Scrooge (1951 film)

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Scrooge
Scrooge – 1951 UK film poster.jpg
UK quad poster
Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst
Produced by Brian Desmond Hurst
Written by Noel Langley
Starring Alastair Sim
Mervyn Johns
Hermione Baddeley
Jack Warner
Kathleen Harrison
Michael Hordern
George Cole
Music by Richard Addinsell
Cinematography C.M. Pennington-Richards
Edited by Clive Donner
Distributed by Renown Pictures
Release date(s) 31 October 1951 (1951-10-31)
Running time 86 minutes
Country United Kingdom

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.

Plot[edit]

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. This has been understood even though nothing wonderful would come to the story I am going to relate. The register of Marley's death was signed by Scrooge, and his name was good on the London Exchange with anything he chose to put his hand to.

-Passage read by Peter Bull in the beginning of the film.

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 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 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, cries out in anguish. Marley then warns Scrooge he must repent or suffer the same fate as him as Marley wears the chain he "forged in life" due to his greedy ways. He tells Scrooge he'll 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 gave that Christmas party every year to his employees. Scrooge then sees when he proposed to his girlfriend Alice (Rona Anderson) who he once loved. Young Scrooge one day is encouraged by another business man, 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 forgivness. 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 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 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 had died of his illness with Bob and his family mourning for him. Scrooge then discovers that he himself had died and that fact brings happiness to others rather than mourning him. 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 over-joyed. 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.

Scrooge was better through his words. He has been a friend and a master. He has been also a friend in the City, town, or any other place in the whole wide world, and for Tiny Tim who got well and alive again. He became a second father. It has been said that Scrooge has it all to keep Christmas very well, if any man would possess the knowledge. It is said truly to all of us, as Tiny Tim observed, 'God bless us, everyone!'

Comparison with the source material[edit]

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) 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 also has an original scene where Ebenezer comes to his nephew's home on Christmas Day with some trepidation that he would be rejected because of his previous behaviour. However, he finds that Fred and his wife are delighted to welcome him to their dinner.

Reception[edit]

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.[1]

The film received a favourable notice from The New York Times when it opened in 1951,[2] and a mixed review in Time magazine[3] 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.

A colorised version of the film was released in 1989, and many of the DVD issues include it as an extra.

Alastair Sim and Michael Hordern reprised their roles two decades later, lending their voices to Richard Williams's 1971 animated version of the tale.

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.

Featured cast[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]