Dec. 19, 2018, Happy 175th Birthday Mr. Scrooge, Mr Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and Everybody Else!

by dgranger | created - 08 Jan 2018 | updated - 19 Dec 2018 | Public

On December 19, 1843, Charles Dickens published the first edition of his short story entitled "A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas." This enduring classic, better known as "A Christmas Carol,” has seen many adaptations for stage, film and television since. It celebrated its 175th anniversary on December 19, 2018.

"A Christmas Carol” remains relevant to today despite much of the story being anachronistic. The Poor Law at that time financed the poorhouse, the Treadmill, and debtor prisons by taxing businesses. The taxes that Scrooge paid to finance these establishments have been repealed and faded into the past. In 1843, Christmas was not an official holiday in England, but a half day of business unless it fell on a Sunday, according to Royal Exchange rules. Hence the reason for Scrooge saying to Cratchit the statement about expecting the “All day tomorrow” off.

Dickens was an avid advocate for stronger copyright laws in England and internationally. He vehemently disliked people adapting and modifying the plot of his book; he did not receive royalties from these pirated adaptations, which frequently added characters and made significantly changes to the story.

Of these film and television adaptations, which do you believe Dickens would most approve?

Discuss your opinions, as Dickens did write in the final chapter of the book, “... Over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop ...”!

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1. Scrooge (1970)

G | 113 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy

58 Metascore

A musical retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel about an old bitter miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.

Director: Ronald Neame | Stars: Albert Finney, Alec Guinness, Edith Evans, Kenneth More

Votes: 8,696 | Gross: $3.70M

While the score has few memorable songs to it, its major sin is the scene of Scrooge and Marley in hell. In that scene, Marley is out of character from the way Dickens wrote him. Dickens never wrote a scene of Scrooge in hell.

2. The Alcoa Hour (1955–1957)
Episode: The Stingiest Man in Town (1956)

60 min | Drama

This is a musical version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". Ebenezer Scrooge is given a chance to reform and save his soul. He is visited by 4 ghosts and is shown visions of his past life and the consequences of his life on others.

Director: Daniel Petrie | Stars: The Four Lads, Johnny Desmond, Basil Rathbone, Robert Weede

Votes: 31

While it is not certainly the first musical adaptation, it certainly had one of the best memorable scores to it. This crude one hour TV play was later expanded into a Broadway play. Several of the stars recorded the songs from the play which were hit songs back in that day. Its main faults is that it deleted many of Dickens’ scenes in order to fit the story into the one hour time slot, had Scrooge's living quarters in the same building as his business office (but I can see where they got idea from since Scrooge lived in only three rooms of his house and leased the rest out as offices), added a ragpicker character, expanded Mrs. Dilber's part, and in a song, it mentions "Santa Claus" when, in 1843, England, it should have been "Father Christmas" (a historical cultural inaccuracy). Also it had Scrooge calling workhouses, the treadmill and prisons “Worthy institutions”. Scrooge never says that in the book. Dickens had Scrooge calling them “Useful”, not “Worthy” . Why? Maybe because, since it was England’s first attempt at welfare, it was also a means for businesses to forcefully collect their debts owed to them by forcing debtors to work off their debt if they didn’t have the money to pay their debts.

3. The Stingiest Man in Town (1978 TV Movie)

60 min | Animation, Drama, Family

This version of the story is told from the perspective of B.A.H. Humbug. After Ebenezer Scrooge refuses to assist the poor or have Christmas Dinner with his nephew, he is visited by the ... See full summary »

Directors: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr. | Stars: Walter Matthau, Tom Bosley, Theodore Bikel, Robert Morse

Votes: 331

The Rankin and Bass animated remake of the 1955 version.

4. A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004 TV Movie)

Not Rated | 97 min | Drama, Fantasy, Musical

An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by ghosts on Christmas Eve.

Director: Arthur Allan Seidelman | Stars: Kelsey Grammer, Jesse L. Martin, Jane Krakowski, Jennifer Love Hewitt

Votes: 1,655

5. Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962 TV Movie)

Approved | 53 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

An animated, magical, musical version of Dickens' timeless classic "A Christmas Carol." The nearsighted Mr. Magoo doesn't have a ghost of a chance as Ebenezer Scrooge, unless he learns the ... See full summary »

Director: Abe Levitow | Stars: Jim Backus, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy, Royal Dano

Votes: 2,367

The story may start out in modern times, but the play within a play technique tells the Carol in 1843.

6. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

G | 85 min | Comedy, Drama, Family

64 Metascore

The Muppet characters tell their version of the classic tale of an old and bitter miser's redemption on Christmas Eve.

Director: Brian Henson | Stars: Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, The Great Gonzo, Steve Whitmire

Votes: 45,775 | Gross: $27.28M

IMHO, this, plus "The Stingiest Man In Town" have the two best scores for a musical adaption of "A Christmas Carol ..." But it includes characters that Dickens did not write and splits Marley's ghost into two characters.

7. A Christmas Carol (1971 TV Short)

28 min | Animation, Short, Drama

An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when spirits visit him on Christmas Eve.

Director: Richard Williams | Stars: Alastair Sim, Michael Redgrave, Michael Hordern, Diana Quick

Votes: 1,110

With Alastair Sim Reprising the role as the voice of Scrooge, and the animation is drawn in the style of John Leech who illustrated the very first edition of "A Christmas Carol", the TV animated version won the Oscar (?) for "Best Short Subject, Animated Films - Richard Williams"(1973). It stays faithful to Dickens’ story.

8. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)

G | 26 min | Animation, Short, Comedy

The classic Disney animated characters play the roles in this animated retelling of the Charles Dickens masterpiece.

Directors: Burny Mattinson, Richard Rich | Stars: Alan Young, Wayne Allwine, Hal Smith, Will Ryan

Votes: 9,564 | Gross: $21.00M

Nominated for an Oscar, this version introduced a new Disney character, Scrooge McDuck, to the world. Yes, we can thank Dickens for inspiring Disney artists to create Scrooge McDuck.

9. A Christmas Carol (1951)

TV-PG | 86 min | Drama, Fantasy

Old bitter miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst | Stars: Alastair Sim, Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Mervyn Johns

Votes: 19,103

This is probably the worst offender of the lot. But yet, this is considered the definitive version of the Carol. Why? While it definately relates to the audience how Scrooge did involuntary support "the Tread Mill Law", The Poor Law, the workhouses, poor houses and (debtor's) prisons through taxes on his business, and that, back in 1843, Christmas was considered a half day of business if it fell on a Monday through Saturday, (Sunday's was a day off with no business by the Royal Exchange in the city of London ), the film includes a lot of scenes and characters in the Ghost of Christmas Past section that Dickens did not write. However, the extra material was based on single sentences that Dickens did write. This got the character of Scrooge right as being more as stingy or frugal and hurting damaged goods man and being more indifferent to the poor than what the other films portray him as. He wants to be left alone. He does lie about not knowing the plight of the poor. Scrooge makes the comments about Cratchit trying to take care of a family on Cratchit's low (but was actually the average wage for a clerk in that period of history in London, England ) wages. Scrooge, in Stave three, The Spirit of Christmas Present, that there was an attempt to close down bakeries that were helping to cook meals of poor families on Sunday, the only day they were said to eat well at all, as Scrooge says it. Also, as a clerk under Fezziwig, Scrooge was so poor himself that he slept under Fezziwig's counter. This film makes sure the audience does see that. This film gets Scrooge's character right. But what the film gets wrong is the fate of Belle, Scrooge’s fiancee. The film has Belle going on to be a spinster helping other poor people. That is not what Dickens wrote. He wrote a scene of her as a mother with children and a family that could have been Scrooge’s but he lost that chance.

10. A Christmas Carol (1999 TV Movie)

PG | 95 min | Drama, Fantasy

An old bitter miser who makes excuses for his uncaring nature learns real compassion when three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve.

Director: David Hugh Jones | Stars: Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Joel Grey, Ian McNeice

Votes: 7,929

The only film I remember that includes the bit about the Dutch tiles in Scrooge's fireplace. It is performed by an actor, Patrick Stewart, who is an authority on Dickens and "A Christmas Carol". He also did it as a one man play on Broadway and won awards for it. However, it shows Scrooge being thrown into the grave and entering hell. Dickens never wrote that.

11. A Christmas Carol (2009)

PG | 96 min | Animation, Drama, Family

55 Metascore

An animated retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Steve Valentine

Votes: 96,817 | Gross: $137.86M

This film, with an excellent supporting cast, sets the pattern of emphasizing damaged hurt parts of Scrooge's character. But it makes the same sins by including scenes and characters that are not in Dickens’ book and excluded other scenes from the book. It greatly explains upon Fred's character and his wife. It does show Tiny Tim’s dead body being waked in the upstairs bedroom. Dickens did write that and it is one of the few films to show it.

12. A Christmas Carol (1938)

Not Rated | 69 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy

On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the spirit of his former partner, Jacob Marley. The deceased partner was as mean and miserly as Scrooge is now and he warns him to change his ways or face the consequences in the afterlife.

Director: Edwin L. Marin | Stars: Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Terry Kilburn

Votes: 5,861

13. A Christmas Carol (1910)

Not Rated | 11 min | Short, Drama, Fantasy

Based on the story by Charles Dickens: Ebenezer Scrooge is well known for his harsh, miserly ways, until he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, and then by three other spirits.

Directors: J. Searle Dawley, Charles Kent, Ashley Miller | Stars: Marc McDermott, Charles Ogle, William Bechtel, Viola Dana

Votes: 500

The original silent screen version.

14. A Christmas Carol (1984 TV Movie)

PG | 100 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy

An old bitter miser who rationalizes his uncaring nature learns real compassion when three spirits visit him on Christmas Eve.

Director: Clive Donner | Stars: George C. Scott, Frank Finlay, Angela Pleasence, Edward Woodward

Votes: 11,640

15. Scrooged (1988)

PG-13 | 101 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

38 Metascore

A selfish, cynical television executive is haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.

Director: Richard Donner | Stars: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, John Glover

Votes: 82,196 | Gross: $60.33M

Suggested by Act_1. An updated retelling of the story.

16. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

PG | 104 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama

60 Metascore

The journey that led to Charles Dickens' creation of "A Christmas Carol," a timeless tale that would redefine Christmas.

Director: Bharat Nalluri | Stars: Dan Stevens, Mark Schrier, Patrick Joseph Byrnes, Miriam Margolyes

Votes: 11,222 | Gross: $5.68M

Suddested by Urbanmovies. The story behind the writing of the book. One scene in this movie is slightly wrong, but only slightly. The scene in the lawyer’s office. That is what happened when Dickens filed an affidavit to obtain an injunction to the stop publication of “Parley’s Illuminated Library” when they published a plagiarized version of “A Christmas Carol” as “A Christmas Ghost Story reoriginated from the original by Charles Dickens Esquire and analytically condensed for this work”. Dickens had won the case. But when Dickens sought to get damages from the publication, they declared bankruptcy in order to pay Dickens his royalties as was demonstrated in the film.

17. A Christmas Carol (2000 TV Movie)

75 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy

An unscrupulous loan shark who makes excuses for his uncaring nature learns real compassion when three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve.

Director: Catherine Morshead | Stars: Ross Kemp, Warren Mitchell, Liz Smith, Michael Maloney

Votes: 370

Suggested by Act_1 This is another updated retelling of the story with Scrooge as a loan shark.

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