A Christmas Carol by Any Other Name

by Julie, decking the halls in Somerville

In 2010 I spent the month of December discussing versions of A Christmas Carol every day. (You can see the posts here.) As you know, my book A Christmas Peril is about a theater company deep in the weeds of a production of A Christmas Carol. One of my nieces mentioned looking forward to A Christmas Carol binge watching over Christmas break. She then asked me which version was my favorite.

I couldn’t answer her. But I can, sort of, narrow it down a bit. Here is a list of my “will watch in the next ten days” list of Christmas Carols in no particular order:

scroogeScrooge, 1970
I saw this movie on a field trip (maybe with the Girl Scouts), and the hell scene scared the heck out of me. As an adult, it is easily on my top five. It is a musical, Albert Finney is wonderful, and is fairly true to the story. It isn’t Christmas unless my family breaks into a “Thank You Very Much” chorus.

1984 Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol, 1984
George C. Scott was a sublime Scrooge. The scene where he jumps on the bed makes my heart burst. The story is dark, and sad, in many ways, and this version is that.

MuppetThe Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992
This is SUCH a great version. Michael Caine is wonderful. Having Dickens tell the story is great. It stays true to the story, and keeps most of the important parts in the movie. Kermit is a perfect Bob Cratchit,  and Fozzie as Fezziwig? Could there be more perfect casting?

scroogedScrooged, 1988
All right, part of the reason I love this version is that it is such a pop culture time capsule. The TV version of A Christmas Carol they are working on is chock full of 80’s stars that have to be explained to kids, but add another layer of humor to the show. It is also very faithful to the theme of the story, though it does take liberties. Also, Bill Murray chews the scenery, and is so much fun to watch.

PS recordingPatrick Stewart’s VersionsPS filmI love Patrick Stewart, and have been fortunate enough to see him do his one man version of A Christmas Carol twice. It is because of that experience that his filmed version falls a little short for me, though it is very good. The CD of him reading the book is much closer to his stage version, and I can’t recommend it enough.

diva ccA Diva’s Christmas Carol, 2000
Do you remember the “Behind the Music” shows on VH1? In this Christmas Carol, Vanessa Williams plays Ebony Scrooge, a singer who left her girl group in the dust, and is a nightmare to work for. A ton of fun.

magooMister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, 1962
This is not at all accurate (the ghosts are out of order), but it has a lot of charm. The songs are terrific–I’m surprised there hasn’t been a stage version of this using the songs. Or maybe there has been?

simA Christmas Carol, 1951
This Alistair Sim version is a favorite of many, so I include it on the list. I like it, but am also fond of the 1938 Reginald Owen version.

There are dozens of other versions, with Scrooge being played by Cicely Tyson, Henry Winkler, Barbie, Fred Flintsone, Mickey Mouse, and others. I discussed those, and others, on my blog 8 years ago. I’m a little surprised I don’t have a more recent version to critique. The story resonates right now in so many ways.

Friends, what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol?

44 Thoughts

  1. The Alistair Sim version without a doubt— black and white version only!!!!

  2. I don’t know that I’ve seen any of the above (hey, I read the book!), but I treasure a vinyl copy of my grandmother reading Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” (BTW, it’s translucent red vinyl!). It exists because she used to volunteer for Lighthouse for the Blind, near her home in Manhattan.

  3. Bill Murray and Alistair Sim are my two favorites. Love them both. I am sure that is because the Alistair Sim version is the first one I ever saw and the Bill Murray one is a great quirky version for the generation it was made. The season isn’t complete without it along with Holiday Inn and Christmas in Connecticut and White Christmas!

  4. I love Scrooge with Albert Finney. I remember going to see it with my family. But I will watch almost any version. Although, not hate me everyone, I don’t like the Muppet version.

  5. Mr. Magoo is the version I grew up with. It’s not Christmas around here unless someone bursts out singing, “a candle in a jar of razzle-berry dressing.”

  6. We LOVE the Christmas Carol movies – all of them! Some we really love and watch year after year. The 1951 version with Alastair Sim is a great black and white version. The 1984 one with George C. Scott is excellent as is the 1999 version with Patrick Stewart. The most recent one we love is the Disney animated remake in 2009 with Jim Carrey.

  7. I don’t have a favorite Christmas Carol movie but I would like to recommend the following movie: “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” I’m not fond of the title – in fact I think that it hurts their marketing efforts – but I loved the movie. Here’s a glimpse of what is in store: “In 1843 London, author Charles Dickens finds himself in financial trouble after writing three unsuccessful novels in a row. Desperate for a hit, Dickens relies on real-life inspiration and his vivid imagination to bring Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and other classic characters to life.”

  8. Thanks for the movie suggestions! I remember seeing The Christmas Carol, but not one of the productions you mentioned. Must have been a TV version or maybe it was a play. What I can speak to is Shelia’s mention of A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. In 1985 I was fortunate to meet Trina Schart Hyman, the illustrator, and buy an autographed version of her A Child’s Christmas in Wales. The illustrations for the scene, “…but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush” always makes me smile. Hyman knows how to draw people and cats…delightful and it just isn’t Christmas without reading that book.

  9. I’ll have to watch it again to make sure, but I think my favorite is the 1951 version. An old ballad, Barbara Allen, accompanies all the sad and sweeet scenes and stays in my head well after the movie is over!

  10. Thanks for the rundown! After years of evaluation, I’ve landed on the Alistair Sim version as my favorite. I watch it every year. Usually alone since my mother, who introduced it to me, doesn’t want to travel across the country in the winter anymore. And my kid and husband don’t share my passion for all things Christmas, especially that movie. Sigh…

  11. Just cracked the cover on A CHRISTMAS PERIL last night and am looking forward to a great and fun-filled read!

    As for Christmas Carols, my three favorites, in no particular order – 1951 version, simply because it’s the first I remember and the one I saw annually as a child, the George C. Scott version, because to me he will always be Patton and who couldn’t imagine him flip-flopping roles as Scrooge, and SCROOGED, because, well, Bill Murray, enough said.

    It’s not Christmas to me though, until I’ve seen It’s A Wonderful Life. The year we gave up cable, I had to buy a DVD. The movie is so ingrained in our family that hubs was watching a vintage war movie the other night and he asked me, “Who is that actor, he’s so familiar?” I glanced up, and said, “Oh, that’s Clarence.” Hubs nodded, “That’s right.” It never occurred to either of us until later that we didn’t know his name.

  12. I haven’t seen many of these. My family watched the 1984 George C. Scott version the year it first aired, and we’ve stuck with that one. I do also love the Muppet version. So many great jokes while keeping the heart of the story.

    I wish I had gotten to see Patrick Stuart do his one man show. It sounds amazing from everything I’ve heard. I do have the CD, and I think it is a recording of his one man show, not him actually reading the book, right? Either way, I usually listen to it driving home from Thanksgiving. I was very disappointed with the movie he starred in.

    Mickey Mouse never played Scrooge to my knowledge. Mickey’s Christmas Carol features Scrooge McDuck as Scrooge (type casting much?) Mickey actually plays Bob Cratchit.

    The theater company I love to go to does A Christmas Carol every year. 50+ years at this point. I went a couple of years and loved it. I keep saying I am going to go back, and then December rushes by and it doesn’t happen.

  13. About 20 years Dover Thrift published A Christmas Carol — I’d always wanted to have a copy of my own and at $1.00, gave it to myself for Christmas. Read it every year as part of my celebration. As to film versions, I feel it’s the 1936 one that plays in my memory. Except for the Sims version, which just wasn’t “quite right”, I’ve never seen the others mentioned here. Christmas isn’t Christmas w/out Cary Grant, David Niven, Loretta Young and The Bishop’s Wife. Enjoy your celebrations, everyone

  14. Every year I watch the Alistair Simms version and try to catch either the George C. Scott one or Patrick Stewart. This year it was George C. Scott. That one is definitely dark and brooding. I love Christmas movies and start watching them at the first of November and continue on until the middle of January quite often. I am not sure if I have a favourite, but love the sappy Hallmark ones.

  15. I think the Alistair Simms one is the only one I’ve seen, and I think I like it the best.

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