A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas was a short story by Charles Dickens which was published in 1843.
Known more commonly as A Christmas Carol, the story is about Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley, and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Scrooge is eventually transformed into a kinder man.
Although it wasn’t the first Christmas story published by Dickens, it remains his most famous and it incorporated many of the elements of Christmas that were popularised by the Victorians, such as family gatherings, seasonal food and charitable acts.
The tale quickly became popular and has appeared in several adaptations on stage and screen over the years, including many stories that have been inspired by elements of the original.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938)
After a few silent and low budget adaptations, MGM were the first to release a major film version of the book in 1938. The film starred Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge, however the role was initially intended for Lionel Barrymore who was unable to perform due to severe arthritis.
MGM watered down the story to appeal to a family audience so the only ghost to appear on screen was Marley. The Cratchit family are quite wholesome and do not appear to be starving or poor.
While the film was made in black and white, it was colourised for its 50th anniversary.
Scrooge was a British production directed by Brian Desmond Hurst and starring Alastair Sim in the title role.
The film expands on Scrooge’s background by revealing his mother died giving birth to him and his father never stopped blaming him. The younger Scrooge becomes a successful businessman but is corrupted by Mr Jorkin who does not appear in the book.
The tone of the film was far grimmer than the MGM one and wasn’t shown in many theatres in the US where it was entitled A Christmas Carol. It has gained in popularity over the years as audience tastes changed.
A musical version of the story was released in 1970 starring Albert Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness as Marley. It was filmed over a two period in London and the music was composed by Leslie Bricusse.
The musical was seen as a sequel to the musical Oliver! which had been released to great acclaim in 1968 and many of the same sets were reused. The musical managed to stay faithful to the book and Finney was praised for his performance which saw him winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy in 1971.
The film also received four Academy Award nominations, including for Best Original Song, Best Original Song Score, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)
Even the Muppets got in on the act with this musical version of the book which was released in 1992. Surprisingly, this version sticks quite close to the original material, although there were a few necessary changes to suit the format.
Michael Caine was cast in the role of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge while the narration was given over to The Great Gonzo as Charles Dickens. Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy were Bob and Emily Cratchit.
The film was moderately successful and was dedicated to the memory of Jim Henson who had died in 1990. The film was produced by Disney who would later acquire the rights to the Muppets franchise.
CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE MOVIE (2001)
An animated version A Christmas Carol was released in 2001 by Pathé but it was a commercial failure. Directed by Jimmy T Murakami, the film featured the voices of Simon Callow, Kate Winslet and Nicolas Cage. The film was also bookended by a live action sequence of Simon Callow as Charles Dickens reading the novel but these scenes were often cut.
The film was criticised for its dull animation and portrayal of the characters. The character of Scrooge is younger in this version and his romance with Belle is revisited.
Kate Winslet also sang the theme song.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2009)
Disney had a go at another animated release in 2009 but it received mixed reviews mainly due to its dark tone. The film was praised for its stunning visuals and good performances but was a disappointment at the box office.
The film was directed by Robert L Zemeckis and featured the vocal talents of Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Cary Elwes.
Zemeckis had loved making The Polar Express in 2004 and was hoping to emulate its success with A Christmas Carol which featured the same 3D visuals.
SCROOGE: A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2022)
In 2022, streaming giant Netflix released an animated version of the 1970 musical. Produced by Timeless Films, the film featured the voices of Luke Evans, Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Jonathan Pryce and James Cosmo.
It was released in select theatres on 18 November 2022 before making its debut on the Netflix platform on 2 December 2022.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984)
A Christmas Carol was a British-American television film starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge, Frank Finlay as Marley’s ghost, David Warner as Bob Cratchit, Susannah York as Mrs. Cratchit and Edward Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Filmed in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, the film was released theatrically in the UK, however was televised on the CBS network in the States. The rights for the film were owned by George C Scott and then later bequeathed to Baxter Healthcare by his family. The film is usually shown each year in the States and remains one of the most loved versions of the book.
Scott was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special for his portrayal of Scrooge.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1999)
Another British-American television film was made in 1999, starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. The film was based on Stewart’s one-man play stage adaptation of the story, as well as the 1951 film which were grimmer in tone.
The film was directed by David Jones and broadcast on TNT on 5 December 1999.
Stewart was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award for his performance.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL: The MUSICAL (2004)
This American film musical is based on a 1994 stage adaptation which ran annually at Madison Square Gardens until 2003. Some of the songs from the stage show were incorporated in to the film.
The film was shown on the NBC network on 28 November 2004, starring Kelsey Grammar, Jesse L. Martin, Jane Krakowski, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Geraldine Chaplin, and Jason Alexander.
The critical reception was mixed as the visual effects impressed but the acting was judged to be lacklustre.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2019)
This British three-part television series was written for the BBC by Steven Knight with Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott among the executive producers.
The cast included Guy Pearce, Andy Serkis, Stephen Graham, Charlotte Riley, Johnny Harris, Jason Flemyng, Vinette Robinson and Joe Alwyn.
The series was aimed at adults and contained sexual themes, including child exploitation and prostitution. The first episode garnered over 7 million viewers but declined over the next two episodes.
The series did not do well in the United States as it was judged too dark to attract casual viewers and it alienated Dickens fans.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (NORTHERN BALLET) (1992)
The novel was last adapted as a ballet in 1992 by Christopher Gable for The Northern Ballet. The ballet was choreographed by Massimo Moricone and the costumes were designed by Lez Brotherton.
The ballet portrays a traditional Victorian Christmas and blends classical music with familiar carols to create a festive atmosphere. All the usual characters are present, as well as Ebenezer Scrooge, we have the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, the Cratchits and Tiny Tim.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (THE ULSTER BALLET) (1994)
The Ulster Ballet have performed their ballet version of A Christmas Carol annually for the past twenty-five years.
The company wanted to do a different Christmas ballet and presented the idea of adapting A Christmas Carol to their director, Sara Miot, who had loved the tale since childhood.
The company presented a shortened version with borrowed costumes that first year but a full version was created the following year. The story is told though a mix of dance and narration with a large cast of dancers and actors.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL: The Ballet (Portland BALLET) (2021)
A major new version of the story created by John Clifford was premiered on 27 November 2021 by the Portland Ballet.
Tired of the endless productions of The Nutcracker, Clifford wanted to present something fresh for family audiences so the original tale has been toned down. The focus of the ballet is on understanding why Scrooge behaves the way he does and his path to redemption.
A new score was composed by Karl Moraski who had blended classical music with more traditional Christmas music that the audience with recognise.