There have been dozens of adaptations of 19th century novelist Charles Dickens’ iconic classic A Christmas Carol. While The Muppets Christmas Carol is my personal favorite version, the version that is considered by many to be the best was the 1951 film starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge.
This was the version that I remember watching as a young boy and learning the story of Scrooge. Reflecting back on it, I remembered thinking that I did not like how Scrooge only came around when he saw his tombstone. I wanted him to show more change going through the different scenarios that he was placed in by the Ghosts. Watching it now today, there is more of that than I remembered with Sim showing that the past and present affected him too. However, I do think I like versions that show Scrooge changing more obviously than right at the end.
This was a fascinating watch considering I hadn’t seen it since I was young. There was way more scenes included in the past than any other version that I have seen, which was interesting. Some of the things included in the trip to the past felt as if it could have easily been dropped out, such as Scrooge’s power play with Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern) with their business. There were some new info that I did not know before, but I am not sure that it was as impactful as it could have been.
Then, I thought the scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Present (Francis De Wolff) were short changed, especially the scenes involving Fred (Brian Worth). Fred’s Christmas party showed a little dancing and that was it. The scenes at the Cratchit’s house with Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) were fine, but this was also the biggest Tiny Tim (Glyn Dearman) I had ever seen. This kid did not seem too sick and that pulled me out of his scenes every time I saw the giant lad. I also thought that poor Bob Cratchit would never be able to carry him on his shoulders (he did though).
Alastair Sims was the reason to watch this film as he brought a sensational performance, especially when Scrooge returned from the future and was bouncing around his room and scaring Mrs. Dilber (Kathleen Harrison). I nearly fell off the couch laughing when he went to stand on his head. Sims brought an undeniable energy to that scene in particular and it was amazing to watch.
I appreciated the effects used on the ghosts too considering this was 1951. The different ghosts, especially Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Past, looked really good. There have been scarier versions of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come before and this one was just basic.
Another weird thing was Scrooge’s fiancé from the past, which I always knew of as Belle, was named Alice (Rona Anderson) in this version. I am not sure why the film changed the name of Belle to Alice. The recent Spirited also changed the name of Belle. This made me wonder what the novel called her and, after a touch of research, I do see that it is listed as Belle in Dickens’ original novel.
After rewatching this version, it is pretty clear that this is a great adaptation that still holds up. Alastair Sim stood out among the rest of the film as the highlight, and, despite the fact that I thought they could have cut some of the past and increased some of the present, A Christmas Carol (1951) was one of the best adaptations still.