A Christmas Carol (1984 film)

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A Christmas Carol
Home video cover
Based onA Christmas Carol
1843 novel
by Charles Dickens
Screenplay byRoger O. Hirson
Directed byClive Donner
StarringGeorge C. Scott
Frank Finlay
David Warner
Susannah York
Edward Woodward
Roger Rees
Raymond Mellor
Music byNick Bicât
Country of originUnited Kingdom
United States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Robert E. Fuisz
Producer(s)George F. Storke
Alfred R. Kelman
Production location(s)Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
CinematographyTony Imi
Editor(s)Peter Tanner
Running time100 minutes
Production company(s)Entertainment Partners Ltd.
Distributor20th Television
Original networkCBS
Picture formatColor
Audio formatDolby Stereo
Original release
  • 17 December 1984 (1984-12-17)

A Christmas Carol is a 1984 British-American 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. It was filmed in the historic medieval county town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire.[1]


The film closely follows the structure of Charles Dickens' original book, with some changes to the story's detail.

On Christmas Eve, 1843 London, Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly corn trader, does not share the merriment of Christmas. Scrooge declines his nephew Fred Hollywell's invitation for Christmas dinner and reluctantly accepts his loyal employee Bob Cratchit's request to have Christmas off since there will be no business for Scrooge during the day. As he leaves for the stock exchange, Scrooge encounters Bob's ill son Tiny Tim waiting across from Scrooge's office. After initially mistaking Tim for a beggar, Scrooge assures him that he will have a long wait for his father in the cold before leaving. In the stock exchange, Scrooge charges three other businessmen 5% extra for corn because they failed to meet his demands the day before, much to their dismay. Scrooge then refuses to give a donation to two gentlemen collecting money for charity, Mr. Poole and Mr. Hacking. In his house, Scrooge encounters the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley, who warns him to repent his wicked ways or he will be condemned to the same afterlife as his, carrying heavy chains forged from his own greedy ways. He informs Scrooge that three spirits will visit him that night.

At one o'clock, the Ghost of Christmas Past visits Scrooge and takes him back in time to his unhappy childhood and early adult life. They visit Scrooge's time as a boarding school student, abandoned there by his father who wanted nothing to do with him after Scrooge's mother died in childbirth. He sees his grim father Silas, who gets him an apprenticeship with Fezziwig, and his older sister Fan, who has since died. Eventually becoming successful in and business, Scrooge becomes engaged to a woman named Belle. However, the Ghost shows Scrooge that Belle left him when he chose his wealth over her. Finally, the spirit shows Scrooge a now-married Belle with her large, happy family on the Christmas Eve that Marley died. Angered, Scrooge extinguishes the spirit with its cap and finds himself back in his bedroom.

At two o'clock, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows him the joys and wonder of Christmas Day. Scrooge and the Ghost visit Bob's house, learning his family is surprisingly content with their small dinner. Scrooge takes pity on Tim after the spirit comments that he will not survive until next Christmas. The spirit then takes Scrooge to Fred's house for the Christmas party that Scrooge had earlier declined to attend, where Fred states that he continues to pursue a relationship with Scrooge for the sake of his late mother, Fan, who Scrooge loved deeply, and Scrooge is touched by this and admits that Fred is right. Scrooge and the spirit then go to a desolate street where he shows Scrooge two hideous children named Ignorance and Want and warns Scrooge to beware of them before he disappears.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears to Scrooge, and takes him into the future. Scrooge witnesses the businessmen discussing the death of an unnamed colleague where they would only attend the funeral if lunch is provided. Scrooge recognizes several of his stolen possessions being traded to a fence named Old Joe. The spirit transports Scrooge to Bob's residence where he learns Tim had died. Scrooge is then escorted to a cemetery, where the spirit points out his own grave, revealing Scrooge was the man who died. Realizing this, Scrooge vows to change his ways and begs to be spared.

Awakening in his bedroom on Christmas Day, Scrooge finds the ghosts had visited him all in one night. Gleeful at having survived the spirits, Scrooge anonymously sends the Cratchits a large, prize-winning turkey for dinner. He then ventures out into the city to spread happiness among the citizens of London. Scrooge finds the charity workers he encountered before and much to their elation, Scrooge agrees to make a large donation. Scrooge also accepts Fred's Christmas invitation after reconciling with him. The following day, he gives Cratchit a raise and becomes like "a second father" to Tim, who escapes death. A changed man, Scrooge now treats everyone with kindness, generosity, and compassion; he now embodies the spirit of Christmas.


Tombstone from the graveyard scene. To the current day, the stone remains in the graveyard of St Chad's Church, Shrewsbury where the scene was filmed


This movie was filmed on location in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, in the English Midlands. It originally aired on the American television network CBS on 17 December 1984, and was released theatrically in Great Britain. The U.S. debut was sponsored by IBM, which purchased all of the commercial spots for the two-hour premiere. The film brought in a 20.7/30 rating/share, winning its time slot and ranking No. 10 for the week.[2] 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 of Scrooge.

The movie has run in syndication on local American channels since it debuted in 1984, earning a loyal fanbase, but was not released on VHS until 1989 (in the UK)[3] 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 25 November 2007, it returned to national television on AMC for the first time since its debut, and the network continues to broadcast it each December under license from the Scott estate and 20th Century Fox (the latter's distribution rights the result of their owning the video rights). In 2009, the Hallmark Channel also ran the movie soon after Thanksgiving. It remains among the most beloved of the several adaptations of A Christmas Carol. In 2009, the film was re-released on DVD by Fox, with updated box art but the same menu and features as the previous DVD release. Fox released it on Blu-ray in December 2010.

Critical response[edit]

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.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Shropshire movies: A Christmas Carol in Shrewsbury". BBC. 31 March 2010. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  2. ^ "TV Listings Past & Present: December 17, 1984". tvtango.com. 17 December 1984. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  3. ^ "A Christmas Carol". videocollector.co.uk. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  4. ^ Bayard, Louis (24 December 2009). "The best 'Christmas Carol' ever". Salon. Archived from the original on 29 December 2009. Retrieved 25 December 2009.

External links[edit]