- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 18, 2010

Charles Dickens’ Victorian-era masterpiece “A Christmas Carol” was published on Dec. 19, 1843, and became an instant success in England. It tells of stingy Ebenezer Scrooge’s emotional and spiritual transformation after the visitations of a number of ghosts. This week, the List looks at how this timeless tale has been brought to movie and television screens in numerous adaptations over the years.

  • A Christmas Carol, 1908 —  Essanay Studios in Chicago produced this 15-minute silent film, which starred Tom Ricketts as Ebenezer Scrooge. Ricketts is said to have directed the first motion picture ever in Hollywood, in 1909, titled “Justified.”
  • A Christmas Carol, 1910 —  J. Searle Dawley directed this 17-minute silent film. It featured Australian-born American actor Marc McDermott as Scrooge and Charles S. Ogle as Bob Cratchit.
  • Old Scrooge, 1926 — This was the rerelease of a film by Pathe made in England in 1913 starring Seymour Hicks. This print is on DVD.
  • Scrooge, 1935 —  This was the first sound version and feature-length film of Dickens’ story. Seymour Hicks played Scrooge, a role he had played thousands of times onstage. Most of the ghosts, including that of Jacob Marley, are not actually shown on-screen, although their voices are heard.
  • A Christmas Carol, 1938 —  Made by MGM, this was America’s first film adaptation of the story. Lionel Barrymore, who played Scrooge annually on radio, was forced to drop out of the film because of arthritis. Reginald Owen took on the role of Scrooge, and the husband-and-wife team of Gene and Kathleen Lockhart played the Cratchits. It opened in December 1938 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, where it did moderately well. In England, it failed dismally at the box office.
  • Scrooge, 1951 —  Probably the best interpretation ever of the Dickens’ story. It was released as “A Christmas Carol” in the U.S. It starred Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge. Of all his 60 films, this is probably Scottish actor’s most celebrated performance. It received marvelous acclaim in Great Britain but had mixed reviews in the U.S. and was a box-office disappointment.
  • Scrooge, 1970 —  Starring Albert Finney, this lavish musical film adaptation of the Dickens story was filmed in London. Mr. Finney earned the title role even though he was only 34 years old at the time. Alec Guinness played Jacob Marley’s ghost. it got good reviews, earning Mr. Finney a Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy. The film also notched four Oscar nominations. The musical score was composed by Leslie Bricusse, who wrote the Sammy Davis Jr. hit “The Candy Man.”
  • A Christmas Carol, 1971 —  Famed actor Alastair Sim, from the 1951 film, revisited the Scrooge character in this Academy Award-winning animated film version of the story, made for ABC television. Michael Hordern also reprised his 1951 performance as the voice of Marley’s Ghost. It was directed by Richard Williams (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit”) whose 4-year-old son, Alexander, provided the voice for Tiny Tim.
  • Mickey’s Christmas Carol, 1983 —  This 24-minute Walt Disney animated film featured Scrooge McDuck as a Scottish Scrooge (Alan Young) and Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit. It was the first new Mickey Mouse cartoon made in the 30 years since “The Simple Things.” It was nominated for an Academy Award as best animated short subject of 1983.
  • A Christmas Carol, 1984 —  George C. Scott starred as Ebenezer Scrooge in this made-for-television version. The film was directed by Clive Donner (“What’s New Pussycat”) who had been an editor of the 1951 film “Scrooge.” Susannah York played Mrs. Cratchit. The film was well-received and is considered one of the best adaptations of the classic tale.
  • Scrooged, 1988 —  Bill Murray plays Frank Cross as a cynically selfish TV executive in this modernization of the Dickens classic. The film was produced and directed by Richard Donner. It grossed $62 million on a $32 million budget. The film also starred Karen Allen and Robert Mitchum, along with Robert Goulet, Lee Majors, Mary Lou Retton and John Houseman as themselves.
  • A Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992 —  This musical comedy starred Michael Caine as Scrooge and Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit. It was the first Muppet film after the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson and was directed by Henson’s son Brian. It was released by Walt Disney Pictures and had moderate box-office success, earning $27 million domestically.
  • A Christmas Carol, 1999 —  “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star Patrick Stewart played Ebenezer Scrooge, and Richard E. Grant (“Withnail and I”) starred as Bob Cratchit in this made-for-TV film. Mr. Stewart previously had performed a series of successful theatrical readings of “A Christmas Carol” on Broadway and in London.
  • A Christmas Carol: The Movie, 2001 —  British actor Simon Callow (“A Room With a View”) is the voice of Scrooge in this animated film. Kate Winslet (“Titanic”) voiced the character Belle and sang the film’s theme, “What if,” which was a top-10 hit in Austria, Belgium and Ireland and hit No. 6 on the U.K. Singles Chart. Nicolas Cage performed the voice of Jacob Marley.
  • A Christmas Carol: The Musical, 2004 —  This $17 million television film was based on a 1994 stage musical of the same name, with songs written by Alan Menken (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics). Kelsey Grammer (“Cheers,” “Frasier”) played Scrooge. Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”) starred as Jacob Marley and sang a number called “Link by Link.” In a departure from the Dickens’ story, this version introduces us to Scrooge’s father, who is sentenced to debtor’s prison while his horrified family looks on.
  • Barbie in a Christmas Carol, 2008 —  This computer-animated version from Kidtoon Films went direct to DVD. Eden Starling, a glamorous singing diva in Victorian England, is the Scrooge in this version.
  • A Christmas Carol, 2009 —  Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future”) wrote and directed this 3-D film starring Jim Carrey in a multitude of roles. The film was produced through the process of performance capture, a technique Mr. Zemeckis had used in his films “The Polar Express” (2004) and “Beowulf” (2007). Mr. Carrey played Ebenezer Scrooge as a young, middle-aged and old man and also played the three ghosts who haunt Scrooge. The film was a box-office success, taking in almost $318.5 million worldwide so far.
  • Doctor Who Christmas Special 2010: A Christmas Carol — Amy and Rory are trapped on a crashing space liner, and the only way the Doctor can rescue them is to save the soul of a lonely old miser, Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon), the richest man in Sardicktown. This version premiers on BBC America on Christmas Day.

Compiled by John Haydon

Sources: Including Internet Movie Database (IMDb), Wikipedia and bbcamerica.com