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
Screenplay by Noel Langley
Based on A Christmas Carol
1843 novella
by Charles Dickens
Starring
Narrated by Peter Bull
Music by Richard Addinsell
Cinematography C.M. Pennington-Richards
Edited by Clive Donner
Distributed by Renown Pictures
Release date
  • November 22, 1951 (1951-11-22) (Odeon Marble Arch)
  • November 28, 1951 (1951-11-28) (New York)[1]
Running time
87 minutes[2]
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Scrooge is a 1951 British fantasy drama film and an adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843). It stars Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, and was produced and directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, with a screenplay by Noel Langley. It was released as A Christmas Carol in the United States.

Belfast's Brian Desmond Hurst, producer and director of Scrooge, in 1976 (portrait by Allan Warren)

The film also features Kathleen Harrison 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 adult 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 discussing Scrooge's funeral.

Plot[edit]

Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) is seen leaving the London Exchange on his way to his counting house on Christmas Eve, 1843. Scrooge tells two other men of business that he has no intention of celebrating Christmas, which he considers to be a humbug. He refuses leniency to a debtor who owes Scrooge money. Back at his place of business, Scrooge refuses a donation to two men collecting for the poor, suggesting that prisons and workhouses are sufficient for maintaining the poor, and that those who won't go would be better off dead. Scrooge's nephew, Fred (Brian Worth), invites Scrooge to dinner the next day, but Scrooge refuses, disparaging Fred for having married. Scrooge reluctantly gives his poor clerk Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) the day off with pay, but expects him back all the earlier the next day.

After Scrooge dines alone in a seedy restaurant (where he declines more bread because it would cost a halfpenny extra), he goes home for the night. Scrooge sees the door-knocker turn into the face of his seven-years-dead partner, Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern). Scrooge's supper of gruel is interrupted by the ringing of bells before Marley appears as a ghost. Scrooge believes he is hallucinating until Marley howls in anguish and frustration. Marley warns Scrooge that he must repent or suffer Marley's unbearable fate: condemned to walk the earth forever, bound in the chains he "forged in life" by his greedy ways. He warns Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits; the first will arrive when the bell tolls one. Marley leaves to join other ghosts suffering the same torment. Frightened by the sight of the damned, Scrooge takes refuge in his bed.

At one in the morning, the Spirit of Christmas Past (Michael Dolan) arrives to show Scrooge scenes from his past. A young Scrooge (George Cole) is alone at school, unwanted by his father ever since his mother died in childbirth. His sister Fan (Carol Marsh) arrives to take him home, claiming their father has changed. Next, the Spirit shows Scrooge the annual Christmas party thrown by his fondly remembered employer, old Fezziwig (Roddy Hughes). Scrooge shows his first signs of change as he realizes Fezziwig did not have to spend much money to bring happiness to his staff. Scrooge then witnesses his proposal to his girlfriend, Alice (Rona Anderson). He is reminded that the lure of money from the sarcastic Mr. Jorkin (Jack Warner) seduced him to abandon his loyalty to Fezziwig and to regard the world as a "hard and cruel place." Scrooge relives the death of Fan; as she lay dying, he angrily walked away and refused to look after her son, Fred. The older Scrooge is overcome, and begs for her forgiveness. In partnership with Jorkin, young Scrooge befriends a young Jacob Marley (Patrick Macnee). Scrooge and Marley buy out Fezziwig's business and turn his warehouse into a counting house. Alice breaks off her engagement to Scrooge, feeling that love of money has replaced his love for her. Years later, Scrooge and Marley offer to rescue the company from bankruptcy after Jorkin embezzles the company's funds, taking control of the company in the process. On Christmas Eve, 1836, Marley lay dying, but Scrooge refused to visit his only friend during business hours. When Scrooge finally arrives, Marley, aware he will face eternal punishment for his avarice, tries to warn Scrooge before he dies. The Spirit reproaches Scrooge for taking Marley's money and house.

The Spirit of Christmas Present (Francis de Wolff) shows Scrooge how "men of goodwill"[3] celebrate Christmas. He shows him poor miners joyfully singing Christmas carols around a small fire. Scrooge then sees the Cratchits celebrating Christmas in a happy, loving, and festive manner despite their poverty, with a goose in the oven, Christmas pudding "singing in a copper," and hot gin punch on hand. Scrooge is ashamed to hear the family boo and hurl insults at the mention of his name. He asks whether the youngest child, lame Tiny Tim (Glyn Dearman), will survive his (presumed) tuberculosis, but the Spirit hints that he may not and mockingly repeats Scrooge's callous statement about the poor being better off dead. They next visit Fred's home and witness his Christmas dinner party, at which Fred defends his uncle from several mean jokes and leads his happy guests in a lively polka. Scrooge is then shown his lost love Alice working in a poorhouse, ministering to the sick on Christmas Eve. Finally, the Spirit shows Scrooge a metaphor: two gaunt, sickly children named Ignorance and Want, both of whom humans are to beware. When Scrooge asks if they have no refuge, the Spirit taunts him by repeating his earlier statements: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

Scrooge runs away, but does not get far before he encounters the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come (Czeslaw Konarski), a shrouded figure with a single bony hand extended. This spirit wordlessly shows Scrooge what lies in store in the future if he does not change. Scrooge first visits the Cratchits, a pall hanging over their Christmas as they mourn Tiny Tim's recent death. Next he sees his charwoman Mrs. Dilber (Kathleen Harrison), the undertaker (Ernest Thesiger), and laundress (Louise Hampton) pawning some deceased's possessions for a meager gain. Slowly, Scrooge realizes it is he who has died; his two colleagues from the beginning discuss his funeral and wonder if anyone will go, one of them (Peter Bull) resolving only to go if a lunch is provided. When shown his own grave, lonely and neglected, Scrooge weeps openly, begs the Spirit for mercy, and pledges to change his ways.

All of a sudden, Scrooge awakens in his bed in the present and is ecstatic to discover it is still Christmas Day, and he still has an opportunity to do good. Mrs. Dilber is frightened by his sudden transformation and thinks he's gone mad, but he reassures her, gives her a guinea for a Christmas present, and pledges to raise her salary fivefold. He next enlists the help of a "remarkable boy" passing by his window to deliver a large and expensive turkey to the Cratchits for half a crown; only the innocent Tiny Tim guesses who has sent the generous gift. That night, Scrooge delights Fred by attending his dinner party and dancing with the other guests. The next day, December 26, Scrooge plays a practical joke on Cratchit, pretending he is about to sack him for being late, but instead offers him a raise and a hand in helping his family. The narrator recounts that Ebenezer Scrooge became "as good a man as the old city ever knew", and a second father to Tiny Tim, who recovered from his illness and learned to walk on his right leg without a crutch. Scrooge carries Tiny Tim on his shoulder off into the distance as the film ends to the tune of "Silent Night".

Featured cast[edit]

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. He was corrupted by a greedy new mentor, Mr. Jorkin (played by Jack Warner, a popular British actor in his time) who lured him away from the benevolent Mr. Fezziwig and also introduced him to Jacob Marley. 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 fiancée, 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.

Release and reception[edit]

The film was released in Great Britain under its original title, Scrooge. United Artists handled the U.S. release under the title A Christmas Carol. The film was originally slated to be shown at New York City's Radio City Music Hall as part of their Christmas attraction, but the theatre management decided that the film was too grim and did not possess enough family entertainment value to warrant an engagement at the Music Hall. Instead, the film premiered at the Guild Theatre (near the Music Hall, and not to be confused with the Guild Theatre which showcased plays) on 28 November 1951.[1]

Contemporary reviews were mixed to positive, with a number of critics remarking on how gloomy the film was compared to other renditions of the Dickens story. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times posted a favourable notice, writing that producer Brian Desmond Hurst "has not only hewed to the line of Dickens' classic fable of a spiritual regeneration on Christmas Eve, but he has got some arresting recreations of the story's familiar characters," adding, "The visions of Scrooge's life story are glimpses into depressing realms, and the aspects of poverty and ignorance in nineteenth-century England are made plain. To the credit of Mr. Hurst's production, not to its disfavor, let it be said that it does not conceal Dickens' intimations of human meanness with artificial gloss."[6] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post was also positive, writing, "This may not be 'A Christmas Carol' of recent tradition, but I've an idea it's the way Dickens would have wanted it. It's the way he wrote it."[7]Harrison's Reports called the film "delightful entertainment," finding that "though it does have its somber moments it ends on so cheerful a note that one cannot help but leave the theatre in a happy mood."[8] John McCarten of The New Yorker was also mostly positive, writing that "there's enough good here to warrant the attendance of all save the hardest of heart."[9]

Variety, however, called the film "a grim thing that will give tender-aged kiddies viewing it the screaming-meemies, and adults will find it long, dull and greatly overdone."[10] Time magazine ran a mixed review, criticising the direction while praising the performances.[11] In Britain, The Monthly Film Bulletin was also mixed, finding that the film "as a whole lacks style" and that Sim resembled more a "dour dyspeptic" than a miser, but nevertheless concluded that "the film may please in its good-natured reminder of Christmas joys, and much praise is due to Kathleen Harrison for her inimitable playing of the true Cockney."[12]

The film was one of the most popular in Britain in 1952,[13] but was a box office disappointment in the U.S. However, the film became a holiday favourite on American television where it was broadcast regularly during the '50s and '60s.[14]

In the estimation of critic A. O. Scott, Scrooge is the best film adaptation of A Christmas Carol ever made.[15]

Home media[edit]

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

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.

Music[edit]

Richard Addinsell wrote several pieces for the film's underscore, ranging from dark and moody to light and joyous. One of the more notable tunes is a polka, used in the two different versions of Fred's dinner party: the one Scrooge observes while with the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the other with Scrooge attending the party after atoning for his past coldness to Fred and his wife. The tune is similar to a traditional Slovenian polka called "Stoparjeva" ("hitchhiker") or just "Stopar".

The film also contains excerpts from some traditional Christmas carols and other tunes. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is sung over part of the opening credits, and by the miners when Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas Present. An instrumental version of "I Saw Three Ships" is played when Scrooge gives a coin to Mrs. Dilber, and again just before the end of the film. "Silent Night" is played and sung at various times, including over the last part of the final scene and "The End".

The English country dance "Sir Roger de Coverley" is played and danced during the scene where Scrooge visits the office of Old Fezziwig with The Ghost of Christmas Past.

The tragic folk song "Barbara Allen" is played as an instrumental when young Scrooge is talking with his sister Fan, and sung by a duet at Fred's Christmas party. Scrooge turns up just as they are about to sing the line "Young man, I think you're dying."

Miscellaneous[edit]

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

Scrooge can be seen playing on a television in the beginning of the 2015 film Krampus.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Of Local Origin". The New York Times: p. 35. October 23, 1951. 
  2. ^ "Scrooge (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 24 September 1951. Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  3. ^ Luke 2:14
  4. ^ "Dickensblog: Meet the maid: An interview with Theresa Derrington Cozens-Hardy". Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  5. ^ http://www.aveleyman.com/ActorCredit.aspx?ActorID=86754
  6. ^ The Screen In Review; Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol,' With Alastair Sim Playing Scrooge, Unveiled Here, Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, November 29, 1951
  7. ^ Coe, Richard L. (December 14, 1951). "'Scrooge' Differs From Other Carols". The Washington Post: p. B7. 
  8. ^ "'A Christmas Carol' with Alastair Sim". Harrison's Reports: p. 174. November 3, 1951. 
  9. ^ McCarten, John (December 8, 1951). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: p. 67. 
  10. ^ "A Christmas Carol". Variety: p. 16. November 14, 1951. 
  11. ^ TIME review, December 3, 1951.
  12. ^ "Scrooge". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 18 (214): p. 359. November 1951. 
  13. ^ "Robert Beatty in boxing picture". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 31 January 1953. p. 3 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  14. ^ Werts, Diane (2006). Christmas on Television. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. p. 14. ISBN 9780275983314. 
  15. ^ "Critics' Picks: 'A Christmas Carol' – Video". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 

External links[edit]