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Film / Scrooge (1951)

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Alastair Sim as Scrooge.

Scrooge is a 1951 British film adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, written by Noel Langley (The Wizard of Oz) and directed by Brian Desmond Hurst. It's regarded by many as the definitive screen version of the story.

Heading the cast are Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge and Michael Hordern as Jacob Marley, both of whom would reprise their respective roles for the 1971 animated film A Christmas Carol. Mervyn Johns plays Bob Cratchit, while a young Patrick Macnee is seen as the younger, living version of Marley.

Clive Donner, who worked as an editor on this film, directed his own made-for-TV version in 1984.

Scrooge provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Villainy: In the novel, while Scrooge is heartless and unpleasant, it's never even suggested that he's corrupt or dishonest in any way (just the opposite: the novel's narrator clearly states that Scrooge's word on a contract was always his bond). In this film version, the young Scrooge is apprenticed to a corrupt and dishonest money lender and broker who embezzles funds, and it's strongly implied that Scrooge and Marley went on to adopt the same business practices.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In this version, the Bad Future starts with the Cratchits mourning Tiny Tim's death, then moves on to the thieves selling Scrooge's belongings, then saves the men talking about Scrooge's death for last. In the book, these happen in the opposite order. This makes our realization that Scrooge is the despised, robbed dead man more gradual, instead of it being fairly obvious from the start.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • This film makes a change very common to adaptations of the story, by including a scene where Belle (here "Alice") and Scrooge fall in love.
    • Adds an extended Start of Darkness sequence depicting how Scrooge was corrupted by an unscrupulous mentor, the Canon Foreigner Mr. Jorkin, luring him from Fezziwig's good influence.
    • This film shows Marley's death seven years earlier.
    • Then there is the touching scene where Scrooge comes to Fred's house to accept his invitation for Christmas dinner at last, fearful that he would be rejected, only to find he needn't have doubted Fred's love.
    • This movie covers Fan's Death by Childbirth, as well as her final moments with her brother.
    • Mrs. Dilber's presence was expanded in the movie as the first witness to the changed Scrooge.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Love interest Belle becomes Alice instead.
  • Adapted Out: The Cratchits have five children instead of six: three girls and two boys instead of three of each.
  • Age Lift: Fan in the original novel is Ebenezer's younger sister. Here she is the older sibling, with their father blaming Ebenezer for the mother's Death by Childbirth. Also, both are in their late teens/early 20s in the scene where she comes to bring him home from boarding school, whereas in the book they're children at that point.
  • Almost Dead Guy:
    • Young Scrooge, thinking his sister has died, bitterly storms from the room, and misses her dying request to him.
    • Later, much older Scrooge has Marley delivering a warning with his last breaths, but it's over his head. Scrooge even waits until business is over to bother visiting him; his maid incredulously declares "I'll see if I can get him to hold out, I'm sure!"
  • Ascended Extra: Mrs Dilber receives more screen time; in the book she's only seen in the future pawning off Scrooge's items.
  • Book Ends: At the beginning of the movie, Scrooge walks down a darkened street, ignoring everyone (and vice versa) and a blind man's dog actually pulls the man away from him, as if sensing that he's a bad person (this is a Mythology Gag straight out of the book). At the end, he walks down a well lit street, happily greeting everyone. This time he approaches the man, gives him a little money, and stoops to pet the dog, who happily accepts.
  • Canon Foreigner: The Predatory Business which buys out Fezziwig is personified by Mr. Jorkin, adapted from Mr. Jorkins, a character from David Copperfield. Jorkin serves as an Evil Mentor to Scrooge and Marley both, pairing them up in an ominous scene. He is later caught embezzling from his own banking house; Scrooge and Marley bail him out in return for 51% of the stock share, effectively a hostile takeover.
  • Comically Missing the Point: This exchange on Scrooge's staircase after he catches up with Mrs. Dilber and gives her a guinea.
    Mrs. Dilber: A guinea? For me? What for?
    Ebenezer: I'll give you a guess!
    Mrs. Dilber: [pause] To keep me mouth shut?
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mr. Jorkin; during Scrooge's past at the Amalgamated Mercantile Society, the ledger registers a liability of 3200 pounds, 8 shillings and 10 pence (£3200, 8 / 10 d), with assets of 11 pounds, 8 shillings and 10 pence (£11, 8 / 10d), resulting in a deficit of £3189.
    Jorkin: At least the 10 pences cancel each other out.
    Rosehed: How much of this is the company's capital?
    Snedrig: All of it, Mr. Rosehed.
    Rosehed: In short, sir, you're not only a bankrupt, you're also an embezzler of the company's funds.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: The Christmas Past sequence shows this happening to Ebenezer, along with him developing his Jade-Colored Glasses.
  • Creepy Child: Ignorance and Want.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pre-reformation Scrooge is full of snark, as is the corrupt businessman Mr. Jorkin.
  • Death by Childbirth:
    • Scrooge's mother died giving birth to him, leading to a troubled relationship between him and his father. This wasn't in the book, and is presumably the reason Fan is now Scrooge's older sister instead of the Dead Little Sister she was originally.
    • Scrooge's sister Fan. Which leads to a troubled relationship between him and his nephew Fred. Much like his father's relationship with him.
  • Death of a Child: In the Bad Future, Tiny Tim. Ultimately averted, however; see Throwing Off the Disability below.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Marley removing the bandage around his head is framed as this, instead of removing it and causing his jaw to drop after his identity has been established.
  • Empathic Environment: Jerkass Scrooge walks down a darkened street. At the end of the movie, a reformed Scrooge walks down the same street in broad daylight.
  • Expy: Mr. Jorkin is more-or-less Mr. Jorkins from David Copperfield transposed into A Christmas Carol.
  • Gilligan Cut: Though not played for comic effect, it is implied that despite the board of directors refusing outright to accept Scrooge & Marley's offer to take over the company that is on the brink of liquidation, due to Mr Jorkin's embezzlement, the directors reluctantly accept the offer. Obviously the board of directors were in a catch 22 situation. Either accept the offer or loss of jobs. And as seen in the next scene with Mrs Dilber warning Bob Cratchit on Marley dying, she enters the offices once Fezziwigs now known as Scrooge and Marley.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: By the time Jacob Marley finally realizes how wrong his and Scrooge’s actions were, he’s already on his deathbed. All he can do is warn Ebenezer that he must change his ways - a warning that, at that moment in time, goes unheeded.
  • Heel Realization: When Scrooge describes how much fun it was working for his old boss Fezziwig, he stops, noting that he wishes he could talk to his clerk, Bob Cratchit, and apologize.
  • Honorary Uncle: In the epilogue, Tiny Tim calls Scrooge "Uncle Scrooge."
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Scrooge and Marley were quite handsome in their younger days. Oddly enough when we see Alice in the present day, she still looks the same, just with slightly grayer hair. See Timeshifted Actor below.
  • Informed Attribute: Tiny Tim is supposed to be very ill, but he looks perfectly healthy barring the crutch.
  • Jaw Drop: A notable aversion, since this version of Marley's ghost does not need the bandage around his jaw to keep it shut, removing it within moments of appearing so that Scrooge is able to recognize him and seemingly having no problems talking either way.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Marley dies while attempting to warn Scrooge of his fate and telling him to save himself.
  • Large Ham: Marley is a big one, and Scrooge is one after his reformation.
  • Laughing Mad: When Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning and can't stop laughing out of joy, his housekeeper thinks, justifiably, that he's gone quite mad.
  • Leitmotif: During the two scenes that feature Scrooge's sister Fan, and in Scrooge's first scene with Alice, the folk song "Barbara Allen" is playing in the background. When Scrooge goes to Fred's party at the end of the movie, Fred and his friends are all singing the same song, and it continues (presumably non-diegetically) when Scrooge finally meets Fred's wife and accepts that they're actually a great match for each other. The implication is that Scrooge has at last reconnected with the part of himself that loved Fan and Alice and that is able have fun with other people and see value in the idea of romantic love. Apt, for a song about a man who dies of unrequited love.
  • Majority-Share Dictator: Scrooge and Marley obtain their wealth by offering to cover the expenses of their owner's embezzlement scandal in return for the right to buy up to 51% of the company's shares. Naturally this gives them absolute power over the day-to-day business of the company.
  • Market-Based Title: Was released simply as A Christmas Carol in some markets, including the US.
  • Maternal Death? Blame the Child!: Why Scrooge's father abandoned him at boarding school. This is a change from the book where Fan is expressly stated to be Scrooge's younger sister. Scrooge unfortunately grows up to be too much like his father, and blames his nephew Fred for his sister Fan's death just as his father blamed him for his mother's.
  • Maybe Ever After: In contrast to the novel where she has a family of her own, Alice/Belle's romantic situation isn't addressed. She's also shown in the Christmas Present sequence, where she isn't in the novel. Although it isn't explicitly stated, this does leave things open for Scrooge to reconcile with her if she isn't married.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When he gets a better look at Fan's death, Scrooge realizes that she asked him to look after Fred. He begins to feel very contrite, as he has gone out of his way to avoid Fred.
    Scrooge: Forgive me, Fan!
  • Mythology Gag: The blind man's dog hurriedly pulling him away from Scrooge is something explicitly described in the novella.
  • Oireland: The homeless lady Alice is seen feeding during the Christmas Present sequence has a very broad, almost comical Irish accent - not out of place for a work set in the aftermath of the Irish Potato Famine.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Bob Cratchit’s youngest daughter is unnamed in the book. In this movie, her name is Mary.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: In the scene at the rag and bone man's shack, Mrs. Dilber explains that helping themselves to Scrooge's things is punishment for the grasping and unfeeling life he led.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Mr. Jorkin, when confronted on charges of embezzlement.
    Rosehed: In short, sir, you're not only a bankrupt, you're an embezzler of the company's funds.
    Jorkin: I also beat my wife and skewer innocent babies when in my cups.
  • Sentenced to Down Under: Averted. When Mr. Jorkin is found to have embezzled over £3,000 from the company, and subsequently spent it all, he points out that trying him for his crimes would expose the rest of the board to...undue financial risk:
    Mr. Jorkin: And what would you gain to prosecute me? All you would get out of it is about eleven pounds-odd. And to pack me off to Botany Bay would be poor compensation for the panic that would arise among the shareholders.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The tune that Mr Jorkin is whistling when he offers Scrooge a job is "The Lincolnshire Poacher", about a poacher who enjoys unlawfully entering property and trapping game there.
    • After Marley's death scene, Christmas Past calls Scrooge a "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, covetous old sinner" — exactly as Charles Dickens describes him in the novel.
    • At Fred's party, Flora chides Mr. Tupper for flirting with her - but the motion she makes with her fan is Victorian code for "I am pleased and interested in you".
  • Start of Darkness: The Christmas Past sequence explores this in more detail than the book.
  • Stepford Smiler: When Bob Cratchit comes home in the Christmas Yet To Come part, he tries to pretend that he's happy about an imagined goodbye from Tiny Tim's spirit. But he quickly collapses into his wife's arms in tears.
  • Storybook Opening: The film opens with an unseen person's hand pulling A Christmas Carol from a bookshelf containing several other Dickens works, then opening it to reveal the credits therein.
  • Taking You with Me: Mr. Jorkin's threat to the rest of the board members. See Sentenced to Down Under above.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: The epilogue shows a fully healthy, crutch-free Tiny Tim running to greet Scrooge in the street.
  • Timeshifted Actor: George Cole as Young Ebenezer Scrooge and Patrick Macnee as Young Jacob Marley. Averted with Alice, who is played by a single actress across the entire timeframe, presumably to show how her honest living and loving demeanour have aged her more gracefully.
  • Truer to the Text: Even though this movie takes its own set of liberties that other adaptations don't, it still includes quite a bit of dialogue from the book that often tends to be left out. For example, it includes the sequence where Scrooge threatens to swallow a toothpick while talking with Marley, something very few film adaptations do.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: "What does this party cost in your mortal money?", says the Ghost of Christmas Past at Fezziwig's party. The point, of course, is to show how little money counts in the spirit life.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the original novel the Christmas Past sequence shows that Belle married someone else and had a family, which is the last we see of her. This adaptation shows her counterpart Alice in the Christmas Present, helping feed the poor on Christmas Day, but whether she had a family is unaddressed. It's also unknown what happened to Mr Jorkin, although it is safely assumed like Marley, he is deceased and is likely suffering the same punishment as Marley by being fettered in chains for his crimes.

Alternative Title(s): A Christmas Carol 1951