A cinematic history of a festive classic
‘TIS the season to watch Christmas movies, and screen versions of Charles Dickens’s much-loved spook story, A Christmas Carol, will be playing on repeat. The novella that brought us the tightwad we all love to hate, Ebenezer Scrooge, was published in 1843, and since then the story has been adapted for radio, theatre, opera, even graphic novels – with the earliest surviving film adaptation dating back to 1901. Other early productions involved the first American produced version, released in 1908 and subsequently lost, and the popular 11-minute silent film released in 1910 – starring Marc McDermott and Charles S Ogle. Here is our top five:
Scrooge (1951): Considered one of the greatest depictions of the story, director Brian Desmond Hurst’s film was praised largely for Alastair Sim’s performance as Scrooge. Sim’s portrayal of the miserly top-hatted protagonist reflected a typically huffy, uncaring figure, but with a curiously emotional edge. The actor received critical acclaim for portraying a Scrooge whose character is challenged by his own inner demons and troubled past.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983): Derived from Disney’s 1974 audio musical An Adaptation Of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, this was the studio’s first original feature cartoon in 30 years – bar releases – to star its figurehead, Mickey Mouse. Featuring Donald Duck, Goofy and other Disney favourites, the film sees Scrooge McDuck (voiced by the late Alan Young) being confronted by three Christmas ghosts, before repenting of his curmudgeonly ways, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988): First aired on December 23, 1988, the BBC’s 42-minute parody of the famous tale preceded the final instalment of the much-loved TV comedy series. With memorable lines including, “Baldrick, you wouldn’t see a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on top of a harpsichord”, the Christmas special offered up the traditional Blackadder cast – Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson and Stephen Fry – and featured a hugely entertaining appearance by Robbie Coltrane, portraying the Spirit of Christmas who visits the ever animated and witty (Ebenezer) Blackadder on Christmas Eve and introduces him to his ancestors, with hilarious results. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): Part musical, part comedy-drama, Walt Disney’s take on the tale featured Michael Caine as Scrooge and an all-star Muppets line-up of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, left. Following the traditional narrative of the miserly Scrooge rejecting Christmas invitations and charity, the film plays out as a light-hearted musical celebration of Christmas spirit. Originally billed as one of Disney’s biggest releases of the year, it fell short of box office expectations but is now considered a Christmas classic for younger audiences.
A Christmas Carol (2000): Shot in Alexandra Road council estate in Camden, London, this TV movie stars Ross Kemp – in his first role after departing Eastenders – as Eddie Scrooge, a menacing loan shark who is haunted by the three spirits of Christmas, following the murder of his business partner Jacob Marley (Ray Fearon). Despite its modest budget, the film ranked a favourable 7/10 on film site IMDB. The 75-minute dramafantasy has established a cult following for its left-field approach to the character of Scrooge and its sincere exploration of the ethics in Dickens’s tale.