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Scrooge (1951 film)

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Scrooge - 1951 UK film poster.jpg
UK quad poster
Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst
Produced byBrian Desmond Hurst
Screenplay by Noel Langley
Based on A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
Narrated by Peter Bull
Music by Richard Addinsell
Cinematography C.M. Pennington-Richards
Edited by Clive Donner
George Minter Productions
Distributed by Renown Pictures
Release date
Running time
87 minutes [2]
CountryUnited Kingdom

Scrooge (released as A Christmas Carol in the United States) is a 1951 British Christmas fantasy drama film and an adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843). It stars Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, and was produced and directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, with a screenplay by Noel Langley.


Brian Desmond Hurst, producer and director of Scrooge (A Christmas Carol), in 1976 (portrait by Allan Warren) Brian Desmond Hurst. Allan Warren.jpg
Brian Desmond Hurst, producer and director of Scrooge (A Christmas Carol), in 1976 (portrait by Allan Warren)

The film also features Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's charwoman. George Cole stars as the younger Scrooge, Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Cratchit, Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit, Clifford Mollison as Samuel Wilkins, a debtor; Jack Warner as Mr. Jorkin, a role created for the film; Ernest Thesiger as Marley's undertaker; and Patrick Macnee as the younger Jacob Marley. Michael Hordern plays Marley's ghost, as well as the older Marley. Peter Bull serves as narrator, by reading portions of Dickens' words at the beginning and end of the film; he also appears on-screen as one of the businessmen discussing Scrooge's funeral.


On Christmas Eve 1843, Ebenezer Scrooge tells two businessmen that he has no intention of celebrating Christmas. At his workplace, he refuses to donate to two men collecting for the poor. Shortly after, his nephew, Fred, invites him to dinner the next day, but Scrooge refuses, disparaging Fred for having married against his will. Scrooge reluctantly gives his poor clerk Bob Cratchit a paid holiday, but expects him back to work earlier the next day.

Scrooge returns home and sees the door-knocker transform into the face of his long-dead partner, Jacob Marley. That night, Marley appears as a ghost before Scrooge, warning that he must repent or suffer being forever bound in chains after death. He further warns Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits; the first will arrive at one o'clock. Frightened by the visitation, Scrooge takes refuge in his bed.

At one o'clock, the Spirit of Christmas Past arrives. Scrooge is shown himself alone at school, unwanted by his father ever since his mother died in childbirth. Next, the Spirit shows Scrooge the annual Christmas party thrown by his benevolent employer Fezziwig. He witnesses his proposal to his sweetheart Alice, who accepts his ring. He is then shown how he is tempted to leave Fezziwig's to join a business run by Mr. Jorkin, where he meets Jacob Marley.

After Jorkin's firm buys up Fezziwig's failed business, Alice breaks her engagement to Scrooge because of his dedication to "a golden idol." Scrooge witnesses the death of his sister Fan, Fred's mother, and discovers he missed her last words asking him to look after her son. When Jorkin is found to have embezzled funds from his company, which is now bankrupt, Scrooge and Marley make good on the missing funds, essentially taking over. Years later, Scrooge refuses to leave work early to visit Marley, who is on his deathbed. When Scrooge finally arrives, Marley tries to warn Scrooge against his avarice before he dies. The Spirit reproaches Scrooge for taking Marley's money and house, and Scrooge falls back into his bed.

Scrooge is awakened by the Spirit of Christmas Present who takes him to see how "men of goodwill" celebrate Christmas. He shows him poor miners joyfully singing Christmas carols and the Cratchits' warm Christmas celebration. Scrooge asks whether their disabled child, Tiny Tim, will survive his physical condition, but the Spirit hints that he may not. They next visit Fred's Christmas party, where Fred defends his uncle from his guests' snide remarks. Alice is then seen working in a poorhouse, where she lovingly ministers to the sick on Christmas Eve. When Scrooge is unable to tell the Spirit that he will profit by what he has seen, the Spirit shows him two emaciated children – personifying Ignorance and Want – and mocks Scrooge with his own words: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

Scrooge runs away but encounters the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, who shows him the Cratchits mourning Tiny Tim's recent death. He then watches as three people, including his charwoman, sell off the possessions of a dead man. When shown his own grave, Scrooge weeps openly and begs the Spirit for mercy, pleading "I'm not the man I was." He awakens in his own bed to learn that it's Christmas Day and he still has an opportunity to do good. When his charwoman Mrs. Dilber is frightened by his transformation, Scrooge reassures her and promises to raise her salary. He purchases a turkey dinner for the Cratchits and delights Fred by attending his dinner party and dancing with the other guests.

The next day Scrooge plays a practical joke on Bob Cratchit, pretending to dismiss him for being late but instead giving him a raise. The narrator recounts that Scrooge became "as good a man as the old city ever knew" and a second father to Tiny Tim, who did not die and is seen running without a crutch. Scrooge walks off with Tiny Tim as the film ends to the tune of "Silent Night."


Richard Addinsell wrote several pieces for the film's underscore, ranging from dark and moody to light and joyous. One of the more notable tunes is a polka, used in the two different versions of Fred's dinner party: the one Scrooge observes while with the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the other with Scrooge attending the party after atoning for his past coldness to Fred and his wife. The tune is similar to a traditional Slovenian polka called "Stoparjeva" ("hitchhiker") or just "Stopar".

The film also contains excerpts from some traditional Christmas carols and other tunes. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is sung over part of the opening credits, and by the miners when Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas Present. An instrumental version of "I Saw Three Ships" is played when Scrooge gives a coin to Mrs. Dilber, and again just before the end of the film. "Silent Night" is played and sung at various times, including over the last part of the final scene and "The End".

The English country dance "Sir Roger de Coverley" is played and danced during the scene where Scrooge visits the office of Old Fezziwig with The Ghost of Christmas Past.

The tragic folk song "Barbara Allen" is played as an instrumental when young Scrooge is talking with his sister Fan, and sung by a duet at Fred's Christmas party. Scrooge turns up in the middle of the line "Young man, I think you're dying," thereby causing the singers to stop before the last two words.

Comparison with the source material

In the film, Mrs Dilber is the name of the charwoman, whereas in the book the woman was unnamed and the laundress was named Mrs Dilber. The charwoman's role is greatly expanded in the film, to the point that she receives second billing in the list of characters.

The film also expands on the story by detailing Scrooge's rise as a prominent businessman. He was corrupted by a greedy new mentor, Mr. Jorkin (played by Jack Warner, a familiar British actor at the time) who lured him away from the benevolent Mr. Fezziwig and also introduced him to Jacob Marley. When Jorkin, who does not appear at all in Dickens's original story, is discovered to be an embezzler, the opportunistic Scrooge and Marley offer to compensate the company's losses on the condition that they receive control of the company for which they work – and so, Scrooge and Marley is born.

During the Ghost of Christmas Present sequence, Scrooge's former fiancée, Alice, works with the homeless and sick. The character is named "Belle" in the book, and becomes a happily-married mother of several children.

The film also posits that Ebenezer's sister died while giving birth to his nephew, Fred, thus engendering Scrooge's estrangement from him. We are also told that Ebenezer's mother died while giving birth to him, causing his father to resent him just as Ebenezer resents his nephew. In the book, Fan is much younger than Ebenezer, and the cause of her death is not mentioned.


The film was released in Great Britain under its original title, Scrooge. United Artists handled the U.S. release under the title A Christmas Carol. The film was originally slated to be shown at New York City's Radio City Music Hall as part of their Christmas attraction, but the theatre management decided that the film was too grim and did not possess enough family entertainment value to warrant an engagement at the Music Hall. Instead, the film premiered at the Guild Theatre (near the Music Hall, and not to be confused with the Guild Theatre which showcased plays) on 28 November 1951. [5]

Home media

The film was released on Blu-ray in 2009 by VCI, in a package that also included a DVD copy of the film, cropped into a faux widescreen format. This package only contained minimal bonus features. It was issued again on Blu-ray in 2011 with a remastered transfer, and many bonus features that did not appear in the first Blu-ray edition.



The film was one of the most popular in Britain in 1952, [6] [7] but was a box office disappointment in the United States.

However, the film became a holiday favourite on American television where it was broadcast regularly during the 1950s and 1960s. [8]

Critical reaction

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times posted a favourable notice, writing that producer Brian Desmond Hurst "has not only hewed to the line of Dickens' classic fable of a spiritual regeneration on Christmas Eve, but he has got some arresting recreations of the story's familiar characters," adding, "The visions of Scrooge's life story are glimpses into depressing realms, and the aspects of poverty and ignorance in 19th century England are made plain. To the credit of Mr. Hurst's production, not to its disfavour, let it be said that it does not conceal Dickens' intimations of human meanness with artificial gloss." [5] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post was also positive, writing, "This may not be A Christmas Carol of recent tradition, but I've an idea it's the way Dickens would have wanted it. It's the way he wrote it." [9] Harrison's Reports called the film "delightful entertainment," finding that "though it does have its somber moments it ends on so cheerful a note that one cannot help but leave the theatre in a happy mood." [10] John McCarten of The New Yorker was also mostly positive, writing that "there's enough good here to warrant the attendance of all save the hardest of heart." [11]

Variety , however, called the film "a grim thing that will give tender-aged kiddies viewing it the screaming-meemies, and adults will find it long, dull and greatly overdone." [12] Time magazine ran a mixed review, criticising the direction while praising the performances. [13] In Britain, The Monthly Film Bulletin was also mixed, finding that the film "as a whole lacks style" and that Sim resembled more a "dour dyspeptic" than a miser, but nevertheless concluded that "the film may please in its good-natured reminder of Christmas joys, and much praise is due to Kathleen Harrison for her inimitable playing of the true Cockney." [14]

See also

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  1. "Of Local Origin" . The New York Times . 23 October 1951. p. 35.
  2. "Scrooge (U)". British Board of Film Classification . 24 September 1951. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  3. "Dickensblog: Meet the maid: An interview with Theresa Derrington Cozens-Hardy" . Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  5. 1 2 Crowther, Bosley (29 November 1951). "The Screen In Review; Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol,' With Alastair Sim Playing Scrooge, Unveiled Here". The New York Times. p. 41.
  6. "Robert Beatty in boxing picture". The Mail . Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 31 January 1953. p. 3 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  7. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 259 via Internet Archive.
  8. Werts, Diane (2006). Christmas on Television. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. p. 14. ISBN   978-0-275-98331-4.
  9. Coe, Richard L. (14 December 1951). "'Scrooge' Differs From Other Carols". The Washington Post. p. B7.
  10. "'A Christmas Carol' with Alastair Sim". Harrison's Reports . 3 November 1951. p. 174 via Internet Archive.
  11. McCarten, John (8 December 1951). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. p. 67.
  12. "A Christmas Carol". Variety. 14 November 1951. p. 16 via Internet Archive.
  13. "Cinema: The New Pictures" . Time. Vol. 58 no. 23. 3 December 1951.
  14. "Scrooge". The Monthly Film Bulletin . 18 (214): 359. November 1951.