michael Gambon as ghosts Past and Present, and Nicolas Cage as Jacob Marley. Get your order in now!

Back in the realm of live-action, George C. Scott delivered an Emmy-nominated performance in Clive Donner's A Christmas Carol (1984), which also includes sterling support from David Warner and Susannah York as the Cratchits and Edward Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Clearly Donner had remembered the value of an authentic setting from his 1951 editorial days, as he filmed the action on location in Shrewsbury.

While this much-admired teleplay stuck to the text, Richard Donner's Scrooged (1988) took amusing liberties in showing how ovebearing TV boss Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is taught a lesson during a haunted night by such Hollywood stalwarts as Robert Mitchum, John Forsythe, Carol Kane and Alfre Woodard. Michael Caine goes on an equally unforgettable journey in Brian Henson's The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), which features Kermit and Miss Piggy as the Cratchits, Statler and Waldorf as the Marley brothers, and Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig.

The influence of Sim and Hurst can be felt in David Jones's tele-version of A Christmas Carol (1999), which paired Patrick Stewart (who had played the miser in a one-man stage show) and Richard E. Grant as Bob Cratchit. Containing maritime sequences omitted from other adaptations, this has been rather overlooked amidst the growing number of novelty variations. The same goes for Arthur Allen Seidelman's A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004), which draws on Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens's stage musical to provide Kelsey Grammer with a change of pace after two solid decades of playing Dr Frasier Crane in Cheers (1982-93) and Frasier (1993-2004).

For all the twists on the Dickens format, however, few film-makers had considered building the action around a female curmudgeon. Susan Lucci had shown well as department store boss Elizabeth Scrooge in the TV-movie, Ebbie (1995), and Cicely Tyson had been typically impressive as the first black incarnation in Ms Scrooge (1997). But Cinema Paradiso can bring you Tori Spelling playing small-screen superstar Carol Cummings with a large dose of celebrity humbug in Matthew Irmas's A Carol Christmas (2003). Catherine Tate also threw herself into giving the spirits as good as she got in Nan's Xmas Carol (2009).

The same year saw Robert Zemeckis use motion capture to create the first computer-generated take on A Christmas Carol. This Disney production was also the first in 3-D and saw Jim Carrey voice the spirits as well as Scrooge. Gary Oldman also doubled up as Marley and Cratchit, while even providing the body movements for Tiny Tim. Bob Hoskins added Old Joe to the role of Nigel Fezziwig, while Colin Firth cropped up as Fred.

Jason Figgis worked atmospheric wonders with a much smaller budget for his digital adaptation, A Christmas Carol (2012), which had the distinction of being the first release of Dickens's bicentennial year. This isn't currently available and neither is Anthony D.P. Mann's A Christmas Carol (2015), which starred Colin Baker as Scrooge. Matt Smith, one of Baker's successors as everyone's favourite time lord would go on to encounter Michael Gambon as the miserly Kazran Sardick in the Steven Moffat-scripted Doctor Who: Series 5: Christmas Special: A Christmas Carol (2010).

Frustratingly unavailable at present are Jon Deak's operatic The Passion of Scrooge (2018) and A Christmas Carol (2019), a BBC revisitation by Peaky Blinders (2013-19) creator Steven Knight, with Guy Pearce as Scrooge, Andy Serkis as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Stephen Graham as Marley. But Cinema Paradiso can bring you such offbeat temptations as CBeebies Panto: A Christmas Carol (2013) and A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong (2017), which sees Derek Jacobi and Diana Rigg running into the Cornley Polytechnic Dramatic Society after they had been banned from television after the sublimely hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong (2016).

Moreover, we can also offer the most recent screen version available on high-quality DVD and Blu-ray. Narrated by Siân Phillips, Jacqui Morris's A Christmas Carol (2020) is a handsomely staged balletic interpretation that creates a unique magic, as Simon Russell Beale voices Scrooge for dancer Michael Nunn, while Carey Mulligan can be heard as Belle, Martin Freeman as Bob Cratchit, Leslie Caron as Christmas Present, Daniel Kaluuya as Christmas Present, and Andy Serkis as Marley's Ghost. Why not give it a go?

A still from A Christmas Carol (2020)
A still from A Christmas Carol (2020)

A very happy holiday from everyone at Cinema Paradiso. May you all, to paraphrase Scrooge, keep Christmas in your own way.

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