The THREE SCROOGES
If you’re like me, you break out the holiday movies during Christmas time and watch them year after year, regardless of how many times you’ve seen them.
For me, my favorite Christmas movies remain the different versions of Charles Dickens’ classic tale A Christmas Carol. There’s something about dark films that I prefer over all others. And so while I enjoy films like ELF (2003) and A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) I like the story of Scrooge most of all.
I enjoy the story of how a man as cold as Scrooge can still change. He learns that his selfishness hurts those around him, and that by being generous, he can make a difference in people’s lives. Dickens also gives ample background to the Scrooge character. We know exactly why Scrooge becomes the man he becomes, from the way his father treated him as a child, to his beloved sister’s untimely death.
There are many film versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I have three favorites, and so today I will share with you my picks for the three best Scrooges.
#3. THE MUPPET CHRISTMA CAROL (1992) is certainly the most fun version of the Dickens’ tale. Full of creative Muppet humor and a terrific memorable score by Paul Williams (who can forget the song “Marley &
Marley”), THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL is not only the most kid-friendly Scrooge tale, but also contains one of the best Scrooge movie performances, with Michael Caine playing it straight throughout.
While the Muppets around him crack jokes and sing songs, Caine plays Scrooge at his dramatic best. He really is one of the best film Scrooges around. In fact, there are only two film Scrooge performances that I like better than Michael Caine’s.
#2. The 1999 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, a made for television movie, features Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, and it’s one of Stewart’s best performances. It’s a nice reminder of why STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was so successful, because it had a quality actor like Patrick Stewart portraying Captain Jean Luc Picard.
As Scrooge, Stewart delivers a performance that is first-rate, certainly of the caliber that belongs in a theatrical film. I particularly like the screenplay by Peter Barnes, as it includes a lot of the small details from the novel that you don’t often see in other film versions, like the ghost of Marley’s jaw being held together by the bandage wrapped around his jaw and head.
Stewart’s Scrooge gets to partake in many of these small details.
What I like best about Stewart’s performance is that he makes Scrooge’s cold personality seem so very natural, and not over the top at all. When he says lines like “They should die and decrease the surplus population” he doesn’t sound like a lunatic, but a real person with real beliefs. He also captures the wounded part of Scrooge’s personality, especially when he travels with the spirits and has to relive many painful moments from his past.
There’s tremendous depth in Stewart’s performance, and in all the film versions of Scrooge, I’ve only seen one performance I thought was better.
#1. Alastair Sim, in the 1951 British version of A CHRISMAS CAROL (originally titled SCROOGE) is the definitive film Scrooge.
This version was adapted by Noel Langley, who wrote many movies, and was one of the writers who worked on THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939). This is a deeply dramatic version of the Dickens tale and plays like a ghost story throughout.
Alastair Sim becomes Scrooge in this movie. If you’ve read the novel and then you see this movie, you can’t help but think that Sim jumped off those pages and into this movie. Sim also nails the “new” Scrooge, the joyous Scrooge after he has completed his time with the spirits, better than any other actor has ever done. It’s an amazing transition to watch. Great stuff.
The supporting cast includes many character actors who would go on to appear in Hammer Films, including Carol Marsh (HORROR OF DRACULA), Francis De Wolff (THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES), Miles Malleson (THE BRIDES OF DRACULA),and Fred Johnson (THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN), as well as Universal Monster movie alum, Dr. Pretorius himself, Ernest Thesiger.
And even Patrick MacNee shows up as young Jacob Marley.
Great cast. Great movie. Even greater Scrooge.
So, if you’re in the mood this Christmas season to for the tale of Scrooge, you can’t go wrong with these Three Scrooges.