A Christmas Carol (2004 film)

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A Christmas Carol
DVD cover
Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman
Produced by Howard Ellis
Steven North
Written by Charles Dickens
Mike Ockrent
Lynn Ahrens
Based on A Christmas Carol 
by Charles Dickens
Starring Kelsey Grammer
Jesse L. Martin
Jane Krakowski
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Geraldine Chaplin
Jason Alexander
Music by Alan Menken
Cinematography Hanania Baer
Edited by Bert Glatstein
Distributed by NBC
Release dates
November 28, 2004 (2004-11-28)
Running time
97 minutes
Country Hungary
United States
Language English
Budget $17 million

A Christmas Carol, also known as A Christmas Carol: The Musical, is a 2004 television film based on a 1994 stage musical of the same name, with songs written by Alan Menken (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics). The musical is based on Charles Dickens' famous 1843 novella of the same name, produced by Hallmark Entertainment for NBC. It was directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman and features Kelsey Grammer as Ebenezer Scrooge, Jason Alexander as Jacob Marley, Jesse L. Martin as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Jennifer Love Hewitt as Emily.


The film opens at the London Exchange on Christmas Eve in 1843 where everybody is looking forward to Christmas Day except for the crabby and greedy miser Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge who hates Christmas shows his cold attitude to others by refusing to show mercy to a father and his daughter who are in debt, supporting the prisons and workhouses for the poor and refusing to dine with his nephew Fred. That night though as Scrooge dines alone before going to bed the ghost of his seven-year dead partner Jacob Marley appears. He tells Scrooge to repent or suffer the same as him by wearing a chain as Marley wears the one he forged from his own greed. Other ghosts also haunt Scrooge who too wear chains implying they were selfish and cold-hearted when they were alive. Marley tells Scrooge he will be haunted by three spirits and the first will call at One.

The first of the three spirits the Ghost of Christmas Past arrives after the bell chimes One. The scene then changes to Scrooge's father who is sent to prison for not paying debts. He tells his son a young Ebenezer to make his fortune and keep it. Scrooge and his sister Fan as a result are forced to go their own ways after their mother died. Scrooge is then shown working at a boot factory as a boy before working for Fezziwig. However the young Scrooge and Marley who also worked under Fezziwig set up their own business and begin their money-lending career. However Scrooge and Marley refuse to lend a loan to Fezziwig after his business had gone bust and presumably dies in poverty with his wife. Knowing Scrooge is a changed man Scrooge's fiancée Emily breaks her engagement with him. Years later an older Jacob Marley dies seven years before the events of the film.

At the stroke of Two the Ghost of Christmas Present haunts Scrooge and shows him how others keep Christmas. Scrooge first watches and later takes part in a Christmas pageant. Scrooge is then shown the home and family of his faithful clerk Bob Cratchit. Because the family are so poor the ghost implies the youngest child Tiny Tim will die of his unknown illness. The spirit finally shows him two children Ignorance and Want before vanishing.

The Ghost of Christmas yet to Come (who is an old hag instead of a figure dressed in black robes) shows Scrooge what lies in store in the future if he doesn't change. The whole future which is set in song shows Scrooge on his deathbed being robbed of both his clothes and processions. Tiny Tim has died with his family mourning him. After seeing his grave Scrooge is surrounded by the Cratchits, the debt-ridden little girl and the spirits of his beloved mother and sister.

Finally Scrooge returns home as the opposite of what he was. He orders a young boy to buy him a turkey and to keep the change. He then tells the little girl's father he is no longer in debt and gives him and his daughter money to spend. He then bumps into the three people he met the day before, a candle-lighter, a barker and an old blind woman and thanks them heavily implying that unlike the book and other films Scrooge simply dreamed them up as the three sprits. Scrooge gives Bob and his family the turkey and increases Bob's wages. The film ends with Scrooge visiting Fred for dinner and the whole cast sing "Christmas together" in reprise.


The adaptation[edit]

Lyricist Lynn Ahrens wrote the teleplay, based on her and Mike Ockrent's book for the original Madison Square Garden stage musical. The score contains 22 songs, also adapted from the stage. The opening number, "Jolly Good Time," is a more jovial reworking of the first two numbers in the stage version, "The Years Are Passing By" and "Jolly, Rich, and Fat." In the next number, "Nothing to Do With Me", Scrooge first encounters the three ghosts of Christmas in their physical guises as a lamplighter (Past), a charity show barker (Present), and a blind beggar woman (Future). We also see Scrooge's long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit buying a Christmas chicken with his son Tiny Tim in the song "You Mean More to Me."

The visit of the ghost of Jacob Marley becomes a large-scale production number ("Link By Link"), featuring a half-dozen singing, dancing spirits presented with various levels of makeup and special effects. One of these ghosts in this version is known to be an old colleague of Scrooge and Marley's, Mr. Haynes, who was said to be "mean to the bone," resulting in his charred skeleton. Other puns include a headless spirit who wanted to get ahead, a man with a safe full of coins in his chest who "never had a heart" and a man carrying a box that contains his arm because he "never lent a hand."

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Jane Krakowski) sings "The Lights of Long Ago", a number reinforcing her signature theme of illuminating Scrooge's worldview. One notable departure from Dickens' novella in this portion of the film is its depiction of Ebenezer Scrooge's father, identified as John William Scrooge, being sentenced to debtors' prison while his horrified family looks on (a scene inspired by events from Dickens' own childhood).

The Ghost of Christmas Present gets two numbers, "Abundance and Charity" and "Christmas Together," in which he makes his point that Christmas is a time for celebration, generosity, and fellowship. The former takes place at a fantastical version of the charity show he was seen promoting on Christmas Eve, and the latter whisks Scrooge on a tour of London that includes the homes of his nephew Fred, his clerk Bob Cratchit, and Mr. Smythe, a recently widowed client of Scrooge's lending house.

Unlike the faceless phantom that embodies Christmas Yet to Come in most versions of A Christmas Carol (including the book), this film features a mute sorceress figure clad in white (a transmogrification of the blind hag who appears on Christmas Eve). The entire Christmas Future sequence plays out in song ("Dancing On Your Grave," "You Mean More to Me (Reprise)," and "Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Today"), culminating in Scrooge's awakening in his bedroom on Christmas morning.

"What a Day, What a Sky" serves as a musical bookend to "Nothing to Do With Me," dramatizing Scrooge's new outlook as he races through the streets of London making amends. The film concludes with a reprise of "Christmas Together" featuring the entire cast.

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