|You’ve gotta love Ebenezer Scrooge, that crusty old skinflint from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. His grim fate and miserly legacy seem etched in granite until supernatural encounters lead Scrooge to repentance and redemption. His radical change of heart reassures us that no one is hopeless. Maybe that’s why Hollywood has remade Dickens’ tale for film or television more than 100 times, including a new movie from Walt Disney studios and director Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express). Indeed, it seems each decade has given us a noteworthy spin on this timeless tale:
1938, A Christmas Carol
Many critics consider this fittingly time-worn Carol the best ever made. Reginald Owen stepped in to play Scrooge when Lionel Barrymore fell ill, though Barrymore would get his own Christmas classic eight years later as Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.
1949, The Christmas Carol
One of the earliest TV versions on record, it’s narrated by Vincent Price, and imparts gospel truth over the opening credits as a choir sings "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman." Available on YouTube.
1951, A Christmas Carol
This perennial favorite starring Alastair Sim (who would return as Scrooge in a 1971 animated version) is flawless … almost. Look closely when a reformed Ebenezer examines himself in the mirror, and you’ll see a crew member’s reflection too.
1962, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol
Its success paves the way for other cartoon adaptations featuring familiar characters such as Mickey Mouse, The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, Barbie, The Jetsons, Brer Rabbit, Oscar the Grouch and the canines from All Dogs Go to Heaven.
1978, Rich Little’s Christmas Carol
This one-man show starring the era’s master impersonator/comedian gives Dickensian figures the voices of cultural icons W.C. Fields, Humphrey Bogart, Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Groucho Marx, Peter Falk … and Edith Bunker.
Bill Murray plays a cynical TV exec who gets the Ebenezer treatment in this PG-13 comedy. It’s notable for peppering Dickens’ tale with profanity, gunplay and crass sexual references, making it the rare remake not suitable for families.
1992, The Muppet Christmas Carol
Michael Caine joins Kermit the Frog, Gonzo and Miss Piggy for a fun, festive musical with terrific songs by Paul Williams, as well as a warm nod to the One "who made lame beggars walk and blind men see."
2009, Disney’s A Christmas Carol
Advancements in computer animation, motion capture and 3-D technology allow Jim Carrey—a real Grinch in 2000—to portray yet another gnarled soul in need of holiday redemption. In addition to Scrooge, he also appears as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.
Published in Thriving Family magazine, Nov./Dec. 2009