Scrooge (1970 film)

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Theatrical release Poster by Joseph Bowler
Directed byRonald Neame
Written byLeslie Bricusse
Based onA Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
Produced byRobert H. Solo
StarringAlbert Finney
Alec Guinness
Edith Evans
Kenneth More
Michael Medwin
Laurence Naismith
CinematographyOswald Morris
Edited byPeter Weatherley
Music byLeslie Bricusse
Distributed byNational General Pictures (United States)
20th Century Fox (United Kingdom)[1]
Release date
  • 5 November 1970 (1970-11-05)
Running time
113 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States

Scrooge is a 1970 musical film adaptation of Charles Dickens' 1843 story A Christmas Carol. It was filmed in London between January and May 1970 and directed by Ronald Neame, and starred Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge. The film's score was composed by Leslie Bricusse and arranged and conducted by Ian Fraser. With eleven musical arrangements interspersed throughout, the award-winning motion picture is a faithful musical retelling of the original.

The film was a follow-up to another Dickens musical adaptation, 1968’s award-winning Oliver!. The posters for Scrooge included the tagline "What the dickens have they done to Scrooge?", designed to head off any criticism of an all-singing, all-dancing old skinflint.[2] Finney won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy in 1971. The film received four Academy Award nominations, including for Best Original Song for "Thank You Very Much".


On Christmas Eve, in London, 1860, Ebenezer Scrooge, a surly money-lender, does not share the merriment of Christmas. He declines his nephew Harry's invitation for Christmas dinner and reluctantly gives his loyal employee Bob Cratchit Christmas Day off. Cratchit and his children go shopping and prepare for the holiday ("Christmas Children"). As Scrooge leaves for home, he visits some of his clients including Tom Jenkins and declines two gentlemen's offer to collect money for charity ("I Hate People"). As he makes his way home, he is accosted and mocked by street urchins ("Father Christmas").

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 as he was, carrying a heavy chain forged by his own selfishness and greed ("See the Phantoms"). Before leaving, Marley informs him that three spirits will visit him.

At one o'clock, Scrooge is visited by the Victorian Ghost of Christmas Past, who takes him back in time to his childhood and early adult life. They visit his lonely school days, and then his time as an employee under Mr. Fezziwig. Attending a Christmas party held by Fezziwig ("December the 25th"), Scrooge falls in love with Fezziwig's daughter, Isabel ("Happiness"). However, the spirit shows Scrooge how Isabel left him when he chose money over her ("You..."). He dismisses the spirit as he returns to the present.

Scrooge is visited by the merry Ghost of Christmas Present, a jolly giant, who shows him the joys and wonder of Christmas Day ("I Like Life"). Scrooge and the spirit visit Bob's house, learning his family is surprisingly content with their small dinner, while Scrooge takes pity on Bob's ill son Tiny Tim. The spirit comments that Tiny Tim might not survive until next Christmas unless the course of events changes. Before the spirit vanishes, Scrooge is warned that life is too short and to do as much as he can in what little time he has.

Left alone in the street, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, a silent, cloaked figure who takes him into the future. Scrooge and the spirit witness Tom and the other citizens rejoicing at the death of Scrooge ("Thank You Very Much"), with Scrooge unaware of this fact. The spirit transports Scrooge to Bob's house, where he discovers that Tiny Tim had died. The spirit escorts Scrooge to a cemetery, where the spirit points out his own grave. Realizing this, Scrooge promises to change his ways before the spirit forces him to fall through his grave into the caverns of Hell. Scrooge is met there once again by Marley, who shows him to his ice-cold "office" to serve forever as Lucifer's personal clerk. Scrooge is adorned with an enormous chain made from his lifetime of past sins by four masked demons.

Awakening in his bedroom on Christmas Day, with love and joy in his heart, a gleeful Scrooge decides to bring happiness to the citizens of London ("I'll Begin Again"). He goes on a shopping spree, buying food and presents. He runs into Harry and his wife and gives them some overdue presents as well. They invite Scrooge to Christmas lunch, which he gladly accepts. Dressed as "Father Christmas," Scrooge then delivers a giant turkey, presents and toys to the Cratchits, and after making his identity known, gives Bob a raise and promises that they will work to find the best doctors to make Tiny Tim better. Scrooge then frees all his clients from their debts, much to their delight ("Thank You Very Much (Reprise)"). Scrooge returns home to get ready for lunch with his family and thanks Marley for helping him at a second chance at life.


Soundtrack listing[edit]

  1. "Overture" (removed from current Blu-ray release)
  2. "A Christmas Carol" – Chorus
  3. "Christmas Children" – David Collings, Richard Beaumont, & Karen Scargill
  4. "I Hate People" – Albert Finney
  5. "Father Christmas" – Urchins
  6. "See the Phantoms" – Alec Guinness
  7. "December the 25th" – Laurence Naismith, Kay Walsh & Ensemble
  8. "Happiness" – Suzanne Neve
  9. "A Christmas Carol" (Reprise) – Chorus
  10. "You....You" – Albert Finney
  11. "I Like Life" – Kenneth More & Albert Finney
  12. "The Beautiful Day" – Richard Beaumont
  13. "Happiness" (Reprise)
  14. "Thank You Very Much" – Anton Rodgers & Ensemble
  15. "I'll Begin Again" – Albert Finney
  16. "I Like Life" (Reprise) – Albert Finney
  17. "Finale: Father Christmas" (Reprise) / "Thank You Very Much" (Reprise) – All
  18. "Exit Music" (Bonus Track, not included on LP)

A soundtrack album containing all the songs from the film was issued on Columbia Records in 1970. Due to legal complications, however, the soundtrack has never been re-released in the CD format. The current Paramount Blu-ray release of the film has removed the Overture (intact on all VHS and DVD releases).

Title sequence[edit]

The film features an opening title sequence of numerous hand-painted backgrounds and overlays by British illustrator Ronald Searle. Art of the Title described it, saying, "As is often the case with Searle’s illustrations, the forms jump and squiggle into shape, the strokes loose and sprightly. In each scene, swaths of colour and life pour out, white snowflakes dotting the brush strokes."[3] The illustrations later appeared in a book, Scrooge, by Elaine Donaldson and published in 1970 by Cinema Center Films.


Filmed in London and on location in Buckinghamshire between January and May 1970, the film sets at Shepperton Studios included fully reconstructed Victorian streets.[2]


Box office[edit]

Scrooge earned $3 million in North American distributor rentals.[4]

Critical reaction[edit]

Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune awarded the film three-and-a-half stars out of four praising Finney's "masterful performance".[5] Arthur D. Murphy, reviewing for Variety, favorably wrote the film was "a most delightful film in every way," in which he praised Finney as "remarkable" and Bricusse's "unobtrusive complementary music and lyrics; Ronald Neame's delicately controlled direction which conveys, but does not force, all the inherent warmth, humor and sentimentality to both younger and audiences".[6] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that Finney's performance was "absurd, sentimental, pretty, never quite as funny as it intends to be, but quite acceptable, if only as a seasonal ritual." Overall, he felt the adaptation was "surprisingly faithful", and complemented Ronald Neame for directing "the movie with all of the delicacy possible after a small story has been turned into a comparatively large, conventional musical. The settings — London streets and interiors, circa 1860 (updated from the original 1843)—are very attractive, somewhat spruced-up variations on the original John Leech illustrations."[7]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four feeling the film "works very nicely on its intended level and the kids sitting near me seemed to be having a good time." However, he was critical of Bricusse's songs, writing that they "fall so far below the level of good musical comedy that you wish Albert Finney would stop singing them, until you realize he isn't really singing."[8] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times applauded Scrooge as a "lovely movie, one of the few genuinely family-wide attractions of the whole year, calculated to please equally all those who have loved the Dickens work forever, and all those enviable youngsters who are about to discover it for the first time."[9] Reviewing for the New York Daily News, Ann Guarino wrote Scrooge was "bright with humor and moves along at a lively pace in 19th Century settings." She further praised the cast as "excellent," but described Bricusse's songs as being "pleasant, but unfortunately forgettable with the exception of 'Thank You Very Much'".[10]

Pauline Kael, writing in The New Yorker, found Scrooge to be an "innocuous musical version of A Christmas Carol, starring Albert Finney looking glum. The Leslie Bricusse music is so forgettable that your mind flushes it away while you're hearing it."[11] Jay Cocks of Time magazine derided Finney's performance as "drastically disappointing. [He] grumbles and hobbles through his part, employing mannerism instead of nuance." Cocks was also critical of Bricusse's songs, and summarized the film as "a high-budget holiday spectacular, a musical extracted from Dickens' A Christmas Carol that turns out to be a curdled cup of holiday cheer...First frame to last, Scrooge is a mechanical movie made with indifference to every quality but the box office receipts."[12]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[13] Best Art Direction Art Direction: Terence Marsh and Robert Cartwright; Set Decoration: Pamela Cornell Nominated
Best Costume Design Margaret Furse
Best Original Song Score Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse; Adapted by Ian Fraser and Herbert W. Spencer
Best Song "Thank You Very Much" – Leslie Bricusse
Golden Globe Awards[14] Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Albert Finney Won
Best Screenplay Leslie Bricusse Nominated
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Leslie Bricusse
Best Original Song – Motion Picture "Thank You Very Much" – Leslie Bricusse
British Academy Film Awards Best Art Direction Terence Marsh Nominated
Laurel Awards Best Comedy Performance, Male Albert Finney

Stage adaptation[edit]

In 1992, a stage musical adapted from the film, featuring the Bricusse/Fraser songs and starring Anthony Newley, was mounted in the UK under the title Scrooge: The Musical. "I Hate People" was re-written as "I Hate Christmas", and a cast recording was released.[15]

The show was revived in 2003 on a tour of the country by British song and dance man Tommy Steele, and he again reprised the role at the London Palladium in 2004 -making him the performer to have done the most shows at the Palladium. In 2007, Shane Ritchie played the part at the Manchester Palace. The musical was revived at London Palladium in October 2012 with Steele reprising the role. It ran till 5 January 2013.[16]

This was staged in Melbourne, Australia, in 1993, starring Keith Michell, Max Gillies, Tony Taylor, William Zappa, Dale Burridge, Emma Raciti, Ross Hannaford, Paul Cheyne, Glenda Walsh.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Scrooge (1970)". BBFC. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b "From Charles Dickens to Michael Caine, here are the five best Scrooges". The Independent. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  3. ^ Landekic, Lola (23 December 2014). "Scrooge (1970)". Art of the Title.
  4. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1971". Variety. 5 January 1972. p. 9.
  5. ^ Siskel, Gene (6 November 1970). "Movie Review: 'Scrooge'". The Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 15. Retrieved 10 December 2020 – via open access
  6. ^ Murphy, Arthur D. (4 November 1970). "Film Reviews: Scrooge". Variety. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (20 November 1970). "'Scrooge' Varies Ritual in Version at Music Hall". The New York Times. p. 29. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Scrooge (1970)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 10 December 2020 – via
  9. ^ Champlin, Charles (November 1, 1970). "No Humbug! — Family Movie 'Scrooge' Premieres Thursday". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, pp. 1, 26–27. Retrieved 10 December 2020 – via open access
  10. ^ Guarino, Ann (20 November 1970). "Scrooge Strikes Again—To Music". New York Daily News. p. 73. Retrieved 10 December 2020 – via open access
  11. ^ Kael, Pauline (November 1970). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker.
  12. ^ Cocks, Jay (7 December 1970). "Cinema: Curdled Cheer". Time. Vol. 96 no. 23. p. 73. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  13. ^ "The 43rd Academy Awards (1971) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Winners & Nominees 1971". Golden Globes. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  15. ^ "Leslie Bricusse – Scrooge: The Musical (Original Cast Recording) (1994, Highlights , CD)".
  16. ^ "Tommy Steele brings Scrooge back to Palladium from 24 Oct".

External links[edit]