Scrooge (1951 film)

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Scrooge - 1951 UK film poster.jpg
UK quad poster
Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst
Screenplay by Noel Langley
Based on A Christmas Carol
1843 novella
by Charles Dickens
Produced byBrian Desmond Hurst
Stanley Haynes
Narrated by Peter Bull
Cinematography C. M. Pennington-Richards
Edited by Clive Donner
Music by Richard Addinsell
Distributed by Renown Pictures (UK)
United Artists (US)
Release dates
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's 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. It also features Kathleen Harrison, George Cole, Hermione Baddeley, Mervyn Johns, Clifford Mollison, Jack Warner, Ernest Thesiger and Patrick Macnee. Michael Hordern plays Marley's ghost and the older Jacob Marley. Peter Bull narrates portions of Charles Dickens' words at the beginning and end of the film, and appears on-screen as a businessman.


Initial reaction to the film was mixed, but over time became mostly positive, with general praise for the performances, particularly Sim's portrayal of Scrooge.


On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge tells two businessmen that he has no intention of celebrating Christmas. He refuses to donate to two men collecting for the poor. His nephew, Fred, invites him to dinner the next day, but Scrooge refuses, disparaging Fred for having married. Scrooge reluctantly gives his clerk Bob Cratchit Christmas Day off since there will be no business for Scrooge then, but expects him back to start working earlier the following day. Scrooge returns home and is visited by the ghost of his seven-years-dead partner, Jacob Marley. According to him, Scrooge must change his ways or after death forever walk the earth bound in chains, as Marley does. He warns Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits; the first will arrive at one o'clock in the morning. Frightened, Scrooge takes refuge in his bed.

The Ghost of Christmas Past arrives. Scrooge is shown himself alone at school, unwanted by his father after his mother died in childbirth. His beloved sister Fan arrives to take him home, telling Ebenezer that their father has had a change of heart toward him. The Spirit shows Scrooge the annual Christmas party thrown by his former benevolent employer Fezziwig. He watches his proposal to his sweetheart Alice, who accepts. He is shown how he is tempted to leave Fezziwig's to join a business run by Mr. Jorkin. Scrooge witnesses the death of Fan, after giving birth to Fred, and discovers he missed her last words asking him to look after her son. Scrooge joins Jorkin and meets Jacob Marley. Jorkin's firm buys Fezziwig's business, and Alice breaks her engagement to Scrooge because of his dedication to "a golden idol". When Jorkin is found to have embezzled funds from the now bankrupt company, Scrooge and Marley make good the missing funds, on condition they can control the company. On one Christmas Eve, Scrooge refuses to leave work to visit a dying Marley. When Scrooge arrives, Marley, on his deathbed, knowing he will be punished for his misdeeds, tries to warn Scrooge against his avarice. The Spirit reproaches Scrooge for taking Marley's money and house, as an ashamed Scrooge finds himself back in his bed.

Scrooge is visited by the Ghost 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' Christmas celebration on Christmas Day. Scrooge asks whether their disabled child, Tiny Tim, will survive his physical disabilities. The Spirit hints that he will not unless the future is changed. They visit Fred's Christmas party, where Fred defends Scrooge from his guests' critical remarks. An older Alice is working in a poorhouse, where she ministers to the sick and homeless. The Spirit shows him two emaciated children, personifying Ignorance and Want. When Scrooge shows concern for their welfare, the Spirit mocks him and scourges the miser with his own words: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

Scrooge encounters the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who shows him the Cratchits mourning Tiny Tim's death. Three people, including his charwoman Mrs. Dilber, sell off the possessions of a dead man, and two businessmen discuss the man's upcoming funeral. When shown the man's grave bearing his own name, Scrooge begs the Spirit for a second chance. He re-appears in his bed, learns that it is Christmas Day, and realises he still has an opportunity to make amends. Though Mrs. Dilber is initially frightened by his transformation, Scrooge reassures her and promises to raise her salary. He anonymously purchases a prize turkey for the Cratchits and sends it to them. He delights Fred by attending his dinner party and dancing with his niece-in-law.

The next day, Scrooge plays a prank on Bob Cratchit and pretends to be about to fire him for lateness, but instead says he will raise Bob's salary and assist his family. Scrooge later continues being a generous man and becomes a second father to Tiny Tim, who does not die and recovers.


Brian Desmond Hurst Brian Desmond Hurst. Allan Warren.jpg
Brian Desmond Hurst

Sim was Hurst's first choice to play Scrooge. Hurst was immensely proud of the film and that it was shown endlessly. [5]

Teresa Derrington, who played Fred's maid who gives Scrooge quiet encouragement to see Fred, said Alastair Sim was not as encouraging to her during filming, and asked her sneeringly if it was her first film role. [3]

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. Dilber’s role is greatly expanded in the film, to the point that she receives second billing in the list of characters. The interactions of the two benefactors; Scrooge's nephew; and his clerk Bob Cratchit in the office are not in the same orders as in the book.

Samuel Wilkins who is in debt to Scrooge was not in the original book. The film also expands on the story by detailing Scrooge's rise as a prominent businessman. He was corrupted by an avaricious new mentor, Mr. Jorkin (played by Jack Warner), a role created for the film, who lured him away from the benevolent Mr. Fezziwig and also introduced him to Jacob Marley. When Jorkin is discovered to be an embezzler, the opportunistic Scrooge and Jacob 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.

The character of Scrooge's fiancée, named Belle in the book, and shown at the end of the Ghost of Christmas Past chapter to have become a happily-married mother of several children, is renamed Alice and is given an extra scene during the Ghost of Christmas Present sequence, where she is not married, and working at a shelter, tending to the needs of the poor.

The film reveals that Ebenezer's mother died giving birth to him, causing his father to resent him. In the book, Fan is much younger than Ebenezer, and the cause of her death is not mentioned. In the film, Ebenezer is younger than Fan, who dies after giving birth to his nephew, Fred, thus engendering Scrooge's estrangement from him, and causing him to resent his nephew like his father did before him. [6]


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" ("hitch-hiker") 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.


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. [7]

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, [8] [9] 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. [10]

Critical reception

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...The visions of Scrooge's life story are glimpses into depressing realms, and the aspects of poverty and ignorance in nineteenth-century England are made plain. To the credit of Mr. Hurst's production, not to its disfavor, let it be said that it does not conceal Dickens' intimations of human meanness with an artificial gloss." Crowther concluded, "...what we have in this rendition of Dickens' sometimes misunderstood "Carol" is an accurate comprehension of the agony of a shabby soul. And this is presented not only in the tortured aspects of Mr. Sim but in the phantasmagoric creation of a somber and chilly atmosphere. These, set against the exhibition of conventional manifests of love and cheer, do right by the moral of Dickens and round a trenchant and inspiring Christmas show." [7] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post was also positive: "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." [11] 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." [12] 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." [13]

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." It also called Sim's performance "a tank-town Hamlet." [14] Time magazine ran a mixed review, criticising the direction while praising the performances. [15] 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." [16]

The film gained popularity on TV. Patrick Macnee, who played the young Marley, cited the film as his favourite version of the story, stating that it "really seems to capture the true essence of the Dickens novel". In a 2016 review, Donald Clarke called the film "the best ever committed to film (of the book)", praising the cast's performances. [17] In 1999, Empire film critic Monika Maurer gave the film four out of five stars, feeling that while "some of the other performances have dated, Sim's haunted Scrooge stands the test of time, even today eliciting sympathy and - you just can't help yourself - joy at his transformation", and concluded, "Lashings of festive cheer and a fair dollop of fine performances will leave you in the mood for mince pies and a renewed sense of seasonal goodwill to all men." [18] Sim's performance still receives praise, with some calling his version of the character the "definitive" Scrooge. [19]

The film was nominated by the American Film Institute for its 2006 list of most inspiring movies. [20]

A scene of the film showing Alastair Sim appears on the screen of a television set in the 2024 Marvel film Madam Web .

See also

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