Christmas Ghost Story: A Christmas Carol on film

scroogeI saved the very best for last; my all-time favorite story…ever. You would think a ghost story for Christmas would be a paradox but it actually works: the rattling chains, the hearse on the stairs, and the black-hooded specter. A Christmas Carol is a tale of hope and transformation, of second-chances and never-too-late redemption. The novella, written by Charles Dickens, was published in December 1843 and was wildly popular in Victorian England. In the 171 years since its original publication it has never been out of print and has significantly influenced Christmas traditions in Britain and the U.S.

A Christmas Carol has been adapted to theater, film, television, radio, and opera. There are Spanish, Italian, British, Australian, and American productions. There are several musical versions. There are adaptations featuring Mickey Mouse, the Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, Brer Rabbit, the Smurfs, Barbie, and the Sesame Street crew. There have been at least 20 movie versions dating as far back as 1901. There have been female Scrooges, Scrooges that quack, philandering Scrooges, executive Scrooges, and Scrooges that sing and dance. I’m just waiting for a Scrooge in tights and ballet slippers doing grand jetes across the stage.

 Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

holly and berriesThe 1962 animated Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is first on my list, not because I’m a fan of Magoo, but because it was my first introduction to A Christmas Carol and as a child it was sheer magic, partly because of the story and partly because of the musical score. The music is by Jule Styne and the lyrics by Bob Merrill and if the names are unfamiliar, a few years after Magoo’s Carol they did the music and lyrics for….Funny Girl. Some have called it the best Christmas Carol music ever. The song “All Alone in the World” still makes me sniffle.

A hand for each hand was planned for the world
Why don’t my fingers reach?
Millions of grains of sand in the world
Why’s mine a lonely beach?

Magoo’s Christmas Carol was the very first of the full-length animated Christmas TV specials to be produced. The cast includes Jim Backus, Morey Amsterdam, and Jack Cassidy. Oh, and did I forget to mention, I still love this version. 1962, 53 minutes.

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