Great Scrooges of Christmas past -- We rate 'Scrooge,'' ''Scrooged,'' ''Mickey's Christmas Carol,'' and more

By Tom Soter
Updated June 11, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • Movie

Who can say ”humbug” to A Christmas Carol? Charles Dickens’ enduring tale of goodness redeemed and greed transformed is one of the best-loved treasures of the holiday season. First issued in 1843 over the objections of a skeptical publisher, the story eventually inspired radio broadcasts, record albums, cartoons, and nearly a dozen films, the first released in 1908. Here are some of the best movie interpretations of Scrooge — and Tiny Tim, too.

A Christmas Carol (1951)
Scripted by a screenwriter with a love for Dickens’ dialogue and a gift for adaptation (among his credits, The Wizard of Oz), this black-and-white British-made movie emphasized the psychological over the spiritual, adding new scenes that depict Scrooge as a complex, tragic Everyman so afraid of poverty that he betrays his kindly employer and abandons his fiancee. Alastair Sim is the definitive Scrooge — amusing and frightening at the same time. And watch for The Avengers‘ Patrick Macnee in a small part as the young Marley. A+

Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)
A perennial TV favorite, this musical cartoon features the near-sighted Quincy Magoo (with Jim Backus’ voice) as Scrooge. The charming Jule Styne-Bob Merrill tunes include ”I’m All Alone in the World” and ”Razzleberry Dressing.” Bob Cratchit, incidentally, is a George Jetson lookalike. B-

Scrooge (1970)
This top-notch family musical works wonderfully when it is faithful to the original tale and fails when it gets too cute. Lots of singing (tunes by Leslie Bricusse), dancing, and glossy good cheer, with a hammy turn as Scrooge by Albert Finney, who scrunches up his face a lot. B+

An American Christmas Carol (1979)
Happy Days‘ Henry (the Fonz) Winkler is surprisingly effective as the miser at ages 22, 36, and 68 in an adaptation set in Depression-era New England. A thrilling reinterpretation that captures the spirit if not the letter of Dickens’ original. A

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1984)
Post-Walt Disney at its best, with fluid, colorful animation suggesting life on every frame. Always exciting to watch, even when the slapstick scenes deviate from the original, this Christmas Carol delightfully captures the magic, humor, and sense of wonder that are so much a part of both Dickens and Disney. A

Scrooged (1988)
This underappreciated ’80s update features Bill Murray as a heartless TV exec who learns the meaning of Christmas while casting a could-be-real network version of Dickens’ story (the cast: Buddy Hackett as Scrooge and Olympic star Mary Lou Retton as a backflipping Tiny Tim). In a comic high point, the cynical Murray creates a hilariously misleading promo for his Carol that utilizes violent action clips and ominous narration: ”Acid rain. Drug addiction. International terrorism. Freeway killers. Now more than ever it is important to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Don’t miss Scrooge. Your life might just depend on it.” A+

A Christmas Carol

  • Movie
  • 86 minutes
  • Brian Desmond Hurst