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My Favorite Versions of “A Christmas Carol”

posted by Nell Minow

My favorite Christmas story is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and I enjoy as many versions as possible every year.  I love it in just about any of its movie incarnations. “Bah, humbugs” have been muttered by Scrooges played by top-notch dramatic actors like George C. Scott and Albert Finney, former Miss America Vanessa Williams, former Fonzie Henry Winkler, Jim Carrey, and former “Saturday Night Live” star Bill Murray. I love them all. I’ve already listened to the Tim Curry and Jim Dale audio versions available on Audible.com, both delightful.  And I have the book, of course, with wonderful illustrations by Ronald Searle.

Here are my very favorite versions on film and I try to watch each of them every year.

5. “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” Who better to play Scrooge than his namesake Scrooge McDuck? And who better for the part of the unquenchable Bob Cratchit than Mickey Mouse? This compilation DVD includes other Christmas goodies “The Small One” and “Pluto’s Christmas Tree.”

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4. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” has the distinguished actor Michael Caine as Scrooge and the equally distinguished Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit. Special mention of A Sesame Street Christmas Carol as well.

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3. “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” The voice talent is outstanding, with Broadway star Jack Cassidy (father of teen idols David and Shaun) as Bob Cratchit and of course Jim Backus as Mr. Magoo, in this version an actor playing the part of Scrooge. The tuneful songs were written by Bob Merrill and Jule Styne, who later went on to write “Funny Girl.” (The legend is that their song “People” was originally written for this movie.)

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2. “A Christmas Carol” This MGM classic features the top stars of the 1930’s. Watch for future “Lassie” star June Lockhart as one of the Cratchit children — her real-life father Gene Lockhart played Bob. (He also appears in another Christmas classic, as the judge inMiracle on 34th Street.)  Reginald Owen plays Scrooge and this one has my favorite Fred, Barry MacKay.  I love Dickens’ description of Fred’s laugh:  “If you should happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man more blest in a laugh than Scrooge’s nephew, all I can say is, I should like to know him too. Introduce him to me, and I’ll cultivate his acquaintance.”

1. “A Christmas Carol” This is the all-time best, with the inimitable Alistair Sim as Scrooge. There has never been a more embittered miser or a more jubilent Christmas morning rebirth. When he orders that turkey for the Cratchits and walks into his nephew’s celebration at the end, everything Dickens hoped for from his story is brought to life.

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  • Kevin L.

    You left out Patrick Stewart, who performed the story as a one-man show on Broadway before filming a version for TNT. My favorite is the George C. Scott version, which I think is the closest to the original story.

    • Nell Minow

      I enjoy both of those, Kevin (and George C. Scott’s version has Michael Caine, who plays Scrooge in the Muppet version, as one of the spirits). They’re in my top ten, but not my top five.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dina C.

    Patrick Stewart has also recorded his version as an audio book. I look forward to listning to it every year at Christmas time.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary Keeley

    Nell! We not only both have the same favorite Christmas story (Dickens perfection)! We have the same favorite film version with the delightful Alstair Sim. Yaaay! When I worked as an Instructional Aide, I read A Christmas Carol to the class (6th grade) in increments in the weeks leading to Christmas. It is so true that kids of ALL ages like to be read to, they were quiet as little Christmas mice! And years later, I ran into one of the students who told me she became a teacher and never forgot me reading the story to her class. She said she reads it to her students every year. Wonder if Dickens every had any idea the wonderful lasting impact his lovely story would have all these many years later. Thanks for posting the list!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Serge Ladd

    No love for Bill Murray in Scrooged?

    : )

    Although since it’s not a direct adaptation of the classic… I suppose it’s okay!

    And my choice would be for Michael Caine and the Muppets.

    • Nell Minow

      Well, I mentioned Bill Murray in my intro, and I do like it, but it’s not in my top five. Some very funny satire, though, especially the TV shows.

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