A Christmas Carol (1984 film)

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A Christmas Carol
Achristmascarol.jpg
Home video cover
Genre Drama
Family
Fantasy
Based on A Christmas Carol
1843 novel
by Charles Dickens
Screenplay by Roger O. Hirson
Directed by Clive Donner
Starring George C. Scott
Frank Finlay
David Warner
Susannah York
Edward Woodward
Roger Rees
Theme music composer Nick Bicât
Country of origin United Kingdom
United States
Original language(s) English
Production
Executive producer(s) Robert E. Fuisz
Producer(s) George F. Storke
Alfred R. Kelman
Cinematography Tony Imi
Editor(s) Peter Tanner
Running time 100 minutes
Production company(s) Entertainment Partners Ltd.
Distributor CBS
Release
Original network CBS
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.

Plot[edit]

On Christmas Eve in 1843 London, Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly money-lender at a local counting house, does not share the merriment of Christmas. He declines Fred Hollywell's invitation for Christmas dinner and reluctantly accepts his loyal employee Bob Cratchit's offer to have Christmas off since there will be no business for Scrooge during the day. As he leaves for the Royal 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 is greeted by three other businessmen who wish to purchase some corn; they had delayed in concluding the deal, apparently in hopes that Scrooge would lower his price. To their dismay, however, Scrooge informs them that the price has gone up 5% because of the delay, and unless they come to an agreement, the price would go up another 5% the next day. Before leaving, Scrooge informs them that he will not ship without the cash in hand. After being approached by two gentlemen collecting money for charity, Mr. Poole and Mr. Hacking, Scrooge turns down their offer. 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 in the afterlife like he did, carrying heavy chains forged for his own greedy ways. He informs Scrooge that three time-travelling spirits will visit him for that night.

At one o'clock, the child-like Ghost of Christmas Past visits Scrooge 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 in childbirth—Scrooge's birth—that caused his father to send him away from the family, blaming Ebenezer for his wife's death. Fan, Scrooge's beloved sister and Fred's mother, picks him up from school claiming their father Silas has changed but it turns out Silas still loathes his son and sends him to work as an apprentice for Fezziwig in only three days time, instead of keeping him for a longer visit that Fan would have wanted. 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, 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. When they reach the time of Jacob Marley's death, Belle's husband says he found Jacob Marley was dying and all Scrooge's response to that was to stay behind at his office and continue working instead of visiting his dying partner. A distraught Scrooge puts out the spirit with its cap as he returns to the present.

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 taking pity on Tim. Scrooge and the spirit go to a desolate street, where the latter disappears, warning Scrooge about the evils of "Ignorance" and "Want". The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrives, appearing as a silent, cloaked shadow, and takes Scrooge 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. The spirit shows him that several of his possessions have been stolen and brought to fence named Old Joe. The spirit transports Scrooge to Bob's residence where he learns Tim had died. Scrooge is escorted to a cemetery, where the spirit points out his own grave, revealing Scrooge was the man who died. Realizing this, Scrooge decides to change his ways.

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 decides to surprise Bob's family with a turkey dinner, ventures out with the charity workers and the citizens of London to spread happiness in the city, and accepts Fred's 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.

Cast[edit]

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

Production[edit]

This movie was filmed on location in Shrewsbury, England. It originally aired on CBS on December 17, 1984, in the United States, but released theatrically in Great Britain. The United States debut was sponsored by IBM, which purchased all the commercial spots for the two-hour premiere. The film brought in a 20.7/30 rating/share, winning its timeslot and ranking #10 for the week.[1] 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 on 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 book and film[edit]

Although the film was very close to the book, there were a few changes:

  • Scrooge's nephew Freddy, 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. The Blind man's buff game, with Topper cheating, is changed to a game of Similes.
  • In the book, the three spirits are promised to visit Scrooge at one on two successive nights then at midnight on the third night; in this version the visitations all happen on the same night, starting at 1 am.
  • Although Marley's ghost initially appears transparent as described in the book, it "solidifies" immediately after. Also, as it makes its exit, although audiences hear moans when Scrooge looks outside from his window, the street is quiet and empty. In the book, he sees a vision of other ghosts in chains like Marley's wandering in torment for being selfish, greedy misers when these people were living.
  • 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 giving birth to him; Ebenezer explains that his father resented him because of this. Fan's appearance and personality suggest that she is younger than Ebenezer but it is not explained how Scrooge can have a younger sister if his mother died giving birth to him, unless Fan is his half-sister, though a stepmother to Scrooge is not seen or mentioned. It is possible that despite her youthful appearance and attitude, Fan is actually the older sibling; however, Scrooge addressing her as "Little Fan" implies she is younger than he is, although it may also refer to her being petite.
  • 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 Ebenezer when he comes personally to pick him up from school that he still wants nothing to do with his son, and plans to ship him off to Mr. Fezziwig's establishment as soon as Christmas is over. Yet, Ebenezer is not disowned completely, as the elder Scrooge did leave him "a small inheritance," which became the foundation of the young man's financial success. Silas's gruff treatment of Fan is not explained.
  • A subplot is added to explain what it was that caused Ebenezer to dedicate his life to the accumulation of money, putting the kindly youth on a path to hard-heartedness. During the visions of the Ghost of Christmas Past, it is shown that young Scrooge believed his lack of a fortune made him unworthy of Belle's attention and that in order to deserve her he must be able to finance their future together. This addition, unfortunately, has the effect of adding a very modern attitude to the Victorian tale.[citation needed]
  • The period during Scrooge's time with the Ghost of Christmas Present when, in the novel, they roam the world observing the goodness of people in all situations is represented in the movie by a scene featuring an impoverished family surviving under a bridge with London's homeless population, unwilling to separate by abandoning the father and going to the poorhouse.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come does not speak but is accompanied by an eerie metallic noise that evokes the screech of a cemetery's gate.
  • Scott's Scrooge differs from most portrayals in that not only is he stocky rather than scrawny, he is portrayed as a ruthless businessman rather than an archetypal miser.
  • Another difference from typical portrayals is the dry humor exhibited by Scott's Scrooge, who laughs at his own joke when delivering the "stake of holly through his heart" line.
  • 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. The young couple who are relieved that Scrooge has died and that they will be able to pay off their debt to a more lenient creditor, are also not seen.
  • Scrooge does not appear at Fred's house on Christmas Day during dinner and asks to be let in, but rather arrives beforehand to accept the invitation if it still stands, which Fred joyously says it does. Scrooge also asks Fred's pardon for the things he said the day before regarding Christmas.

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.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.tvtango.com/listings/1984/12/17/christmas_carol_a
  2. ^ Bayard, Louis (December 24, 2009). "The best "Christmas Carol" ever". Salon.com. Archived from the original on 29 December 2009. Retrieved December 25, 2009. 

External links[edit]