A Christmas Carol (1984 film)
|A Christmas Carol|
Home video cover
|Directed by||Clive Donner|
|Produced by||George F. Storke|
|Written by||Roger O. Hirson
Charles Dickens (novel)
|Starring||George C. Scott
|Country||United Kingdom/United States|
|Release date||17 December 1984|
|Running time||100 minutes|
A Christmas Carol is a 1984 made-for-television film adaptation of Charles Dickens' famous 1843 novella of the same name. The film is directed by Clive Donner who had been an editor of the 1951 film Scrooge and stars George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge.
The film opens with the funeral of Jacob Marley and his death is mentioned by the narrator (Roger Rees). The film then takes place seven years later on Christmas Eve in 1843. Bob Cratchit (David Warner) a clerk mentions the fact Marley has been dead for 7 years but is told to get back to work by his greedy and mean employer Ebenezer Scrooge (George C. Scott) a money-lender. He then scolds Bob after catching him trying to get coal for the fire as it is cold in the office. Fred Hollywell (Roger Rees), Scrooge's nephew visits and invites him to Christmas dinner but Scrooge rudely refuses, claiming Christmas is "humbug". Scrooge then leaves for the exchange and gives Bob the day off with pay but warns him to be back all the earlier the next day. Scrooge then meets Bob's youngest son Tiny Tim (Anthony Walters) a naïve and very sick boy who walks with a crutch. Scrooge mumbles to him he'll have a long wait for his father before leaving. At the exchange Scrooge charges some other business men 5% extra for corn as they failed to meet his demands the day before, much to their dismay but soon agree to pay extra for the corn, much to the delight of Scrooge. Scrooge then refuses to give a donation to two other men, Mr. Poole (Michael Gough) and Mr. Harking (John Quarmby) for the poor supporting the prisons and poor houses and claims if they rather die then "they better do so and decrease the surplus population".
That night Scrooge arrives home but is toyed by the ghost of his dead partner Marley (Frank Finlay) such as a funeral hearse passing him, Marley's face appearing on the knocker, appearing on the fireplace tiles and making bells ring. Finally Marley himself appears in the same appearance he had when alive but is now weighted down by heavy chains. Marley knowing Scrooge is on the abyss of suffering the same fate as him tells him he wears the chain he "forged in life" link by link and yard by yard due to his cruel and selfish attitude towards others. He tells him he'll be haunted by three spirits and is to expect the first when the bell tolls "one."
As Marley warned the first of the spirits the Ghost of Christmas Past (Angela Pleasence) haunts him and shows him his long forgotten past. Scrooge witnesses the time he spent the holidays alone at school with only his books for company. Scrooge mentions it was due to his mother's death after he had been born, causing his father to disown and turn against him. Fan (Joanne Whalley), Scrooge's beloved younger sister and Fred's mother, picks him up from school claiming their father Silas (Nigel Davenport) has "changed" but it turns out Silas still loathes his son and sends him to work for Fezziwig (Timothy Bateson) in three days time. Scrooge reveals that Fan died giving birth to Fred, and he treats Fred with the same contempt his father treated him. Scrooge is then shown when he worked as an apprentice for Fezziwig and fell in love with Belle (Lucy Gutteridge), to whom he became engaged. However, Scrooge's obsession with money continues to grow, and thus he begins to take Belle for granted. After realizing that Scrooge no longer cares for her as much as he used to, Belle ends their engagement. Scrooge is then shown that Belle is married and is now a mother to several children. Unable to see any more memories Scrooge "puts out" the spirit with the Spirit's cap.
The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Edward Woodward), shows Scrooge how others celebrate Christmas. Scrooge sees just how poor Bob and his family really are after they can only afford a small goose and pudding for their Christmas dinner. Bob then raises a toast to Scrooge, much to the disagreement of his wife (Susannah York). The spirit also hints if the shadows of the future don't change Tiny Tim will die of his illness and scolds Scrooge for his opinion about the surplus population. Scrooge and the spirit witness Fred having a party with his wife Janet (Caroline Langrishe) and friends before witnessing a poor family who are homeless and sitting in the cold eating scraps. After showing him two children called Ignorance and Want, the spirit abandons Scrooge.
Moments later the final insubstantial, incorporeal, ghostly specter the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Michael Carter) shows Scrooge what will happen the following Christmas if he does not repent. They witness the same men that asked Scrooge for corn talking about a man who just died and will only attend the funeral for a free lunch. Scrooge then sees the same dead man on a bed and that the same man has been robbed by an old hag (Liz Smith) who gives the stolen things to a fence named Old Joe (Peter Woodthorpe). Scrooge discovers Tim has lost his fight with his unknown illness with his family mourning him. Scrooge then discovers the man that died and got robbed was himself after seeing his abandoned gravestone. Scrooge tells the spirit he will repent and is not the man he was and asks to rid of the writing on the gravestone. Scrooge then magically returns to his room and discovers he has a chance to put things right as a changed man.
In the morning Scrooge upon learning it is Christmas Day orders a boy to bring the poulterer to his home with a prized turkey. The boy does and Scrooge orders the poulterer to deliver the turkey to Bob and his family. Scrooge then meets the charity workers, and promises an undisclosed (but apparently impressive) donation to their cause. Scrooge then gatecrashes into Fred's home and apologizes for what he said about Christmas. He then accepts Fred's invitation to dinner much to Fred's joy. The following day Bob arrives late for work and Scrooge who pretended to be cross increases Bob's wages and promises to help his family in every way possible. The film then ends with Fred claiming that his maternal uncle did everything he promised and became like a second father figure to Tim, who had survived as Scrooge finally discovered the true meaning of Christmas.
- George C. Scott - Ebenezer Scrooge
- Frank Finlay - Marley's Ghost
- Angela Pleasence - Ghost of Christmas Past
- Edward Woodward - Ghost of Christmas Present
- Michael Carter - Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
- David Warner - Bob Cratchit
- Susannah York - Mrs. Cratchit
- Anthony Walters - Tiny Tim Crachit
- Roger Rees - Fred Hollywell
- Caroline Langrishe - Janet Hollywell
- Lucy Gutteridge - Belle (Scrooge's unappreciated fiancée)
- Nigel Davenport - Silas Scrooge (Ebenezer's and Fan's cruel father)
- Mark Strickson - Young Ebenezer Scrooge
- Joanne Whalley - Fan Scrooge (Ebenezer's beloved sister and Fred's mother)
- Timothy Bateson - Mr. Fezziwig
- Michael Gough - Mr. Poole
- John Quarmby - Mr. Harking
- Peter Woodthorpe - Old Joe
- Liz Smith - Mrs. Dilber
- Kieran Hughes - Peter Cratchit
- Dennis Morgan - A village gentleman
The movie was filmed on location in Shrewsbury, England. It originally aired on CBS on December 17, 1984 in the United States but was released theatrically in Great Britain. The United States debut was sponsored by IBM, which purchased all the commercial spots for the two-hour premier. The film was marketed with the tagline "A new powerful presentation of the most loved ghost story of all time!" Scott was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special for his portrayal in A Christmas Carol.
The movie has run in syndication on local American channels since it debuted in 1984, earning a loyal fanbase, but was not released to VHS until 1995 and to DVD in 1999. This was because Scott himself (and later his estate through Baxter Healthcare, to whom the Scott family donated their copyright) owned the rights to this film. On November 25, 2007 it returned to national television on AMC for the first time since its debut, and the network continues to broadcast it each December. In 2009, the Hallmark Channel also ran the movie soon after Thanksgiving. It remains one of the most beloved adaptations of A Christmas Carol. During 2009 the film was re-released on DVD by 20th Century Fox, with updated box art, but the same menu and features as the previous DVD release. It was released on Blu-ray in December 2010 by 20th Century Fox.
Differences between adaptation and film
Although the film was very close to the book, there were a few changes:
- Scrooge's nephew Fred, whose full name was never given in the book, is surnamed Hollywell. Also, his wife, whose name was never mentioned in the book, is named Janet.
- Although, Marley's ghost initially appears transparent as described in the book, it "solidifies" immediately after. Also, as it makes its exit, although we hear moans and wails outside, when Scrooge looks out his window, the street is quiet and empty, as opposed to the book, where he sees a vision of other ghosts in chains like Marley's wandering in torment for being selfish, greedy misers when alive.
- As in the 1951 film version with Alastair Sim, it is mentioned in a dialogue between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past that Scrooge's mother died in giving birth to him (which implies that is why his father hated him so much), and Fan died likewise in giving birth to his nephew, which is why Scrooge resents him so much.
- This is the first version to actually show Scrooge's father (here named Silas Scrooge), a character referred to in the book but never seen. Despite his agreeing to grant Fan's request to let Scrooge come home for Christmas, he makes it quite clear to Scrooge when he comes personally to pick him up from school that he still blames him for his wife's death, and plans to ship him off to Mr. Fezziwig's establishment as soon as Christmas is over.
- Scott's Scrooge differs than most portrayals in that not only is he stocky rather than scrawny, but he is portrayed as a prosperous, if ruthless, businessman rather than an archetypical miser.
- Scrooge in this version stops at the Royal Stock Exchange on his way home from work, not only giving us a look at how ruthless he is in dealing with his colleagues, but also it is where he encounters the charity collectors rather than at his office.
- In the rag and bottle shop scene, the undertaker and the charwoman are omitted, leaving only the laundress Mrs. Dilber to sell off the dead Scrooge's bed curtains and other stolen belongings to Old Joe. Liz Smith, who plays Mrs. Dilber here, would reprise the character in the 1999 television film adaptation with Patrick Stewart.
Novelist and essayist Louis Bayard, writing for Salon.com, described this adaptation as "the definitive version of a beloved literary classic", praising its fidelity to Dickens' original story, the strength of the supporting cast, and especially Scott's performance as Scrooge.
- A Christmas Carol at the Internet Movie Database
- A Christmas Carol at AllMovie
- A Christmas Carol at Rotten Tomatoes