A Christmas Carol (1984 film)
|A Christmas Carol|
Home video cover
|Based on||A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
|Screenplay by||Roger O. Hirson|
|Directed by||Clive Donner|
|Starring||George C. Scott
|Theme music composer||Nick Bicât|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom
|Executive producer(s)||Robert E. Fuisz|
|Producer(s)||George F. Storke
Alfred R. Kelman
|Running time||100 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Entertainment Partners Ltd.|
|Original release||17 December 1984|
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.
In London on Christmas Eve 1843, Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly man, does not share the merriment of Christmas. He declines his nephew Fred Hollywell's invitation for Christmas dinner and grudgingly grants 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 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.
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 childlike Ghost of Christmas Past visits Scrooge and takes him back in time to his childhood and early adult life. They visit Scrooge's time as a boarding school student. He sees his father Silas, who has him become an employee under Fezziwig, and his sister Fan, who died after giving birth to Fred. Eventually becoming a successful career in money lending and business, Scrooge becomes engaged to a woman named Belle. However, the Ghost shows Scrooge how Belle left him one afternoon, when he expressed reluctance towards focusing on his increasing finances or their relationship. The visions end with a display of Belle's married family several years later on Christmas Eve. When her husband informs her of sighting Scrooge, she wistfully considers him a "poor, wretched man". 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, and Scrooge takes pity on Tim when he learns of his terminal health. The two then visit Fred's Christmas party and observe Fred's pity towards his uncle, hoping to gain his uncle's trust on behalf of Fan. Scrooge and the spirit go to a desolate street and encounter a poor family, whose father has ambiguously come across menial means of food and is considering taking the family to a poorhouse to get them off the streets. Before disappearing, the Ghost of Present displays to Scrooge the youthful, impoverished forms of "Ignorance" and "Want". The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrives next, 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 swears repentance and kindness on the remainder of his life, and collapses sobbing on the tombstone.
Awakening in his bedroom on Christmas Day, Scrooge finds the ghosts had visited him all in one night. Gleeful for his redemption, 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 survives and outgrows his crutch. A changed man, Scrooge now treats everyone with kindness, generosity, and compassion; he now embodies the spirit of Christmas.
- George C. Scott – Ebenezer Scrooge
- Frank Finlay – Marley's Ghost
- Angela Pleasence – Ghost of Christmas Past
- Edward Woodward – Ghost of Christmas Present
- Michael Carter – Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
- David Warner – Bob Cratchit
- Susannah York – Mrs. Cratchit
- Anthony Walters – Tiny Tim Crachit
- Roger Rees – Fred Hollywell/Narrator
- Caroline Langrishe – Janet Hollywell
- Lucy Gutteridge – Belle (Scrooge's unappreciated fiancée)
- Nigel Davenport – Silas Scrooge (Ebenezer's and Fan's cruel father)
- Mark Strickson – Young Ebenezer Scrooge
- Joanne Whalley – Fan Scrooge (Ebenezer's beloved sister and Fred's mother)
- Timothy Bateson – Mr. Fezziwig
- Michael Gough – Mr. Poole
- John Quarmby – Mr. Hacking
- Peter Woodthorpe – Old Joe
- Liz Smith – Mrs. Dilber
- John Sharp – Tipton
- Derek Francis – Pemberton
- Danny Davies – Forbush
- Brian Pettifer – Ben
- Catherine Hall – Meg
- Cathryn Harrison – Kate
- Note: Local resident, Martin Wood was both Woodward's stand-in and Carter's body double.
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. 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 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 one of the most beloved adaptations of A Christmas Carol. During 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. It was released on Blu-ray in December 2010 by Fox.
Differences between book and film
Although the film was very close to the book, there were a few changes:
- Scrooge's nephew Fred, 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.
- 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.
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.
Novelist Anne Rice has stated: "I've always been obsessed with Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, absolutely obsessed with the idea that three spirits would come to Scrooge and transform him. I mean, I'm overly obsessed with A Christmas Carol. I've watched the English film version of it probably more than anyone in history has ever watched it, and read and re-read the story, trying to think how to redo a modern version, wanting very much for there to be a new film version, and being furious with the one they did for TV with George C. Scott. Did you see that? It was awful. And Scrooge, the one with Albert Finney, which at least was better than nothing. I'll sit and watch that rather than have nothing." (Conversations with Anne Rice by Michael Riley (Ballantine, 1996), pg 284-285)
- Bayard, Louis (December 24, 2009). "The best "Christmas Carol" ever". Salon.com. Archived from the original on 29 December 2009. Retrieved December 25, 2009.