Monday, December 14, 2009

12 Days of Christmas: George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol

“Old Marley was as dead as a doornail. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of this story I am going to relate.” Thus begins the 1984 version of  A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott, the version which this author believes to be one that eclipses all other adaptations of Dickens’ much loved book. There will be lovers of other film versions, namely the 1938 movie with Reginald Owen, the 1951 Alastair Sims rendering, and more recently, the 1999 version with Patrick Stewart, who may not agree. However, I was awed by Scott’s performance of Scrooge, not as a bumbling, crabby old man in a nightgown, but as a harsh miser, cruel man of business who progresses through the panoply of emotions from ruthlessness to fear, pathos and eventually joy.

There is no need to relate this well-known story here. This is a tribute to a marvelous ensemble cast and talented crew who brought Dickens’s own writing to life as it never had been before. Director Clive Donner, who had collaborated with Scott in 1982 for a version of Oliver Twist with Scott as Fagin, filmed the movie in Shrewsbury, England, and it looks and feels authentic in every way. Cinematographer Tony Imi gave a subtly diffused look to the film which strongly evoked feelings of a past time. Composer Nick Bicat’s score ranged from happy Christmas tunes to the frighteningly haunting, using sound effects, particularly for the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, that reminded me of fingernails on a chalkboard, disturbing and scary.

The cast is superb. Besides Scott as Scrooge, the cast is composed of primarily English actors who are well known and respected for their individual talents. Marley’s ghost (Frank Finlay), Fred Holywell (Roger Rees, who also narrates the film), Bob Cratchit (David Warner), Mrs. Cratchit (Susannah York), Scrooge’s father (Nigel Davenport), Angela Pleasance (Ghost of Christmas Past), Edward Woodward (a marvel of a giant as the Ghost of Christmas Present), Michael Carter (in the thankless anonymous role of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come), and young Anthony Walters (as the best Tiny Tim on film). There is a wonderful rapport of the cast and a particularly enjoyable chemistry between Scott and Woodward (as the Ghost of Christmas Present) that shines in this spectacular film.

I have written the tribute I planned. I will let pictures of the principal players in their roles tell the rest of the story. I hope you enjoy them, and that you will not let this Christmas season go by without experiencing this best of all Christmas Carols.

The wonderful George C. Scott as Scrooge

David Warner as Bob Cratchit

Roger Rees as Fred Holywell

Frank Finlay as Marley's Ghost

Angela Pleasance as the Ghost of Christmas Past

Edward Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas Present

Michael Carter as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come


  1. The best Scrooge ever! And great article, Becky!

  2. I agree with you completely, Becky, that this is the definitive adaptation. I've never forgotten George C. Scott's magnificent interpretation of Scrooge and Donner's beautiful evocation of 19th century London at Christmastime and watch for it every year (thankfully it seems to be aired more often than it once was). Great piece, Becky.

  3. Becky, this is an awesome tribute! George C. Scott is remarkable. I also really like David Warner. Dickens penned a very thought-provoking tale and the fact that it has been remade so many times speaks volumes as to its significance.

  4. Edward Woodward is amazing, when I first saw this I thought oh wow The Equalizer as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

  5. Great review, Becky. George C. Scott is a terrific Scrooge; he certainly looks the part! This version is a stellar adaptation, and I'm happy that you shared your love of a Christmas classic with the rest of us.

  6. Wonderful review Becky! i do not think George C. Scott can do a bad performance.. i also thought David Warner as Bob Cratchit was wonderful.

  7. My father-in-law and I had an argument about what we were going to watch: A football game or "A Christmas Carol". With my husband's support, we watched the Dickens classic. My father-in-law moped around but eventually joined us and at the end of the show he had tears in his eyes and agreed with us that this was the best ever version of "A Christmas Carol"

  8. Wonderful review, Becky, and I love the photos! I agree that this is probably the best all-around version and George C. Scott is marvelous...but I also have a soft spot for Alastair Sim's Scrooge.