A Christmas Carol

( 13 )

Overview

For a generation of radio fans, Lionel Barrymore was the definitive Ebeneezer Scrooge. Alas, Barrymore was crippled by arthritis by the time MGM got around to filming Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in 1938, so the Scrooge role went to contract player Reginald Owen - who, though hardly in the Barrymore league, does a splendid job. Hugo Butler's screenplay must make some adjustments from the source material. The Ghost of Christmas Past, for example, is played not by a robust middle-aged man but by a beautiful ...
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Overview

For a generation of radio fans, Lionel Barrymore was the definitive Ebeneezer Scrooge. Alas, Barrymore was crippled by arthritis by the time MGM got around to filming Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in 1938, so the Scrooge role went to contract player Reginald Owen - who, though hardly in the Barrymore league, does a splendid job. Hugo Butler's screenplay must make some adjustments from the source material. The Ghost of Christmas Past, for example, is played not by a robust middle-aged man but by a beautiful young woman Ann Rutherford. Impeccably cast, the film includes such reliable character players as Leo G. Carroll Marley's Ghost, Barry McKay Scrooge's nephew Fred and Gene and Kathleen Lockhart Bob and Mrs. Cratchit. The Lockhart's teenaged daughter June makes her screen debut as one of the Cratchit children, while Terry Kilburn is a fine, non-sentimental Tiny Tim. Commenably short for a major production 69 minutes, MGM's Christmas Carol is one of the best adaptations of the oft-filmed Dickens Yuletide classic, and definitely on equal footing with the more famous 1951 Alastair Sim version.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
The critical community has generally treated this version of A Christmas Carol from MGM very harshly ever since the 1960's. That was when an overly cerebral generation of film writers came to embrace Brian Desmond Hurst's 1951 version starring Alastair Sim), with its dark psychological complexities, as the standard measure of all interpretations of the story. The MGM rendition is, to be sure, a lot lighter weight and is, in many ways, more MGM than Charles Dickens -- Hugo Butler's screenplay puts a huge amount of focus in the opening section on Bob Crachit (Gene Lockhart) and Fred (Barry Mackay), Scrooge's nephew, as well as embellishing characters and events, and notching up the melodramatic sides of the story by getting Crachit fired on Christmas Eve over a bit of whimsical snowball-throwing with a bunch of boys; and there isn't a lot of depth, psychological or otherwise, to the proceedings, other than the revelation of the basis for Scrooge's hatred of his nephew. And additionally, though Reginald Owen gives an energetic performance, he is somewhat defeated by heavy makeup (which is painfully obvious when this movie is seen in a theater). But all of that said against it, this version is of the story is the one to see for those who don't think of Christmas as an overly complex event on one's annual calendar (and maybe even for some who do) -- and that might be most of us. Owen's energy does overcome most of the problems with his interpretation, and his portrayal really comes to life when the visits by the three spirits begin. Sidney Wagner's photography is gorgeous, through and through, with the street beautifully dark as Bob Crachit leaves his place of employment, and the interiors beautifully detailed even in the less-than-opulent surroundings of the Crachit home. And Leo G. Carroll turns in a compelling performance as Marley's Ghost, that rich, sonorous voice intoning Dickens' (and Butler's) words and giving them an almost operatic impact, which fits well with the deceptively lively and complex score by Franz Waxman (which this reviewer wouldn't mind hearing in a proper, free-standing orchestral recording someday). Gene Lockhart's Bob Crachit is a charming portrayal of a man whose goodness makes him seem close to befuddlement, but who never loses sight of the love he feels for all of those around him, even in the face of the most terrible tragedies (glimpsed in the Christmas to come sequence). When, after being dismissed by Scrooge on Christmas Eve, he finds reason to laugh with those reveling around him, he is completely convincing and you just want to join in with him wishing all a merry Christmas, and the scenes with the Crachit family have special verisimilitude, as he is playing them with his wife, Kathleen Lockhart, and his daughter June Lockhart. And as a grace note, we get a delightful performance from Barry Mackay as Scrooge's nephew -- he's a charming figure, everything that his uncle is not, with a beautiful voice as well. Hurst's interpretation may please the scholars and the intelligentsia, but MGM's version -- produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and directed by Edward L. Marin -- has a simple, straightforward charm that should never be entirely overlooked in search of entertainment, and the gorgeous MGM production values, as well as a brace of fine players.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 12/23/1993
  • UPC: 027616145130
  • Original Release: 1938
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Reginald Owen Ebenezer Scrooge
Gene Lockhart Bob Cratchit
Leo G. Carroll Marley's Ghost
Kathleen Lockhart Mrs. Cratchit
Terry Kilburn Tiny Tim
Barry Mackay Fred
Lynne Carver Bess
Lionel Braham Spirit of Christmas Present
Ann Rutherford Spirit of Christmas Past
D'Arcy Corrigan Spirit of Christmas Future
Ronald Sinclair Young Scrooge
Billy Bevan Watch Officer
Charles Coleman Charity Canvasser
Harry Cording Waiter
Lumsden Hare
Forrester Harvey Mr. Fezziwig
Halliwell Hobbes Vicar
Boyd Irwin Men in Street
June Lockhart Cratchit's Daughter
William Stack
Technical Credits
Edwin L. Marin Director
George Boemler Editor
Hugo Butler Screenwriter
Jack Dawn Makeup
John S. Detlie Art Director
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Joseph L. Mankiewicz Producer
David Snell Score Composer
Irene Valles Costumes/Costume Designer
Sidney Wagner Cinematographer
Franz Waxman Score Composer
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design
Charles Dickens Source Author
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 18, 2012

    The best!

    This is one of the best versions of A Christmas Carol. One to watch every year!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great classic movie

    I look for this one on TCM every year. There's just something so wonderfully nostalgic and old Hollywood about it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A True Classic!!!

    I've seen all the versions of this Dickens tale, and this one is by far the absolute best! It's the only one I thought worthy of adding to the family library. It is a family tradition to watch this every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The acting and stage setting are perfection. A true classic in every sense!!

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    The Best Christmas Carol Movie!

    This movie is by far the best Christmas Carol movie that was ever made. It is a tradition in our family to watch it every year at Christmas time. In my opinion and many others that I know say no other movie compares. It's a must see!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    "The best version yet"

    If you love Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, this is the best version of it to date. I won't watch any other one, it's heart warming, funny and magical all in one. You won't be dissapointed!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    One Of My favorite Adaptations of A Christmas carol!

    I loved the book by Charles Dickens and have seen several of the many movie adaptations and this one with Reginald Owen is one of my favorites and I thought he was a great Ebenezer Scrooge and the rest of the cast is great too! I love the black and white version. I'm from a generation that grew up watching color movies but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate and like an old black and white movie. I saw the colorised version of this movie and I didn't like how it looked. Compared to actual, real color movies I thought that the colorization of the original black and white looked unnatural and fake. The skin tones looked painted. I would highly recommend the black and white over the colorized!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2004

    The BEST 'Christmas Carol'

    This is THE best version of Charles Dicken's 'A Christmas Carol'. Reginald Owen does an outstanding job of portraying the transformation of miserly, heartless Ebenezer Scrooge into a caring human being. The film excellently captures the feel of Dicken's England. All of the supporting actors do an admirable job. The film is marvelous holiday fare and suitable for the whole family (although the spooky Ghost of Christmas Future and Jacob Marley may be to scary for young children).If you're looking to get in the Christmas spirit this is the movie for you. The original black & white version is preferred but the new colorized version may have more appeal to a generation raised on color movies. Note: Bob Cratchit (Gene Lockhart) and his wife were husband and wife in real life. June Lockhart who plays one of the Cratchit daughters went on to play the mother in the 1960's TV series 'Lost in Space'. Leo G. Carroll, who portrays the ghost of Jacob Marley, went on to play the lead character in the 1950's TV series 'Topper'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2003

    I Like This Version Better.

    I know a lot of people like the Alastair Sim version more, but this one is my classic! Reginald Owen is classic! The cinematography is great also. Definitely equal to the 1951 version.

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    Posted September 27, 2011

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    Posted December 15, 2008

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    Posted December 3, 2008

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    Posted December 21, 2009

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    Posted December 20, 2009

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