CATEGORIES Features'A Christmas Carol' is so well-known and oft-told a tale (we found nearly 70 versions listed!) that the TV spots for the new film with Jim Carrey need only hit the highlights: Marley's ghost! Fezziwig's party! We know them all by heart and the fun is in finding out how this Ghost of Christmas Past compares to that one. And, of course, seeing our favorite actors step into the role of the curmudgeonly miser. He's been embodied by everyone from Walter Matthau to Vanessa Williams (as "Ebony" Scrooge) but here we give you the versions dearest to our heart. God bless these adaptations, one and all!
Reginald Owen in 'A Christmas Carol' (1938)
It's not the first 'Christmas Carol' on film (that was in 1901) and it's definitely not the most accurate. British character actor Reginald Owen (you may remember him as Admiral Boom in 'Mary Poppins') makes a suitably crotchety Scrooge. But wow, did they get it wrong with Bob Cratchit: Instead of the poverty-stricken, starving clerk we expect, he and his whole family are amply housed, well-dressed and even -- dare we say -- plump!
Alastair Sim in 'A Christmas Carol' (1951)
On any movie message board, this adaptation gets comments like, "Absolutely the best version ever!" (Although you may find it listed under the more-Googled title 'Scrooge.') Alastair Sim is the quintessential Scrooge, the one you probably picture without realizing it. You'd have to be a pretty devoted movie buff to recognize the rest of the cast, but if you're looking for the most faithful, most Dickensian 'Carol,' this is it. Just be sure you avoid the colorized version!
Albert Finney in 'Scrooge' (1970)
Albert Finney as a singing and dancing Scrooge? Maybe that's why this was the last big-screen version to hit theaters for at least a decade! The story hasn't changed much, but by 1970, special effects had improved to the point where the lost souls Marley points out to Scrooge are truly frightening! Marley, by the way, is none other than future Jedi master Alec Guinness. Who, mercifully, does not sing. Or dance.
Animated Alastair Sim in 'A Christmas Carol' (1971)
This faithful animated version was modeled on the book's original illustrations, features the voice of iconic Scrooge Alastair Sim, and comes from Chuck Jones, the man who created Wile E. Coyote and brought us the original 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas.' Why then, isn't it shown every Christmas, like 'The Grinch?' Because it's really damn dark, that's why! Many a young child was scared out of their wits when Jacob Marley (easily the most terrifying one we've ever seen) removes the cloth from around his head and his jaw drops all the way to the floor! Sadly, it's not on DVD, but it is on Youtube.
Scrooge McDuck in 'Mickey's Christmas Carol' (1983)
Of course Scrooge McDuck is the only Disney character to play Scrooge! And that leaves Mickey Mouse as a stuttering Bob Cratchit, who's so meek, he even does Scrooge's laundry for him. Jiminy Cricket is the Ghost of Christmas Past and Goofy is his usual clumsy self (and not at all scary) as the ghost of Marley. The only scary bit, really, is a brief glimpse of the fire and brimstone awaiting Scrooge if he doesn't change his ways. Scrooge's redemption takes place in a brisk 30 minutes, ending with Tiny Tim happily tearing into a bag of toys.
George C. Scott in 'A Christmas Carol' (1984)
George C. Scott "Bah, humbugs" better than any other Scrooge we've seen; after all, he perfected his intimidating scowl in his Oscar-winning role as General Patton. His transformation from an embittered old man into a kindly, benevolent soul is among the most convincing. We particularly love the scene where he surprises the Cratchits with a goose so big it dwarfs Tiny Tim; his delight in their utter confusion and the mischievous twinkle in his eye are the only remainders of his former self.
Rowan Atkinson in 'Blackadder's Christmas Carol' (1988)
If you enjoy the delicious reversal of a Scrooge who transforms from the "kindest and loveliest man in all of England" into the meanest, this is the Christmas special for you. Rowan Atkinson stars as Ebenezer Blackadder, who, thanks to glimpses of his witty, wicked ancestors, turns rotten to the core. Look for an incredibly young and silly Hugh Laurie as the dimwitted Prince Regent and Robbie Coltrane ('Harry Potter''s Hagrid) as a booze-swilling Christmas Spirit.
Bill Murray in 'Scrooged' (1988)
No one does selfish cynicism better than Bill Murray. In this underrated update, he's a TV executive trying to mount a production of 'A Christmas Carol' with Buddy Hackett as Scrooge. Of course, he's the real Scrooge and is shown the error of his ways by three spirits: A cigar-smoking taxi driver as Christmas Past and Carole Kane as a a literally ball-busting Ghost of Christmas Present. And when Murray meets the grim Ghost of Christmas Future in the elevator, he mistakes him for a lost extra!
Michael Caine in 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' (1992)
It goes without saying that Michael Caine makes an excellent Scrooge. We just wonder how he got talked into starring with singing fruits and vegetables! Here we get not just one Marley but two (Balcony critics Statler and Waldorf) and a Mrs. Cratchit (Miss Piggy) who harumphs more than Scrooge does. If this one doesn't make you feel as warm and fuzzy as Fozzie Bear (who shows up as Fozziwig!), you may be due for some ghostly browbeating yourself!
Patrick Stewart in 'A Christmas Carol' (1999)
For many years, Patrick Stewart put on a one-man stage show in which he played every character, from Fezziwig to Tiny Tim. In this TV movie, he only takes on the title role, but he does it with his usual authority and panache. We love the scene on Christmas morning, where Scrooge tries to embrace his newfound humanity by laughing ... and can't remember how! Richard E. Grant, so adept at playing villains himself, makes an endearingly soft-spoken Cratchit.