“A Christmas Carol”


I just found out that the Ethics Alarms link to the text of “A Christmas Carol” is suddenly bad, and being momentarily unable to figure out how to fix it (not that more than a handful of readers ever used that link, or any of my links for that matter), I’m embedding the whole 1951 movie version of the tale, the one starring Alistair Sim, as my penance.

This was the version I first saw when I was knee-high to Robert Reich. Mant aficionados of “A Christmas Carol adaptations think it is still the best. Because the movie is in black and white and has been superseded by so many other versions, it is hard to find it on TV except for the streaming services. Even the much inferior version starring Reginald Owen (with the entire Lockhart family, including young pre-“Lassie,” pre-“Lost in Space” June, as the Cratchits) is shown more than the classic Sim film. Now “A Christmas Carol” is most likely to be available, sort of, in the cynical form of Bill Murray’s “Scooged.” It’s not the worst version—the musical starring Albert Finney wins that booby prize (“Thank you very much! Thank you very much!” Yecchh.).

I have to confess that my personal choice for the best adaptation goes to the 1984 George C. Scott version, if you don’t count “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” and you probably shouldn’t. Nonetheless, Allistair Sim is mighty good, and if you’ve never seen him as Scrooge, you owe yourself the experience.

Here he is…

7 thoughts on ““A Christmas Carol”

  1. This year Olney Theatre has Paul Morella’s solo performance of A Christmas Carol available for streaming. (Full disclosure: as the Artistic Director of an area theater, I commissioned Paul to craft and perform this adaptation in 2009, which he continues to perform at OTC annually)

  2. If you only have an hour, and need an audio-only version, the radio drama version with Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge and Orson Welles narrating is pretty good. (It’s on Amazon Prime Music, and should be on YouTube as well.) “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” is the kid-friendly version I grew up with as a child; I suspect “The Muppets’ Christmas Carol” is probably the version my kids remember from their own childhoods. I’d agree that the George C. Scott version is probably my favorite of the modern versions.
    As to the 1951 version (probably my favorite older version, although I didn’t discover it until it came out on DVD), it can also be streamed for free (with ads) on Amazon Prime Video via the IMDB Channel; I sprang for a paid version of it on Amazon Video before the free w/ads version became available.

  3. My book club just watched the Alistair Sim movie. It’s not literally faithful to the book, but it nails the atmosphere in its own 1950s movie way, and its expansions on the plot work really well.

    I enjoy the Albert Finney movie, no shame. I know it’s ridiculous and too long. Someone online pointed out it resembles an Amicus/Hammer film, which might be a good lens to view it through. It’s also clearly meant to be a spiritual successor to Oliver!, though obviously not up to that standard.

    Aside, there must be something in the Muppet Christmas Carol that I literally don’t comprehend, because my age cohort goes on about it being the most brilliant Dickens adaptation ever made and all I can see is a well done kids’ version without all that much “there” there.

    The full text of the book is also here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm

  4. My favorite Scrooges are:
    1. George C. Scott
    2. Alastair Sim
    3. Patrick Stewart
    I haven’t seen the Reginald Owen version or the Albert Finney one. I usually watch each of the first three every Christmas season; so far this year I have seen Scott and Stewart, with Sim lined up for tomorrow.

  5. An interesting article in today’s WSJ:
    In Defense of Scrooge, Whose Thrift Blessed the World

    …No Christmas story except the biblical account of Jesus’ birth has been more often retold or more cherished than Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” published in 1843. The reclamation of Ebenezer Scrooge has brought joy and hope to hundreds of millions of people across three centuries. “Scrooge” has become an eponym for stingy or miserly. We write in defense of this Ebenezer Scrooge, not the redeemed one.

    Scrooge is a distilled caricature of a businessman in the Victorian era: a rich, obsessive wealth hoarder. Working in “his moldy old office,” living in “his dusty chambers” in a building so old and dreary that “nobody lived in it but Scrooge,” he was “a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone.” He strove from dawn till dusk to “understand his own business,” and “with his banker’s-book” he trudged home in the dark “to take his gruel” alone by a dying fire.

    We meet Scrooge on Christmas Eve, when he is visited in his cold, dingy “counting-house” by his nephew, who urges him to stop working: “You’re rich enough.” The young man begs his uncle to join him in making merry on Christmas Day. Concerned about finding himself “a year older, but not an hour richer,” Scrooge answers that he will keep Christmas in his own way, by working.

    It should be understood there is nothing unethical about Ebenezer Scrooge. In his view business “is the even-handed dealing of the world,” and “there is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty.” His great failing, in the words of his former fiancée, whom he gave up to marry his business, was that he had become a prisoner of “the master-passion, Gain.”


    Notably, one of the co-authors is Phil Gramm.

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