Scrooge (1951 film)
UK quad poster
|Directed by||Brian Desmond Hurst|
|Produced by||Brian Desmond Hurst|
|Screenplay by||Noel Langley|
|Based on||A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
|Narrated by||Peter Bull|
|Music by||Richard Addinsell|
|Edited by||Clive Donner|
|Distributed by||Renown Pictures|
Scrooge is a 1951 British fantasy drama film and an adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843). It starred 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.
The film also features Kathleen Harrison in an acclaimed turn 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 old 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 cynically discussing Scrooge's funeral.
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 day after.
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 Jorkin's company after Jorkin embezzles the company's funds; they take control of the business and add it to their own. 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" 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 says he will 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 his 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;[a]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 26th, 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."
- Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge
- Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Dilber, Charwoman
- Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit
- Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Cratchit
- Michael Hordern as Jacob Marley's Ghost
- George Cole as Young Ebenezer Scrooge
- Glyn Dearman as Tiny Tim
- John Charlesworth as Peter Cratchit
- Michael J. Dolan as the Ghost of Christmas Past
- Francis de Wolff as the Ghost of Christmas Present
- Czesław Konarski as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
- Rona Anderson as Alice, fiancee
- Carol Marsh as Fan "Fanny" Scrooge
- Jack Warner as Mr. Jorkin, Scrooge's second employer
- Roddy Hughes as Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge's first employer
- Patrick Macnee as the Young Jacob Marley
- Brian Worth as Fred, nephew
- Olga Edwardes as Fred's wife
- Miles Malleson as Old Joe
- Ernest Thesiger as Mr. Stretch (the undertaker)
- Louise Hampton as the Laundress
- Peter Bull as First Businessman at exchange (also Narrator)
- Douglas Muir as Second Businessman at exchange
- Noel Howlett as First Collector for people in need
- Fred Johnson as Second Collector for people in need
- Eliot Makeham as Mr. Snedrig
- Henry Hewitt as Mr. Rosebed
- Hugh Dempster as Mr. Groper
- Eleanor Summerfield as Miss Flora, Fred's party guest
- Richard Pearson as Mr. Tupper, Fred's party guest
- Clifford Mollison as Samuel Wilkins, Scrooge's poor client
- Hattie Jacques as Mrs. Fezziwig
- Theresa Derrington as Fred's Maid
- David Hannaford as Boy buying prize turkey[a]
- Catherine Leach as Belinda Cratchit
- Moiya Kelly as Martha Cratchit
- Luanne Kemp as Mary Cratchit
Comparison with the source material
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 who was corrupted by a greedy new mentor, Mr. Jorkin (played by Jack Warner, a popular British actor in his time) who had lured him away from the benevolent Mr. Fezziwig. 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 fiancee, 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.
United States reception
The film was released in Great Britain under its original title, Scrooge. United Artists handled the US release under the title A Christmas Carol and the film was originally slated to be shown at New York City's Radio City Music Hall as part of their Christmas attraction. However, the theatre management thought the film was too grim and sombre and did not possess enough family entertainment value to warrant an engagement at the Music Hall, in contrast to the 1938 A Christmas Carol, which did premiere at Radio City. Instead, the 1951 film premiered at the Guild Theatre (near the Music Hall, and not to be confused with the Guild Theatre which showcased plays) on Halloween night, 1951. The U.S. reviews were mixed and the film was a box office disappointment. However it was one of the most popular films in Britain in 1952.
The film received a favourable notice from The New York Times when it opened in 1951, and a mixed review in Time magazine criticising the direction while praising the performances, but otherwise had not caused much of a stir. In the years since, it has attained classic status in the U.S. and become a favourite of the viewing public. Sim's characterisation of Scrooge receives particular praise.
According to critic A. O. Scott of The New York Times, this film is the best one ever made of the Dickens classic.
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.
It can be seen on a TV in the beginning of the 2015 film Krampus.
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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."
- "Scrooge (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 24 September 1951. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
- Luke 2:14
- lisala (20 December 2010). "Dickens' A Christmas Carol and the Question of Turkey or Goose". Real Book. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- Baker, Russell (11 January 1986). "Observer: For The Love Of Error". New York Times.
- "Dickensblog: Meet the maid: An interview with Theresa Derrington Cozens-Hardy". Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- "Robert Beatty in boxing picture.". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 31 January 1953. p. 3 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- The Screen In Review; Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol,' With Alastair Sim Playing Scrooge, Unveiled Here, Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, November 29, 1951
- TIME review, December 3, 1951.
- "Critics' Picks: 'A Christmas Carol' – Video". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-19.
- Scrooge at the Internet Movie Database
- Scrooge at AllMovie
- A Christmas Carol or Scrooge at the TCM Movie Database
- A Christmas Carol or Scrooge at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Scrooge at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- www.briandesmondhurst.org -the official legacy website of the director with filmography including Scrooge