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Christmas Classic Rewatch Review – Scrooge (1951)

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Elsewhere I wrote about how and why A Christmas Carol was written and how it’s been adapted many times on screens both large and small. It’s the most often adapted of all of Dickens’ works, with over thirty film outings. Oliver Twist comes second with a mere eighteen.  It’s been faithfully followed from the original, been translated almost beyond recognition, and everywhere in between.

I’ve seen more than just a few of them and liked most. Some adaptations I’ve liked because they’ve played with the format in a thoughtful way, others because they’ve brought the original beautifully to life.  

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My favourites in the “played with the format” category are Scrooged and the Blackadder special, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol. And, having read this far, there’ll be no surprise that my favourite in the faithful adaptation category is Scrooge, released in 1951. Well, it was called Scrooge over here, the USA saw it called A Christmas Carol. As it’s December I’ve spent a bit of time getting into the spirit of the season. By that, I don’t mean guzzling mince pies and quaffing mulled wine…well, not all the time, anyway.  What I meant was I had another run through the novel, which shows how close we are to the original.

Marley Was Dead

In the main, Scrooge/A Christmas Carol is pretty close to the original.

There are times when, as you read the text, you can hear the words being spoken by Alastair Sim as they come off the page or when you read about Scrooge shouting at the ghost of Marley, “There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” — it’s always Alastair Sim cowering beneath his bravado. I’d say my reading of the book has been spoiled by that film if it wasn’t for the fact that I loved it so much and feel it’s actually been enhanced by my in-head overdubbing of the film onto the source material.

But, while it’s a good adaptation, it’s not a hundred percent accurate.

The differences aren’t huge though. In the book, there’s no Mr Jorkin. He was added to provide a bit of backstory to explain how the Scrooge & Marley firm was established. In the book, Scrooge’s charwoman isn’t named and doesn’t appear a lot but in the film she is Mrs Dilber, and Kathleen Harrison got second billing.

And there’s a swap around between Scrooge and his sister as to who is the elder, as the younger is the one who caused the death of their mother. To be honest, with the way that Victorian children used to drop like flies, there’s bound to be some confusion.

Bah, Said Scrooge, Humbug! 

Whenever I see Scrooge/A Christmas Carol it takes me right back to my childhood. One of the attractions for the UK audience is that Scrooge/A Christmas Carol is a cavalcade of British talent of the mid 20th century.

In fact, some of the people on display here were still working at the top level into the new Millenium. Jack Warner (Jorkin) was a fixture of British TV on Saturday night from 1955 to 1976 in Dixon Of Dock Green. Not bad considering that the character of George Dixon was introduced in the 1950 film, The Blue Lamp, and was fatally shot by Dirk Bogarde! 

Other famous names include George Cole (Young Scrooge) who had a fifteen-year run as Arthur Daley in Minder, and Patrick Macnee (Young Marley) who was John Steed in The Avengers/The New Avengers from 1961 to 1977.

Other famous (to a Brit of a certain age) faces include Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Michael Hordern, Miles Malleson, Hattie Jacques, and Peter Bull.  Those names may well mean nothing to a lot of people, but if you’ve seen any British films or TV series from WWII up to the seventies, then their faces will be familiar.

Movie Grade: A+

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6 responses to “Christmas Classic Rewatch Review – Scrooge (1951)”

  1. You know, I’ve never watched the original Scrooge. I know the story well enough that it doesn’t occur to me to trip over the source material (which is actually the book, but that’s not important right now). 😉

  2. Rob Williams Avatar
    Rob Williams

    Well, I’ll just adjust my Dickens fan club hat and say that this isn’t the first film version of the story. The oldest surviving version is a short from 1901 called Scrooge or Marley’s Ghost. However the 1951 version is, to my mind, the most enjoyable version. A close second is the 2009 Robert Zemeckis motion capture version of A Christmas Carol. The main reason is that Jim Carrey seems to be doing an Alastair Sim impersonation! It is interesting to watch both and play spot the difference!

    Incidentally, if you are tempted to read the book or listen to the audiobook then, as Douglas Adams said “don’t panic”! It’s not a huge brick of a book like most of the Dickens novels. It’s only about 90 pages long.

  3. Wow, you know Dickens like I know Lord of the Rings, or Star Trek. Had no idea there was a 1901 short…wild. Silent, I assume?

    I doubt I’ll read the book again — I did read it in grade school at some point. I’m just not a Christmas fan. Humbug indeed. 🙂

  4. Rob Williams Avatar
    Rob Williams

    Yes, the 1901 version is silent… I’ve just watched it! There’s a link to it on the Wikipedia page. I don’t know if you can get the BBC Sounds approver there but there is a copy of the audiobook on there as well as quite a few others all available for free.

    I went through a period of not enjoying Christmas. Made me quite popular as I volunteered to cover the holidays! But then things change in your life and I quite enjoy it again now.

  5. Looks like it’s here on YouTube – 40 minutes:

    Yeah, if I have a family again I might feel Christmas is worthwhile. It’s just too treacly when you’re alone. Also, it’s boring. Give me Star Wars Day, Groundhog Day, Pi Day, The Ides of March — y’know, more geeky and weird. Two words that kind of sum me up!

  6. That’s the 1913 version with Sir Seymour Hicks, thanks! The first one is here…

    Undoubtedly, a family does make a difference at Christmas but the trick is how you define family; it doesn’t have to be people related by blood. If you were closer I’d have you over, gaffer tape you to a chair, and force feed you booze, choccies, pigs in blankets, and non-stop Christmas films!

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