I’m a Christmas Carol fanatic. Not of Christmas songs – although those are nice, as well – but rather of the Dickens story about the grumpy old miser who is visited by four spirits (everyone forgets about Jacob Marley), and is scared straight into becoming a swell guy who forgives all his debtors and buys cool toys for children.
I’m hoping that wasn’t a spoiler.
I love the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge because I adore Dickens and his hodgepodge of rich characters. I take it as a guilty pleasure to indulge my romanticized notions of a Victorian Christmas, however misguided they may be. Because even more than Charlie Brown redeeming his sad tree or Rudolph and Yukon Cornelius subduing the Abominable Snowman, the tale of Scrooge’s change of heart is to me the quintessential holiday happy ending story.
Here are the best renditions of this classic:
Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol
If you like musicals, Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol is surprisingly filled with festive ear worms. Jim Backus (remember Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island?) is a powerhouse of off-key singing, but Tiny Tim’s “razzleberry dressing” song makes an appearance at our holiday dinner each year. It’s a sweetly obnoxious tradition you’ll want to pass along to your own kids.
Richard Williams’ A Christmas Carol
I’d been searching for years to find a copy of this 1971 animated version of A Christmas Carol, wondering briefly whether my childhood recollection had only imagined the somber artwork and frightening images of Ignorance and Want beneath the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Thank you, YouTube. Directed by Richard Williams and produced by Chuck Jones, this short film won an Academy Award and rightly so. With a Scrooge who seems pulled from the pages of Edward Gorey, Williams achieves a kind of devastating poetry in his perfect portrayals of despair and hope entwined in each character’s story.
Alastair Sim in Scrooge/A Christmas Carol
Alastair Sim’s Scrooge is perfectly miserable in a way that allows you to perversely appreciate the logic behind being so miserable while still disliking him for it. Watching Sim reminded me of Martin Clunes’ Doc Martin. And wouldn’t Doc Martin make a great Scrooge? Or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock? Bright, aloof, and endearingly grumpy smart asses.
The Muppets Christmas Carol
Michael Caine as Scrooge. Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit. Lots of Muppets. The rest, as they say, writes itself.
Saving my favorite for last, there’s not a single false note in this musical adaptation, and if you’re one for curating a show tune for every occasion, 1970′s Scrooge presents a cornucopia of sing-a-longs. No one is a better Ebeneezer than Albert Finney who at 34 years old masterfully played both old and young Ebeneezer.
Tiny Tim’s song of a beautiful Christmas morning will make your heart burst. And the final joyous scene of hundreds of British actors clogging through the streets, pulling faces, and singing with unembarrassed abandon is perfectly glorious in it’s goofy, whimsical hopefulness.
And don’t we all need more of that?