Considered by many the best version of Charles Dickens' cautionary Christmas tale, this made-for-TV version was filmed in Shrewsbury, England, and earned George C. Scott an Emmy nomination for his complex portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. Mr. Scrooge, a commodities trader (rather than the money lender of Dickens's original), considers himself a sharp businessman;...read more
Considered by many the best version of Charles Dickens' cautionary Christmas tale, this made-for-TV version was filmed in Shrewsbury, England, and earned George C. Scott an Emmy nomination for his complex portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. Mr. Scrooge, a commodities trader (rather than the money lender of Dickens's original), considers himself a sharp businessman; he prides himself on having cornered the market in grain, exacting top dollar (or pound) and then wisely refusing to ship until he has "cash in hand." But to others he's just plain mean: His employees, including dutiful family man Bob Cratchit (David Warner), are overworked and underpaid; he's awful to his optimistic nephew (Roger Rees) and his family; and refuses to give alms to the poor because it just encourages them in their slothful ways. He only grudgingly gives his workers the day off for Christmas, and Cratchit, who has a wife (Susannah York) and five children — one of them, Tiny Tim (Anthony Walters), so sick that he may not live through the holidays — can barely scrape together the money for a turkey; the nice fat goose he'd love to buy for his family is beyond his means. But despite their poverty, the Cratchits are happier than Scrooge, something he couldn't imagine until he's visited by the tormented ghost of his late and equally miserly partner, Marley (Frank Finlay). The miserable Marley, burdened in death with a net of clanking chains earned through a lifetime of selfishness, ushers in three more supernatural visitors; they force Scrooge to confront the realities of his life. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Angela Pleasence) looks back on the people and events that hardened Scrooge's heart — including his father's (Nigel Davenport) harshness and the loss of his one true love, Belle (Lucy Gutteridge) — and turned him from a merely ambitious young man into a cruel miser. The Ghost of Christmas Present (Edward Woodward, of TV's The Equalizer) makes clear to Scrooge just how thoroughly he's despised by most of his acquaintances — which doesn't especially trouble him — and worse, how he's pitied by the Cratchits, who can't fathom a life rich in material goods but starved of love. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Michael Carter) gives Scrooge a glimpse of his future, which culminates in a cold and lonely death. Scrooge awakes on Christmas morning delighted that he's still alive and well, but giddy relief gives way to a serious commitment to change his life. It's easy to mock the sentimentality of A Christmas Carol, but this version, scripted by Roger Hirson and directed by Clive Donner (who had previously cast Scott as Fagin in his 1982 version of Dickens' Oliver Twist) preserves the story's dark heart. The Victorian atmosphere feels authentic and Scott is outstanding; the supporting cast is more than his equal.