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Film / A Christmas Carol (1938)

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A Christmas Carol is a 1938 film adaptation of the novel of the same name, and the first U.S. sound version of the film.

Directed by Edwin L. Marin, it stars Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge, Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit, Kathleen Lockhart as Mrs. Cratchit, Barry MacKay as Fred, and Leo G. Carroll as Marley's Ghost.

Lionel Barrymore, who had played Scrooge on the radio during the 1930s, was the producers' first choice for the role, until he broke his hip in an accident which confined him to a wheelchair, in addition to worsening arthritis. Barrymore recommended that his friend Reginald Owen take over the role of Scrooge instead.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed as a young woman in the film, as opposed to the childlike being in the original novel.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • The film includes several scenes of Fred and Bob Cratchit being Christmassy that are not in the book.
    • Scrooge tries to call the night watchman on Marley's ghost. When the police find nothing and leave, Marley reappears, confirming that he's real.
    • This adaptation has Fred not be married yet, but engaged, and the Ghost of Christmas Present warns Scrooge that they can't afford to marry, but saying it doesn't matter because their love could fade with time. Scrooge disagrees, and in the end he makes Fred his business partner so he can earn enough to support his wife.
  • Adapted Out:
    • This version completely removes Ebenezer's doomed romance with Belle, although the Ghost of Christmas Past does hint at it, saying that she had yet to show him the "black years" of his life.
    • Advertisement:
    • The scene where an undertaker, a laundress and a charwoman sell Scrooge's possessions to Old Joe is also adapted out.
  • The Dreaded: Scrooge is so feared that when Fred tells Tiny Tim and his brother Peter that he's Scrooge's nephew, they run away from him.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Bob Cratchit knocks Scrooge's hat off with a snowball, and as the latter starts to yell at him when his hat is run over by a horse and carriage. This leads to Bob getting fired and charged for damages to the hat.
  • Informed Poverty: The "poor as churchmice" Cratchits live in a house that actually looks like a pretty nice, middle-class home. Then again, considering the one of the kids guessed that Christmas dinner was going to be tripe, it likely costs a fortune in rent.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: The ghost of Jacob Marley is wearing the clothes he was buried in.
  • Lighter and Softer: This adaptation leaves out Scrooge's Start of Darkness and his breakup with Belle. Ignorance and Want are also adapted out. He's also quite happy throughout most of the "Present" sequence, even declaring, "I LOVE Christmas!"
  • Oh, Crap!: Bob Cratchit's reaction when he discovers that he hit Scrooge with a snowball and damaged his hat.
  • One of the Kids: Bob Cratchit slides on ice with neighborhood kids and also joins them in a snowball fight.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Martha knows something's wrong with Bob when he describes Scrooge as giving him the day off quite jovially.
  • Pun: When Marley's ghost disappears, the watchman jokes about alcoholic spirits.
  • Reality Ensues: Scrooge tries to call the night watchman on Marley's ghost, to no avail.
  • Running Away to Cry: Young Ebenezer is shown putting on a good face when he's the only one at his school apparently not going home for Christmas, but when the other boys leave, he's weeping in a classroom.
  • Sand In My Eyes: Scrooge repeatedly insists that "the cold" is to blame for his quivering lip and the tears in his eyes when revisiting his old school.
  • Snowball Fight: Bob Cratchit gets into one with some boys and then accidentally hits Scrooge, who fires him on the spot for it and then docks him his remaining wages to pay for a new hat.
  • The Unreveal: Scrooge extinguishes the Ghost of Christmas Past before she can show him "the black years of [his] life".
  • When He Smiles: Lampshaded by Scrooge himself when he shows up at his nephew's house after his conversion:
    Fred: Who are you?
    Scrooge: It's me! Your uncle Scrooge! Smile makes a difference, doesn't it?


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