Scrooge (1951 film)
UK quad poster
|Directed by||Brian Desmond Hurst|
|Produced by||Brian Desmond Hurst|
|Written by||Noel Langley|
|Music by||Richard Addinsell|
|Edited by||Clive Donner|
|Distributed by||Renown Pictures|
|Release dates||31 October 1951|
|Running time||86 minutes|
Scrooge is a 1951 film adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. It starred Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge and was directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, with a screenplay by Noel Langley. It was released as A Christmas Carol in the United States.
The film also features Kathleen Harrison in an acclaimed turn as Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's charwoman. George Cole stars as the younger version of Scrooge, Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Cratchit, Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit, Clifford Mollison as Samuel Wilkins, a debtor, Jack Warner as Mr. Jorkin, a role created for the film, Ernest Thesiger as Marley's undertaker and Patrick Macnee as young Jacob Marley. Michael Hordern plays Marley's ghost, as well as old Marley. Peter Bull serves as narrator, by reading portions of Dickens' words at the beginning and end of the film; he also appears on-screen as one of the businessmen cynically discussing Scrooge's funeral.
Ebenezer Scrooge (Alistair Sim) is first seen leaving the London Exchange on his way back to his counting house on Christmas Eve in 1843. Scrooge tells two other men of business (including Peter Bull, who had just read the introduction) that he has no intentions of celebrating Christmas and refuses to see reason to a debt-ridden client who owes Scrooge some money. Back at his place of business, Scrooge refuses to give a donation to two men for the poor, instead supporting the prisons and workhouses, and even thinks they are better off dead. Scrooge's nephew Fred (Brian Worth) invites Scrooge to dinner the next day, but Scrooge refuses, as he in truth despises his nephew since he got married. That night Scrooge reluctantly gives his poor clerk Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) the day off with pay, but expects him back all the earlier the day after.
After Scrooge dines alone in a seedy restaurant (where he comically orders more bread but changes his mind as he has to pay a halfpenny more for it), he goes home for the night. At home Scrooge notices that the door-knocker had turned into the face of his seven-year-dead partner Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern). Scrooge then has his supper of gruel but also hears bells ring before Marley himself appears as a ghost. Scrooge at first thinks it is the food playing tricks on him, but Marley, in frustration, howls in anguish. Marley then warns Scrooge he must repent or suffer the same unbearable fate as him as Marley is condemned to walk the earth forever, bound in the chains he "forged in life" by his greedy ways. He tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits and is to expect the first when the bell tolls one. Marley then joins other ghosts all suffering the same torment as him which frightens Scrooge who runs to his bed.
At one in the morning the Ghost of Christmas Past (Michael Dolan) shows Scrooge flashbacks of his past. Scrooge witnesses the time he was alone at school and unwanted. However his sister Fan (Carol Marsh) picks him up from school and claims their father has changed and takes him home. It is revealed that Fan is older than Scrooge as the younger Scrooge (George Cole) claims his sister looked like his mother before she died. Scrooge is shown the annual Fezziwig Christmas party, which Scrooge fondly remembers, and praises his old employer Fezziwig, who had given that Christmas party every year to his employees. Scrooge then sees when he proposed to his girlfriend Alice (Rona Anderson) whom he once loved. Young Scrooge one day is encouraged by another businessman, the sarcastic Mr. Jorkin (Jack Warner), to join forces with him with a promise of better wages. Young Scrooge at first refuses as he remains loyal to Fezziwig (Roddy Hughes) though he does find the offer hard to turn down, thus showing the first signs of his present self. The older Scrooge then witnesses the death of Fan (in a scene similar to Oliver Twist when Oliver's mother died). After young Scrooge walks away angry his sister is dying and not promising to look after Fred, the older Scrooge discovers just how selfish he was and begs for her forgiveness. Young Scrooge decides to leave Fezziwig and joins forces with Mr. Jorkin and befriends a young Jacob Marley (Patrick Macnee). Both men buy out Fezziwig and turn the warehouse into their counting house and Scrooge hires a young Bob Cratchit to work for 4 shillings a week. Fezziwig, heart-broken that his business had gone bust, leaves in a coach. Alice, knowing Scrooge had changed, breaks off her engagement with him which upsets her. Years later, after Jorkin has embezzled the company's funds, an older Scrooge and Marley offer to buy and rescue the company, on provision they can take over the company as well. On Christmas Eve in 1836, Mrs. Dilber (Kathleen Harrison) tells Bob Cratchit Marley is dying but Scrooge does not leave until business hours end at seven. At Scrooge's present home Scrooge sees Marley on his death bed and Marley, aware he is going to be punished for his deeds, tries to warn Scrooge before he dies but fails to do so. Scrooge then signs the register of Marley's death and the ghost taunts Scrooge for his reaction to Marley's death by taking his money and house.
The Ghost of Christmas Present (Francis de Wolff) (a giant) shows Scrooge how others celebrate the holidays. Scrooge sees how poor Bob and family are. The family could only afford a small goose and Tiny Tim (Glyn Dearman), who is lame, will die of his unnamed illness unless the future changes. Scrooge then goes to see the dinner party hosted by Fred and his wife. Before vanishing, the ghost shows Scrooge two sickly, starved children, Ignorance and Want, and torments him by reminding Scrooge of the prisons and workhouses.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (C. Kornaski) shows Scrooge what lies in store in the future if he does not change. Scrooge discovers Tim has died of his illness with Bob and his family mourning for him. Scrooge then discovers that he himself has died and that fact brings happiness to others rather than mourning. Mrs. Dilber and two other people took advantage of his death by robbing him. Scrooge promises to mend his ways.
Scrooge returns to the present and frightens Mrs. Dilber after he becomes overjoyed. He gives her a guinea to buy a present for herself and increases her wages. Scrooge orders a prized turkey for Bob and his family and dines with Fred and his wife, much to their delight. The next day Scrooge gives Bob a raise and promises to help Bob and his family. The film ends with Scrooge being a kinder man and becomes a stepfather to Tim who does not die after all and the pair walk together in the distance.
Comparison with the source material
||This section possibly contains original research. (June 2012)|
In the film, Mrs Dilber is the name of the charwoman, whereas in the book the woman was unnamed and the laundress was named Mrs Dilber. The charwoman's role is greatly expanded in the film, to the point that she receives second billing in the list of characters.
The film also expands on the story by detailing Scrooge's rise as a prominent businessman who was corrupted by a greedy new mentor, Mr. Jorkin (played by Jack Warner, a popular British actor in his time) who had lured him away from the benevolent Mr. Fezziwig. When Jorkin, who does not appear at all in Dickens's original story, is discovered to be an embezzler, the opportunistic Scrooge and Marley offer to compensate the company's losses on the condition that they receive control of the company for which they work - and so, Scrooge and Marley is born.
During the Ghost of Christmas Present sequence, Scrooge's former fiancee, Alice, works with the homeless and sick (the character is named "Belle" in the book, and her employment is not described).
The film also posits that Ebenezer's sister died while giving birth to his nephew, Fred, thus engendering Scrooge's estrangement from him. We are also told that Ebenezer's mother died while giving birth to him, causing his father to resent him just as Ebenezer resents his nephew. In the book, Fan is much younger than Ebenezer, and the cause of her death is not mentioned.
The film was released in Great Britain under its original title, Scrooge. United Artists handled the US release under the title A Christmas Carol and the film was originally slated to be shown at New York's Radio City Music Hall as part of their Christmas attraction. However, the theatre management thought the film was too grim and sombre and did not possess enough family entertainment value to warrant an engagement at the Music Hall, in contrast to the 1938 A Christmas Carol, which did premiere at Radio City. Instead, the 1951 film premiered at the Guild Theatre (near the Music Hall, and not to be confused with the Guild Theatre which showcased plays) on Halloween night, 1951. The U.S. reviews were mixed and the film was a box office disappointment. However it was one of the most popular films in Britain in 1952.
The film received a favourable notice from The New York Times when it opened in 1951, and a mixed review in Time magazine criticising the direction while praising the performances, but otherwise had not caused much of a stir. In the years since, it has attained classic status in the U.S. and become a favourite of the viewing public. Sim's characterisation of Scrooge receives particular praise.
According to critic A. O. Scott of The New York Times, this film is the best one ever made of the Dickens classic.
A colorised version of the film was released in 1989, and many of the DVD issues include it as an extra.
The film was released on Blu-ray in 2009 by VCI, in a package that also included a DVD copy of the film, cropped into a faux widescreen format. This package only contained minimal bonus features. It was issued again on Blu-ray in 2011 with a remastered transfer, and many bonus features that did not appear in the first Blu-ray version.
- Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge
- Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Dilber, Charwoman
- Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit
- Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Cratchit
- Michael Hordern as Jacob Marley / Marley's Ghost
- George Cole as Young Ebenezer Scrooge
- Glyn Dearman as Tiny Tim
- John Charlesworth as Peter Cratchit
- Michael Dolan as The Ghost of Christmas Past
- Francis de Wolff as The Ghost of Christmas Present
- Czeslaw Konarski as The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
- Rona Anderson as Alice, fiancee (in the book: Belle)
- Carol Marsh as Fan "Fanny" Scrooge
- Jack Warner as Mr. Jorkin, Scrooge's second employer
- Roddy Hughes as Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge's first employer
- Patrick Macnee as the Young Jacob Marley
- Brian Worth as Fred, nephew
- Olga Edwardes as Fred's wife
- Miles Malleson as Old Joe
- Ernest Thesiger as the Undertaker
- Louise Hampton as the Laundress
- Peter Bull as First Businessman at exchange, Narrator
- Douglas Muir as Second Businessman at exchange
- Noel Howlett as First Collector for people in need
- Fred Johnson as Second Collector for people in need
- Eliot Makeham as Mr. Snedrig (at Mr. Jorkin's trial)
- Henry Hewitt as Mr. Rosebed (at Mr. Jorkin's trial)
- Hugh Dempster as Mr. Groper (at Mr. Jorkin's trial)
- Eleanor Summerfield as Miss Flora, Fred's party guest
- Richard Pearson as Mr. Tupper, Fred's party guest
- Clifford Mollison as Samuel Wilkins, Scrooge's poor client
- Hattie Jacques as Mrs. Fezziwig
- Theresa Derrington as Fred's Maid
- David Hannaford as Boy Buying Goose
- Catherine Leach as Belinda Cratchit
- Moiya Kelly as Martha Cratchit
- Luanne Kemp as Mary Cratchit
Richard Addinsell wrote several pieces for the film's underscore, ranging from dark and moody to light and joyous. One of the more notable tunes is a polka, used in the two different versions of Fred's dinner party: the one Scrooge observes while with the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the other with Scrooge attending the party after atoning for his past coldness to Fred and his wife. The tune is similar to a traditional Slovenian polka called "Stoparjeva" ("hitchhiker") or just "Stopar".
The film also contains excerpts from some traditional Christmas carols and other tunes. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is sung over part of the opening credits, and by the miners when Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas Present. An instrumental version of "I Saw Three Ships" is played when Scrooge gives a coin to Mrs. Dilber, and again just before the end of the film. "Silent Night" is played and sung at various times, including over the last part of the final scene and "The End".
The tragic folk song "Barbara Allen" is played as an instrumental when young Scrooge is talking with his sister Fan, and sung by a duet at Fred's Christmas party. Scrooge turns up just as they are about to sing the line "Young man, I think you're dying."
Notes and references
- "Robert Beatty in boxing picture.". The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 31 January 1953. p. 3 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- The Screen In Review; Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol,' With Alastair Sim Playing Scrooge, Unveiled Here, Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, November 29, 1951
- TIME review, December 3, 1951.
- "Critics' Picks: 'A Christmas Carol' - Video". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-19.
- "Dickensblog: Meet the maid: An interview with Theresa Derrington Cozens-Hardy". Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- Scrooge at the Internet Movie Database
- Scrooge at AllMovie
- A Christmas Carol or Scrooge at the TCM Movie Database
- A Christmas Carol or Scrooge at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Scrooge at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- www.briandesmondhurst.org -the official legacy website of the director with filmography including Scrooge