I got it into my head over this holiday season to watch as many versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL as I could find and make a list of favorites. I don't know why I get these wild hairs, but I did. My criteria was simple: the version had to be available on a channel/service that I already had, and had to be free.
I mean, I wasn't going to go overboard on this thing. It was a fun way to relax.
The versions I ended up watching, listed by date and Scrooge, were:
1. 1938, Reginald Owen
2. 1951, Alastair Sim
3. 1954, Frederick March (an episode of the TV show, SHOWER OF STARS)
4. 1979, Henry Winkler (AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL)
5. 1983, Scrooge McDuck (animated)
6. 1988, Bill Murray (SCROOGED)
7. 1992, Michael Caine (Muppet version)
8. 1997, Tim Curry (animated)
9. 1999, Patrick Stewart
10. 2009, Jim Carrey (animated)
In my long life, I have also seen the George C. Scott version and the Mr. Magoo one. I left them off this list because I didn't want to pay to see them again and I already had ten films, which seemed like a marvelous number.
After watching different characters in different clothing and different settings say the same words over and over, I found that, although I can put them into a list of Most Liked to Least Impressed By, there were three films that I would watch multiple times, and seven that I wouldn't bother with again.
So (not that anyone cares) here are my results:
1. 1951, Alastair Sim. This has been my favorite for a long time. It is creepy as hell, which I enjoy--for Pete's sake, it's a GHOST story! I WANT the dour, creepy vibe of the world of vile, bitter Ebenezer Scrooge. I WANT him to be as scared sh*tless when Jacob Marley shows up as Alastair plays it. And then, when he reforms, Alastair lets loose and becomes mad with joy. I don't care if he chews the scenery. He's a man who's gone through an incredible transformation in one night. He deserves a little fiber in his diet.
2. 1992, Michael Caine. The Muppet version is as sweet as Alastair Sim is sour, so why is it my 2nd favorite? Because the Muppets are so damned zany and the musical numbers are darling and upbeat, and then Michael Caine anchors the film with his gravitas. It's the only version that makes me tear up at the end, when Beaker gives Scrooge the scarf around his neck and Caine is teary, exclaiming, "A gift? For me?"
3. 2009, Jim Carrey. This one surprised me. It's animated, kind of in the POLAR EXPRESS style. There's a bit of nonsense in between the Ghosts of Christmases Present and Future, involving being chased through London by a casket-carrying carriage drawn by magnificent black horses, but other than that, I liked the freshness of the dialogue. I know these lines by heart, and yet it sounded like I was hearing them for the first time. I'll take the nonsense in stride, especially if it includes horses.
Here are the rest, fallen away by miles from the top:
4. 1988, Bill Murray (SCROOGED). I love Bill Murray, but this was a little too grindingly mean for my tender heart. I do appreciate that Bill keeps his edge while he's being transformed.
5. 1983, Scrooge McDuck (animated). Yeah, it's simplistic and syrupy, but it's as comfy as an old sweater.
6. 1999, Patrick Stewart. Love me some Patrick Stewart, but I felt like the production was talking down to me, like they were telling me SUCH an IMPORTANT story and maybe they should explain just a LITTLE more so I won't MISS anything, seein' as how I'm an ignorant girl.
7. 1979, Henry Winkler (AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL, TV movie). From the lighting to the music, it has "Made for TV" written all over it.
8. 1938, Reginald Owen. I just don't like this guy as Scrooge. Maybe it's the hair, or his disturbing smile. Sue me.
9. 1954, Frederick March (an episode of the TV show, SHOWER OF STARS). It's definitely the condensed version of the story. The best part is Basil Rathbone as Marley's ghost.
10. 1997, Tim Curry (animated). This is a GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER style of animation, which makes everything cheesy. Good for Grandma, but bad for Scrooge. Plus, in this version he's got a dog. Inconceivable!
Being a CHRISTMAS CAROL connoisseur for the month was fun. Maybe I'll pick something else to compare and contrast next year.