A Christmas Carol (1938 film)
|A Christmas Carol|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Edwin L. Marin|
|Produced by||Joseph L. Mankiewicz|
|Written by||Hugo Butler|
|Music by||Franz Waxman|
John F. Seitz
|Editing by||George Boemler|
|Release date(s)||December 16, 1938|
|Running time||69 minutes|
A Christmas Carol is a 1938 American film adaptation of Charles Dickens's novelette A Christmas Carol, where Ebenezer Scrooge (Reginald Owen), an elderly miser, learns the error of his ways on Christmas Eve, when he reflects on his past, present and future collectively, whereupon the mean old miser undergoes a radical change of heart and is "awakened" on Christmas morning a changed man.
- Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge
- Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit
- Kathleen Lockhart as Mrs. Cratchit
- Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim Cratchit
- Barry MacKay as Fred (Scrooge's Nephew)
- Lynne Carver as Bess (Fred's fiance)
- Bunny Beatty as Martha Cratchit (uncredited)
- June Lockhart as Belinda Cratchit (uncredited)
- John O'Day as Peter Cratchit (uncredited)
- Leo G. Carroll as Marley's Ghost
- Lionel Braham as Spirit of Christmas Present
- Ann Rutherford as Spirit of Christmas Past
- D'Arcy Corrigan as Spirit of Christmas Future
- Ronald Sinclair as Young Scrooge
- Elvira Stevens as Fan Scrooge (uncredited)
- Forrester Harvey as Old Fezzwig (uncredited)
- Olaf Hytten as Schoolmaster (uncredited)
- I. Stanford Jolley as Man walking on Sidewalk (extra) (uncredited)
- Colin Kenny (uncredited)
- Charles Coleman as Solicitor
- Matthew Boulton as Solicitor
Made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and originally intended to star Lionel Barrymore, who played the role of Scrooge annually on radio, but was forced to drop out of the film because of his arthritis, the movie starred Reginald Owen as Scrooge and Gene and Kathleen Lockhart as the Cratchits. Terry Kilburn, better known for his portrayal of Colley in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, costarred as Tiny Tim and a young June Lockhart appeared as one of the Cratchit daughters. Leo G. Carroll played Marley's Ghost. The characters of Fred (Scrooge's nephew), and Elizabeth, his fianceé (his wife in the novelette), were greatly expanded in order to work in a romantic angle to the story that Dickens did not intend. The couple was played by Barry MacKay and Lynne Carver. Ann Rutherford, better known as Polly Benedict in the Andy Hardy films and as Carreen O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, was a young and attractive Ghost of Christmas Past, rather than the somewhat unusual creation that Dickens described. The music for the film was composed by Franz Waxman, in contrast to most MGM films of the period, whose scores were composed by Herbert Stothart.
Some of the grimmer aspects of the story went completely unmentioned or unseen, in order to make this a "family film" in the style of other MGM literary adaptations. Although Marley's Ghost did appear, the phantoms wailing outside Scrooge's window were not shown. Scrooge's fiancee, who eventually leaves him because of his miserly ways, was completely dropped from the film, as were the two starving children "Want" and "Ignorance", who hid within the folds of the Ghost of Christmas Present's robe. Also gone were the thieves who ransack Scrooge's belongings after he "dies" in the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come segment. While Gene Lockhart's performance as Bob Cratchit is admired, he is often criticized for looking too "well-fed" for the role.
Originally intended as a 1939 release, A Christmas Carol was immediately rushed into production in October 1938 and was finished in a matter of weeks. It opened in December 1938 at New York City's Radio City Music Hall where it did moderately well.
One of very many adaptations of the work, this version was frequently revived in theatres by MGM, was shown on local television stations throughout the 1960s, and was once a staple of Chicago's WGN television station. The film also became a Christmas Eve tradition when it was telecast annually on WCBS-TV Channel 2 as part of their Late Late Show installment beginning in the early 1960s. On some Christmas Eves, Channel 2 sometimes aired it as many as three consecutive times throughout the night into Christmas morning. By the early 1970s, WCBS-TV had acquired the 1951 film version and at that time ran both versions back to back. The M-G-M film was last shown on WCBS-TV in 1979, then in 1980, this version would move to WNEW-TV, while the 1951 version had already moved back to WOR-TV (which first telecast it in the U.S.) in 1975. Still, for years the 1938 movie remained the most famous film version of the story in the United States, and the most lavish until the 1970 musical version, though it clocked in at only 69 minutes. But its popularity was eventually eclipsed by Scrooge, the 1951 film, after that version began to receive wide television exposure starting in 1970. There are also those who have found Reginald Owen's portrayal of Scrooge to be rather lacking, especially in comparison to later ones.
Home video releases 
In 1988, MGM/UA Home Video and Turner Entertainment released A Christmas Carol on VHS celebrating its 50th anniversary, for the first time in a colorized version. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 1988 promoting the film's release on home video, actress June Lockhart admitted that, despite the film being made by MGM, it was "a 'B' picture". The colorized version was released once again on VHS by Warner Home Video in 2000. On November 8, 2005, the black and white version was released on DVD in a "Classic Holiday Collection" box set including Boys Town and Christmas in Connecticut, two other MGM titles with a holiday/family theme; it was also released as an individual title. Since the first DVD release, it has seen multiple releases in various Christmas movie collection box sets.
See also 
- Guida, Fred "A Christmas Carol" And Its Adaptations (Publisher: McFarland & Company; New Edition, August 2, 2006)
- A Christmas Carol at the Internet Movie Database
- A Christmas Carol at AllRovi
- A Christmas Carol (1938 film) at the TCM Movie Database