Brian Desmond Hurst – Scrooge AKA A Christmas Carol [+Commentary] (1951)


Scrooge is a 1951 film adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. It starred Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge and was directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, with a screenplay by Noel Langley. It was released as A Christmas Carol in the United States.

Comparison with the source material:
In the film, Mrs Dilber is the name of the charwoman, whereas in the book the woman was unnamed and the laundress was named Mrs Dilber. The charwoman’s role is greatly expanded in the film, to the point that she receives second billing in the list of characters.

The film also expands on the story by detailing Scrooge’s rise as a prominent businessman who was corrupted by a greedy new mentor, Mr. Jorkin (played by Jack Warner) who had lured him away from the benevolent Mr. Fezziwig. When Jorkin, who does not appear at all in Dickens’s original story, is discovered to be an embezzler, the opportunistic Scrooge and Marley offer to compensate the company’s losses on the condition that they receive control of the company for which they work – and so, Scrooge and Marley is born.

During the Ghost of Christmas Present sequence, Scrooge’s former fiancee, Alice, works with the homeless and sick (the character is named “Belle” in the book, and her employment is not described).

The film also posits that Ebenezer’s sister died while giving birth to his nephew, Fred, thus engendering Scrooge’s estrangement from him. We are also told that Ebenezer’s mother died while giving birth to him, causing his father to resent him just as Ebenezer resents his nephew. In the book, Fan is much younger than Ebenezer, and the cause of her death is not mentioned.

The film retains the scene where Ebenezer comes to his nephew’s home on Christmas Day with some trepidation that he would be rejected because of his previous behaviour.

The film was released in Great Britain under its original title, Scrooge. United Artists handled the US release under the title A Christmas Carol and the film was originally slated to be shown at New York’s Radio City Music Hall as part of their Christmas attraction. However, the theatre management thought the film was too grim and sombre and did not possess enough family entertainment value to warrant an engagement at the Music Hall, in contrast to the 1938 A Christmas Carol, which did premiere at Radio City. Instead, the 1951 film premiered at the Guild Theatre (near the Music Hall, and not to be confused with the Guild Theatre which showcased plays) on Halloween night, 1951. The U.S. reviews were mixed and the film was a box office disappointment. However it was one of the most popular films in Britain in 1952.

The film received a favourable notice from The New York Times when it opened in 1951, and a mixed review in Time magazine[3] criticising the direction while praising the performances, but otherwise had not caused much of a stir. In the years since, it has attained classic status in the U.S. and become a favourite of the viewing public. Sim’s characterisation of Scrooge receives particular praise.

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