The clever story about second chances has been turned into countless films and stage productions, and is also celebrating an anniversary; it first went on sale 169 years ago today in 1843.
Here is a look at my picks for the top five film versions of this wonderful story. While most film critics claim that the best version is the 1951 theatrical release starring Alastair Sim, it didn’t make my top five. Sorry about that, Mr. Sim. If I expanded it to 10, you would have had a place for sure.
5. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) – This animated Disney film is splendidly charming, and brings back plenty of Christmas memories for me since I used to watch it with my son each holiday season. It also features one of my favorite movie Christmas songs ever, “Oh What a Merry Christmas Day”. This kid friendly version has Scrooge McDuck in the title character of Ebenezer Scrooge, and other Disney favorites, such as Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Goofy as Marley, and Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past. This version certainly warms the heart like no other, and better yet, you can watch it in about 45 minutes.
4. The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992) – Here’s another version I used to watch every year when my son was younger. Like “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”, this rendition offers plenty of kid friendly entertainment, but with the comic twist that only the Muppets can provide. Michael Caine, the only human in the cast, stars as Scrooge, while Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as a very aggressive and hilarious Mrs. Cratchit, and Fozzi Bear as Old Fozziwig, round out the cast and make for a lively movie experience.
3. Ebbie (1995) – A contemporary made for TV version provides a different twist on the story, casting females in the roles of Ebbie Scrooge (soap opera queen Susan Lucci) and Roberta Cratchit (Wendy Crewson. Those familiar with Lucci’s days on “All My Children” know she has the teeth to pull off the nasty Scrooge, but when it comes to the sweet, young Ebbie, Lucci seems a little out-of-place in the role. Still, it was the first contemporary version I’d seen with a female so it has a place on my list. Since then, it’s been done a few times, one in 2000 with Vanessa Williams in “A Diva’s Christmas Carol”, but none were as surprising or as good as “Ebbie”.
2. Scrooged (1988) – Director Richard Donner’s humorous take on the classic story casts Bill Murray in the lead role as a miserly television executive who is so cruel to his employees, he makes them work on Christmas Eve. Bobcat Goldthwait, David Johansen, Carol Kane also lend their talents to this uproarious comedy. Just like “Elf”, “A Christmas Story” or “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, this should become a must see in every household each holiday season.
1. Scrooge (1970) – The musical version of “A Christmas Carol” simply called “Scrooge” is my absolute favorite rendition. The film stars Albert Finney as the miser, and a plethora of other English actors I’m not familiar with, but who certainly add class and charm to their roles. The score is wonderful and features 11 catchy songs that I’ll admit I know by heart. When released in 1970, the movie wasn’t a hit with many critics (what do they know?) but Finney did win the Golden Globe for Best Actor in 1971 for the role.