Ebenezer Scrooge on Screen: Dickens Throughout the Years

Ever since Charles Dickens published a Christmas Carol in 1843, the name “Scrooge” has come to mean a mean, miserly person. He is one of most famous characters created by Dickens and one of the most famous in English literature. According to imdb, there are 124 portrays of the character both in films and on television, so this is by no means a comprehensive list, but a sampling of some if the best (and some of my favorites).

Scrooge (1935)

Actor playing Scrooge: Seymor Hicks
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 64
About the movie: This is one of the earliest versions of the film and one of the first with sound. Hicks had played the role over a thousand times on stage and in a early film in 1919. The film suffers from either a lack of budget or technical capabilities. Marley is only heard, not seen, even saying “Only you can see me.”
Directed by: Henry Edwards

A Christmas Carol (1938)


Actor playing Scrooge: Reginald Owens, who is probably best known to modern audiences as Admiral Boom in Mary Poppins
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 51
Notable cast members: Leo G. Carroll ( North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train ) plays Marley.
Ann Rutherford ( Gone With the Wind ) is the Ghost of Christmas Past
Husband and wife Gene ( Miracle on 34th Street) and Kathleen Lockhart play the Cratchets and their daughter June (Lost in Space) plays one of the Cratchet children in her film debut. It is the only film in which all three Lockharts appear together
About the movie: Lionel Barrymore was originally set to play Scrooge, but had to back out due to illness. Barrymore instead suggested his friend Reginald Owen take over the role. Barrymore did not perform the radio version of “A Christmas Carol” in 1938 so that it would not interfere with the success of the picture.
Directed by: Edwin L. Marin

A Christmas Carol (1951)

Actor playing Scrooge: Alistair Sims
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 51
Notable cast members: Mervyn Jones (Moby Dick ) as Bob Cratchet
Hermione Baddeley ( Mary Poppins, the AristoCats ) as Mrs. Cratchet
Jack Warner as Mr. Jorkin, a character created for the film. Warner was a very popular actor, appearing as Joe Huggett, patriarch of a Cockney family, in Holiday Camp.
Patrick MacNee ( The Avengers ) as Young Jacob Marley
About the movie: This version spends a lot of time in the past showing how Scrooge became the way he is and how he and Marley became the magnificent bastards that they are. Michael Horgrim, who played Marley was not on set with Sim during the Ghost scene, but was filmed later and added by optical printer, giving him a ghostly appearance.
My favorite moment in the film is when Scrooge goes to Fred’s party, and hesitates before he enters, not knowing how he will be received. He looks over at the maid, who nods encouragingly, giving him the strength to face his nephew.
Directed by: Brian Desmond Hurst

Scrooge (1970)

Actor playing Scrooge: Albert Finney
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 34
Notable cast members:Alec Guinness (Star Wars) as Marley
About the movie: Following the success of Oliver!, the studio followed with a musical version of Dickens’s story in fact using many of the same sets. Leslie Bricusse received two Oscar nominations for the music despite not being able to write music. The best known songs from the film is “Thank You Very Much.” Finney was cast in order for the same actor to play Scrooge as both a young and an old man. Finney’s performance as older Scrooge, is pretty bad, spending most of the time squinting and overacting. It also has a trippy scene with Marley showing Scrooge his quarters in hell. Guinness suffered a double hernia during filming
Directed by: Ronald Neame

A Christmas Carol (1984)


Actor playing Scrooge: George C. Scott
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 57
Notable cast members: Frank Finley (The Three Musketeers) as Marley
David Warner ( Titanic, Time Bandits) and Susannah York (Superman, Tom Jones) as the Cratchet
Roger Rees (Cheers, Robin Hood: Men in Tights) as Freddy
About the movie: This was a made for TV movie, shot on location in Shrewsbury, and the production values show. I don’t quite buy Scott’s conversion, but otherwise this is a very well done production. Scott decided that didn’t want to spend a cold shoot in a nightgown, so Scrooge is fully dressed for his adventures.
Directed by: Clive Donner

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Actor playing Scrooge: Michael Caine
Age of the actor playing Scrooge:59
Notable cast members: the Muppet performers, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, and Richard Whitmire among others
About the movie: This was the first Muppet film to be produced after the death of Jim Henson. The decision to use Gonzo as Charles Dickens was designed to use as much of Dickens’s prose as possible. Michael Caine has reportedly stated it as one of his favorite roles.
Directed by: Brian Henson

A Christmas Carol (1999)

Actor playing Scrooge: Patrick Stewart
Age of the actor playing Scrooge:59
Notable cast members: Richard E. Grant (Withnail and I) as Cratchet
Joel Grey ( Cabaret) as the Ghost of Christmas Past
Ian McNeice (Doctor Who) as Fezziwig
Dominic West (The Wire, 300) as Freddy
About the movie: Prior to acting in this television film, Patrick Stewart performed a series of successful theatrical readings of “A Christmas Carol” for Broadway and West End.
Directed by: David Hugh Jones


Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)

Actor playing Scrooge: Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island) as the voice of Mr. Magoo
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 49
Notable cast members: Morey Amsterdam (The Dick Van Dyke Show) and Paul Frees
About the movie: This is a play-within-a-play as Mr. Magoo is acting in a production of A Christmas Carol . Bob Merril and Jule Styne wrote the song “People” for the show, but it didn’t make it in. They used it for Funny Girl
Directed by:

The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)

Actor playing Scrooge: Walter Matthau (The Odd Couple )
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 58
Notable cast members: Tom Bosley (Happy Days ) as B.A. Humbug
Robert Morse (Mad Men) as young Scrooge
About the movie: This special is an animated remake of the live-action musical version created for the “Alcoa Hour” in 1956.
Directed by: Arthur Rankin Jr. & Jules Bass

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

Actor playing Scrooge: Alan Young (Mr. Ed) as Scrooge McDuck
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 64
Notable cast members: Clarence Nash as Donald Duck
About the movie: This is the last film where Clarence Nash provides the voice of Donald Duck and the first where Wayne Allwine provides the voice of Mickey Mouse.
Directed by: Burny Matterson

A Christmas Carol (2009)


Actor playing Scrooge: Jim Carrey (also plays the ghosts)
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 47
Notable cast members:Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’s Diary ) as Freddy
Gary Oldman (Sid and Nancy, Harry Potter) as Marley and Cratchet
Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hook )as Fezziwig
Carey Elwes in multiple roles and Robin Wright as Fan and Belle (both starred in The Princess Bride )
About the movie: This is an animated film using the motion capture technique used in The Polar Express , and although there is a bit of slapstick, it’s probably the most accurate to the original novel, including scenes not present in other versions
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Honorable Mention:
Scrooged (1988)

Actor playing Scrooge: Bill Murray as Frank Cross
Age of the actor playing Scrooge: 38
Notable cast members: Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Afrie Woodard (Luke Cage), Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear ), David Johansen (singer for the New York Dolls, also performed as Buster Poindexter), and Carol Kane (Taxi, The Princess Bride)
About the movie: This gets an honorable mention because technically it’s not Scrooge, in fact the characters are aware of Dickens’s story and are producing a TV version of it.
Directed by: Richard Donner

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