A Christmas Carol (2004 film)

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A Christmas Carol
DVD cover
Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman
Produced by Howard Ellis
Steven North
Written by Charles Dickens
Mike Ockrent
Lynn Ahrens
Based on A Christmas Carol 
by Charles Dickens
Starring Kelsey Grammer
Jesse L. Martin
Jane Krakowski
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Geraldine Chaplin
Jason Alexander
Music by Alan Menken
Cinematography Hanania Baer
Edited by Bert Glatstein
Distributed by NBC
Release dates
November 28, 2004 (2004-11-28)
Running time
97 minutes
Country Hungary
United States
Language English
Budget $17 million

A Christmas Carol, also known as A Christmas Carol: The Musical, is a 2004 television film based on a 1994 stage musical of the same name, with songs written by Alan Menken (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics). The musical is based on Charles Dickens' famous 1843 novella of the same name, produced by Hallmark Entertainment for NBC. It was directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman and features Kelsey Grammer as Ebenezer Scrooge, Jason Alexander as Jacob Marley, Jesse L. Martin as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Jennifer Love Hewitt as Emily.


The film opens at the London Exchange on Christmas Eve in 1843 where everybody is looking forward to Christmas Day except for the crabby and greedy miser Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge who hates Christmas shows his cold attitude to others by refusing to show mercy to a recently widowed Mr. Smythe and his daughter who are in debt in order to pay for Mrs. Smythe's funeral, voicing his support for the prisons and workhouses for the poor and refusing to dine with his nephew Fred. That night though as Scrooge dines alone before going to bed, the ghost of his seven-year-dead partner Jacob Marley appears. He tells Scrooge to repent or suffer the same as him by wearing a chain as Marley wears the one he forged from his own greed. Other ghosts also haunt Scrooge who also wear chains implying they were selfish and cold-hearted when they were alive. Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits and the first will come at the strike of one after midnight.

The first of the three spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past, arrives after the bell chimes One. The scene then changes to Scrooge's childhood when his father is sent to prison for not paying debts. He tells his son a young Ebenezer to make his fortune and keep it, this moment of his life was the one that marked him to become the man that he is. Scrooge and his sister Fan, as a result, are forced to go their own ways after their mother died. The Ghost then shows when he was working at a boot factory as a boy before working for Mr. Fezziwig. During his time with Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge becomes engaged to his girlfriend Emily. It is also revealed that at this time, Fan got married and died giving birth to her only son: Fred, which is the reason Scrooge resents him and avoids his visits. However the young Scrooge and Marley, who also worked under Fezziwig, set up their own business and begin their money-lending career. However Scrooge and Marley turn greedy and ambitious, and so they refuse to lend a loan to Fezziwig after his business had gone bust and presumably dies in poverty with his wife. Knowing Scrooge is a changed man, his fiancée Emily breaks her engagement with him. The Ghost finally shows him when in 1836 an older Jacob Marley dies after overworking himself. Before disappearing, the Ghost warns Scrooge that the shadows of his past can't be changed and that he should use them to change his future.

At the stroke of Two the Ghost of Christmas Present visits Scrooge and shows him how others keep Christmas. Scrooge first watches and later takes part in a Christmas pageant about charity. Scrooge is then shown the home and family of his faithful clerk Bob Cratchit in which they are enjoying dinner consisting of a small chicken and Cratchit toasts for Scrooge's good health. Because the family are so poor, The Ghost implies the youngest child, Tiny Tim will die of his unknown illness. The Spirit then shows Scrooge how Fred and his family enjoy Christmas together, with Fred voicing his hope that someday his uncle will join them as family. The spirit finally shows him two children Ignorance and Want, warning Scrooge to beware Ignorance and taunting him with his words about the workhouses and prisons.

The Ghost of Christmas yet to Come (who is an old hag instead of a figure dressed in black robes) shows Scrooge what lies in store in the future if he doesn't change. The whole future which is set in song shows Scrooge on his deathbed being robbed of both his clothes and processions by his housekeeper Mrs. Mopps and other opportunists. Tiny Tim has died with his family mourning him. Scrooge is also terrified when he realizes that no one will mourn his death. After seeing his grave (which shows he will die on Christmas Day) Scrooge is surrounded by the Cratchits, the debt-ridden little girl and the spirits of his beloved mother and sister. Seeing his mother and Fan one more time is what finally changes Scrooge's heart. When the Ghost tries to shove him into his grave, Scrooge wakes up in his own bed.

When Scrooge wakes up he is a changed man. After realizing that he didn't missed Christmas, he orders a young boy to buy him a turkey and to keep the change. Scrooge makes amends with his housekeeper Mrs. Mopps before going out to enjoy the day. He laters runs into and tells Mr. Smythe he is no longer in debt and gives him and his daughter money to spend. He then bumps into the three people he met the day before, a candle-lighter, a barker and an old blind woman (The Three Ghosts in their human forms) and thanks them heavily. Scrooge gives Bob and his family the turkey and increases Bob's wages. The film ends with Scrooge visiting and reconciling with Fred for dinner and the whole cast sing "Christmas together" in reprise as the Three Spirits look on Scrooge.


The adaptation[edit]

Lyricist Lynn Ahrens wrote the teleplay, based on her and Mike Ockrent's book for the original Madison Square Garden stage musical. The score contains 22 songs, also adapted from the stage. The opening number, "Jolly Good Time," is a more jovial reworking of the first two numbers in the stage version, "The Years Are Passing By" and "Jolly, Rich, and Fat." In the next number, "Nothing to Do With Me", Scrooge first encounters the three ghosts of Christmas in their physical guises as a lamplighter (Past), a charity show barker (Present), and a blind beggar woman (Future). We also see Scrooge's long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit buying a Christmas chicken with his son Tiny Tim in the song "You Mean More to Me."

The visit of the ghost of Jacob Marley becomes a large-scale production number ("Link By Link"), featuring a half-dozen singing, dancing spirits presented with various levels of makeup and special effects. One of these ghosts in this version is known to be an old colleague of Scrooge and Marley's, Mr. Haynes, who was said to be "mean to the bone," resulting in his charred skeleton. Other puns include a headless spirit who wanted to get ahead, a man with a safe full of coins in his chest who "never had a heart" and a man carrying a box that contains his arm because he "never lent a hand."

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Jane Krakowski) sings "The Lights of Long Ago", a number reinforcing her signature theme of illuminating Scrooge's worldview. One notable departure from Dickens' novella in this portion of the film is its depiction of Ebenezer Scrooge's father, identified as John William Scrooge, being sentenced to debtors' prison while his horrified family looks on (a scene inspired by events from Dickens' own childhood).

The Ghost of Christmas Present gets two numbers, "Abundance and Charity" and "Christmas Together," in which he makes his point that Christmas is a time for celebration, generosity, and fellowship. The former takes place at a fantastical version of the charity show he was seen promoting on Christmas Eve, and the latter whisks Scrooge on a tour of London that includes the homes of his nephew Fred, his clerk Bob Cratchit, and Mr. Smythe, a recently widowed client of Scrooge's lending house.

Unlike the faceless phantom that embodies Christmas Yet to Come in most versions of A Christmas Carol (including the book), this film features a mute sorceress figure clad in white (a transmogrification of the blind hag who appears on Christmas Eve). The entire Christmas Future sequence plays out in song ("Dancing On Your Grave," "You Mean More to Me (Reprise)," and "Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Today"), culminating in Scrooge's awakening in his bedroom on Christmas morning.

"What a Day, What a Sky" serves as a musical bookend to "Nothing to Do With Me," dramatizing Scrooge's new outlook as he races through the streets of London making amends. The film concludes with a reprise of "Christmas Together" featuring the entire cast.

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