Posted by: greercn | December 5, 2010

Scrooge (1951)

This classic Christmas tale of redemption keeps everything simple. It’s in black and white, opts for pretty London sets and has strangely-lit ghosts. There are none of the special technical effects modern viewers expect.   Yet the truly outstanding performances and script lift this to being a truly great movie.

Seeing this 1951 film again, in the Museum of London’s free series of London-set tales, was delightful and warming.

Alistair Sim takes the Scrooge role in Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” tale of an unhappy old miser who gets visited by his dead business partner’s ghost and three other apparitions on Christmas Eve. There are snowy images, carol singers, good will for all and a more general and pervasive human warmth here. This version of the story is faithful to the book.

So much stands out in this. The cast is a who’s who of excellent British postwar talent. Michael Hordern is Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s dead partner. George Cole is almost unrecognizable as the young Ebenezer Scrooge. Tiny Tim is given great presence by a very young Glyn Dearman. Roddy Hughes as Fezziwig  acts as a sharp contrast to the more venal business concerns of Marley and Scrooge.

Patrick Macnee is the young Jacob Marley and Jack Warner has the role of Mr Jorkin. With almost every frame of the 86-minute length, you find yourself saying “oh, isn’t that….?” as you realise that even Hattie Jacques is here.

Mervyn Johns and Hermione Baddeley play Bob Cratchit and his wife. Rona Anderson is Alice and it is her grace and style that highlight how Scrooge lost his sense of joy in life.

Brian Desmond Hurst directs this Renown Pictures film and it pulls you in, even though – if you are a bit older – you always know exactly what is going to happen next. I am told that Renown was known as “the home of British B movies” but this is a lasting and classic movie.

There is a profoundly religious message here and I couldn’t remember that being in the book, in such a clear and explicit way.  But I have looked it up and that faith underlies the text.

I thought the screening would be full of children and I was disappointed so few younger viewers were there. Young and old alike all looked enthralled and the 70 people who did attend all left looking happy and uplifted. It was great to watch the joy on the faces of the kiddies who were seeing it for the first time ever.  

It was a glorious way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Do support these excellent screenings. Next up is “Quatermass and the Pit” from 1967 on January 2nd 2011 at 2pm at the main Museum of London. Every film shown in this series has been a treat.

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Responses

  1. Ha ha, I just showed my students “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”, which is hilarious and one of my very favourite films. I am gobsmacked that Senex was played by the same actor (Michael Hordern) who played the lugubrious Jacob Marley. I have seen both films many times and would never have made the connection. I’m an old softie — A Christmas Carol always makes me cry. And another new thing I learned: Scrooge is the original British title. I had always assumed that the movie only had one name. Wrong on me.

    • The DVD is actually titled “A Christmas Carol” in some countries and it was released as that in the U.S.A. and Canada. It was called “Scrooge” here. I wonder if that was to cash in on the popularity of Alistair Sim and make it more “his” movie, for the U.K. audience? I was startled at how compelling and involving the story was, even though I know each scene well, not to mention having seen every remake and retelling of this. “A Funny Thing” is one of my favourite movies too. Anyone who loves the great Latin and Greek stories is probably pulled in by the wit, warmth and great performances. Thank you for the very interesting and thought-provoking comment, Michael.


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