A Christmas Carol (1951)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on December 13, 2023 @ tonymacklin.net.

If one wants to bask in a Christmas movie that may seem to be a precious relic from the past, you might see A Christmas Carol released in 1951 in black and white.

It's one of the most underrated films of all time. A lot of people today seem to consider Die Hard as a greater Christmas picture. They don't even know about the 1951 classic.

There have been several solid versions of Dickens' novella (1843), but the 1951 one towers above them all.

The main reason why is simple. It's the terrific performance by Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge. His transition from an embittered, miserable miser into a giddy man of generous spirit is remarkable. No one has ever captured rapturous, irrepressible glee as Alastair Sim does. He is the palpable personification of it. He makes one laugh out loud as he cavorts across the screen.

The depth and rigor of his performance have been lost, because they occur in a limited genre - Christmas movies. But his acting compares to some of the best on screen.

A Christmas Carol is the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, who is shaken to the core on Christmas Eve. He is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), who warns him about the eventual, ruinous fate of his character. He also is visited by three Spirits - the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. They all give Ebenezer insight into his folly and where it will lead.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a self-absorbed businessman, who has no consideration for anything, other than for his money. He is demanding and cruel.

Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) works slavishly for him in harsh conditions. But the Cratchit family is in a home of warmth and love, even though crippled Tiny Tim (Glyn Dearman) seems destined for an early death.

But the Spirits and their visions have a transformative effect on Ebenezer, and he becomes a different man. The scene with his maid Mrs. Dilber (Kathleen Harrison) is a delight.

The cast is uniformly good.

The screenplay adapted from Dickens' novella is by Noel Langley (appropriate first name). The director is Brian Desmond Hurst. He is greatly helped by cinematographer C.M. Pennington Richards. (There is a colorized version). The black and white version is superior because of Richards' effective, evocative lighting.

A Christmas Carol is not just a Christmas picture - it has the lasting glow of humanity.

© 2000-2023 Tony Macklin