This is a delightful musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol. Cold-souled Ebenezer Scrooge has a change of heart after spirit visitations on Christmas Eve. Folks might not have had much to sing about in England in 1860, but this musical will make you believe otherwise. Kenneth More's musical number as the Ghost of Christmas Present is especially entertaining.
Albert Finney ... Ebenezer Scrooge
Edith Evans ... Ghost of Christmas Past
Kenneth More ... Ghost of Christmas Present
Laurence Naismith ... Mr. Fezziwig
Michael Medwin ... Nephew Harry
David Collings ... Bob Cratchit
Anton Rodgers ... Tom Jenkins
Suzanne Neve ... Isabel Fezziwig
Frances Cuka ... Mrs. Cratchit
Derek Francis ... 1st Gentleman of Charity
Gordon Jackson ... Tom - Friend of Harry's
Roy Kinnear ... 2nd Gentleman of Charity
Christmas films, like Christmas songs, are a hugely personal choice, and depend so much on childhood experience. But this is one film which does not lose it's charm, no matter how often I see it. The songs, sets and costumes are fantastic, the acting is inspired, and the musical scenes are beautifully choreographed. In fact, there is no other Christmas film, which has contributed so many songs to my Christmas repertoire! The fact that this version is an English production also helps considerably in the credibility department - the accents are authentic.
Aside from the scene in "hell", this film is admirably true to the spirit and content of Dicken's text, with some inevitable cuts which frankly, I didn't miss. More importantly, I have seen no other version which manages to combine the miserable qualities of Scrooge with the touches of wit and humour which Dickens so skillfully wrote with. Other versions of the film so often succeed at being dour, while failing to capture the joyous aspects of the story, and the humour Scrooge himself sometimes provides. Happily, this version Succeeds at both.
The 1951 version of the film, with Alastair Sim as Scrooge, is often touted as being the best. This may be where my age betrays me, but when I saw it recently, it left me feeling rather flat. Sim did a good job of appearing afraid of the ghosts, but where was his bitterness, skepticism and sarcastic wit? By contrast, Albert Finney's portrayal is a joy to watch - you cannot help but both love and hate the miserable old creature, which makes his transformation at the end all the more joyous.
The clever use of songs like "Father Christmas" and "Thank You Very Much" to convey very different sentiments at the end of the film than they do when first introduced in eaarlier scenes - marvelous!
Albert Finney, as the hilariously miserable Scrooge, singing "I hate People"
Alec Guinness as a truly original ghost of Jacob Marley - fantastic!
Kenneth More's Ghost of Christmas Present - what presence, what a costume!
Laurence Naismith as the exuberant Fezziwig - exactly as he should be, and a good dancer too!
Edith Evans (Elderly Ghost of Christmas Past), in response to Scrooge's "You don't look like a ghost", primly replying "Thank You!".
Mrs. Cratchhit's scream of shock when she realises who is delivering the enormous turkey to her door! I could watch it a hundred times!
This film is an underrated classic family musical. In the spirit and tradition of Oliver! and My Fair Lady, with an energetic memorable score and an eclectic cast all on top form. Sir Alec Guinness, Dame Edith Evans and the wonderful Kenneth Moore support magnificently. Moore in one of the last roles before his untimely death, clearly enjoying hamming it up as the ghost of Christmas present carrying the miserable scrooge along for the ride of his life whilst singing `I like life!' is a joy to see.
But Finney's performance is the standout. At a time when he was making films like Charlie Bubbles and Gumshoe, and with a reputation of being one of Britain's foremost angry young men this role was as unexpected as it was wonderful.
As a side note I was lucky enough to be able to see Anthony Newley as the miser in Bricusse's early nineties theatrical revival, and although good was no where near as cutting or humorous as Finney.
A must see at Christmas time, you too will be singing `I like life' and `thank you very much' for days afterwards!
In this delightful musical adaptation of The Charles Dickens' classic, Albert Finney is cast as Ebenezer in `Scrooge,' directed by Ronald Neame, who successfully manages to put a fresh face on the familiar tale. Original music and songs (by Leslie Bricusse), from the jaunty to the poignant, add to this uplifting and appealing version, skillfully crafted and delivered by Neame, and beautifully acted by one and all. At 7:00 on Christmas Eve, Scrooge finally tears himself away from his counting house and makes his way home, commenting along the way (in song) that `I Hate People,' only to be greeted at his front door by the apparition of his late partner, Jacob Marley (Alec Guinness). And of course for Scrooge, it's only the beginning of a night that will change his life forever. First, the visit from Marley's ghost, followed, in succession, by the spirits of Christmas Past (Edith Evans), Christmas Present (Kenneth Moore) and Christmas Yet To Come (Paddy Stone). Though not, perhaps, the definitive portrayal of Scrooge, Finney is outstanding and does lend some distinction to the character of the curmudgeonly miser, from the stoop-shouldered walk he affects to his twisted mouth. But, more importantly, he gets beyond the mere physical aspects to capture the personality and singular perspectives of the man as well, and in doing so makes his Scrooge unique; no small accomplishment considering how many times on stage and screen this character has been done, and by how many different actors. Also turning in notable performances are Edith Evans, who makes her spirit of the past warm and accessibly intimate, and Kenneth Moore, whose spirit of the present is as big and engaging as the life he represents. But the real highlight of the film is the portrayal of Marley's ghost by Alec Guinness. What a magnificent actor, and what a magnificent performance! When Marley first enters Scrooge's room he fairly glides, disjointedly across the room, encumbered by the chains he forged in life and which he now must carry around for eternity. There is a fluid rhythm to his every movement, to every step he takes, that lends a sense of the ethereal to him, without-- it must be noted-- the help of any special effects whatsoever. With nuance and precision, with care given to every minute detail, Guinness truly makes him an otherworldly presence. There has never before been, nor will there ever be in the future, an interpretation of Marley any better than this. It IS the definitive portrayal, and a tribute to talents and abilities of one of the great actors of all time.
In addition to the music and songs, there are a couple of scenes that consign this presentation of `A Christmas Carol' the stamp of uniqueness. The first involves the visit from Marley's ghost, wherein Scrooge is taken in flight by Marley, and once aloft they encounter lost souls and phantoms, doomed to wander aimlessly for all eternity. The second is courtesy of the Ghost of the Future, who gives Scrooge a glimpse of the nether world, where he is greeted by Marley, who shows him to the `office' he will occupy for eternity, as well as the massive chain Scrooge has forged for himself during his lifetime. The supporting cast includes Anton Rodgers (Tom Jenkins), who delivers one of the most memorable songs, `Thank you very much;' Mary Peach (Fred's wife), Kay Walsh (Mrs. Fezziwig), Laurence Naismith (Mr. Fezziwig), David Collings (Bob Cratchit), Frances Cuka (Mrs. Cratchit), Richard Beaumont (Tiny Tim) and Suzanne Neve (Isabel). Heartwarming and thoroughly entertaining, `Scrooge' is a welcome addition to the annual holiday festivities. It's always fun to see a new spin on a familiar story, especially when it's as well crafted as this; moreover, this one will leave you whistling a tune and humming for the rest of the day, maybe even for the rest of the year. And that's a deal that's just too hard to pass up. I rate this one 9/10.
# Richard Harris rejected the role of Scrooge. Rex Harrison agreed to play the part, but had to back out due to a commitment to a difficult play. (Harrison was also having an affair with Harris' then-wife, who he would later marry.) Albert Finney, who had been offered the role before Harrison but had initially rejected it, reconsidered once he read the script and asked for the role. (He was a business associate of Michael Medwin, the co-writer who played his nephew in the film.)
# Scrooge (played by then 34-year old Albert Finney) is actually younger than his nephew Fred (played by then 46-year old Michael Medwin).