Just weeks ago it was announced that a new musical version of A Christmas Carol is being produced to star Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds. Not much is known about the project, including a release date, but speculation is buzzing about just who will play Scrooge.
It is an interesting question. If there is any too-often attempted re-telling of any Christmas tale it is A Christmas Carol.
It’s not that we don’t love the story. And it isn’t like we don’t want to see new versions of it.
But can you really see Will Ferrell or Ryan Reynolds as Scrooge?
Indeed, the list of lousy Scrooges litter the Christmas landscape both large and small. Bill Murray, Jim Carrey and Kelsey Grammer were all terrible as Scrooge.
Who were the best? May we humbly suggest the following:
Albert Finney played a musical Scrooge in the 1970 production actually titled “Scrooge”. His transformation from a bitter cynic to a reformed fan of Christmas is aptly aided by the great score in this film.
But it is Finney’s miserly energy that makes his darkness so delicious in this fairly straight-forward version of A Christmas Carol. The film with some of its lame special effects really age the production but the music does give a better feel for the era in which the story is set.
George C. Scott
This made-for-television version was skeptically received due to the casting of George C. Scott, who had been indelibly branded as General George Patton, for which he won – and refused – an Academy Award.
While surrounded by an all British cast, Scott didn’t even attempt to adopt a British accent in his portrayal but his make-up in minimalistic and the hair and whiskers are his own.
Scott’s gruff growling early in the film works, as does his giddiness as Scrooge who finds he survives on Christmas morning. His is one version of Scrooge that just seems to get better and more believable with age.
This 1951 production of A Christmas Carol comes from the UK and while it was a box office hit in England the USA reaction to the film was that it was too dark and it did not fare well in US theaters. However, repeated television showings of the movie during the 50s, 60s and 70s has made it a classic and today this film is considered one of the best.
Sim’s portrayal is more grandfatherly than most. His darkness isn’t all that dark and his giddiness is sometimes over the top. Some consider that the most endearing quality of this Scrooge – he’s more like one of us.
Nobody saw the classic that was coming when the Muppets did their version of A Christmas Carol – especially with the refined Michael Caine cast as Scrooge.
In fact, everything about the Muppets doing Dickens seemed like a bad idea. After all, A Christmas Carol carries serious themes and in some ways seems ill-suited for small children.
But Caine pulls this off with a twinkle in his eye, and the Muppets, of course, bring both light and laughter to an otherwise sober tale.
Nobody is going to remember Michael Caine as Scrooge. But they will remember the Muppets Christmas Carol because Caine was part of an ensemble that told the story in a unique way (and with original music, too).
In another made-for-television production from just 20 years ago Patrick Stewart a.k.a Jean Luc Picard pulls off Scrooge to the surprise of many. Type cast, to be sure, as was George C. Scott, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a classically trained actor like Stewart could do Scrooge so capably.
This scene above is perhaps one of the best that showcases the internal conflict within Scrooge as Dickens wrote him. Stewart captures that conflict beautifully as he castigates and coaches his former self while at the same time bitterly condemning the ghost who brought him the memory. It’s far easier to believe Stewart’s “Bah humbug!” than his “Make it so”, which made him so famous.
Any new adaptation of A Christmas Carol needs to be approached warily. We have seen so many awful productions in the form of cartoons, CGI, and weak scripts performed by actors who just don’t have the chops for Dickens or Scrooge.
But the magic of the tale and the curiosity of the interpretation gets us every time. We’ll go see Ferrell and Reynolds no matter how they do Dickens.
Then we’ll let them have it – one way or the other.