Scrooge 11 and 12: Silent Movie Scrooge’s

wise men

When I started Scrooge Month I knew I would have to do the Alistair Sim, Muppets, Mickey’s and Scotts and I looked forward to them, but I also wanted to dig deeper and find more obscure versions of Christmas Carol.  Today’s entry probably takes the cake in that department. I was able to dig up 2 silent movie versions of Christmas Carol and they were both fascinating.  I make no claim to being a silent movie aficionado so I can’t really judge the movies for quality as I’ve seen probably 5 in my life.  If you live in Utah we do have an awesome movie-going experience in Salt Lake with an original Giant Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ at Edison Street Events.  I have been there twice, once to see The Kid, and then Phantom of the Opera and the silent movie with the organ the surrounds the entire room is amazing.  And it costs $6!

I wish sometime they would do these Christmas Carol versions there because the new recorded music on the DVD I had were weak at best.  In the second film I muted the sound and just watched (something that is a unique feature of silent movies I suppose!).

The first version is from 1923 and it is only 23 minutes long.  The quality is not great but I suppose it is all part of the charm. It only lists 4 people in the cast although more than that appear.

Scrooge is played by Russell Thorndike and Forbes Dawson plays Marley.

silent 1 scrooge

To show how mean Scrooge is they do something you’d never see in a million years in movies today (rightfully so) Scrooge wallops the kid singing Christmas carols outside his office with a heavy book.

silent 1 bookFred is the emphasis here and Cratchit is briefly seen.  We even get a random proposal to Mrs Fred’s Sister (that’s her name on the title cards)

silent 1 proposal silent 1 mrs fred

The Marley looks pretty good considering the quality of the rest of the movie.

silent 1 marley

silent 1 cards

Instead of taking Scrooge to see his past, present, future it is projected onto the wall (both films).

silent 1 past silent 1 expressions

We do not look in on Cratchit family but only briefly at Fred, Mrs Fred and Mrs Fred’s Sister.

What’s interesting is that Scrooge is already pleading with Present for redemption, just when Present announces he will visit Cratchit and Fred tomorrow.

silent 1 cards2

Evidently the thought of Present visiting is enough to scare Scrooge! We do get a brief visit from Future.

silent 1 future silent 1 changed

It’s just so different it’s hard to really judge it as bad or good, and I don’t know enough about silent films to judge it for its day.  It was fascinating to watch; however, and I enjoyed it. Hopefully you enjoyed getting a little taste of it.


Silent Film #2

Old Scrooge 1913 (released in 1926 to US)

This version is a longer 46 minutes but it makes some choices that are so different from what we are used to in modern versions.

It stars Seymour Hicks who I will review again in the 1935 talkie version.  He is good but it is clear this era saw Scrooge as a Frankenstein character.  He is even called an ogre in the title cards.

silent 2 scrooge silent 2 scrooge2

silent 2 ogre

He dresses like a bum which I have never seen in a version.  It’s so strange because he’s still rich and a businessman but he dresses like a tramp?  Maybe some of you know more about this era and can elaborate as to why this might be? 1913 was well before a depression era America so that’s not it.

Scrooge also refuses an actual poor person and the benefactors which I have never seen before.

silent 2 woman

It is also the only version I have seen where the office and house are in the same room and where Jacob Marley plays the part of all 3 ghosts.

silent 2 marley silent 2 past

We get the projections on the wall like we did in the previous picture but this time we see a few more scenes (and no strange proposal).

He comes to a pretty speedy penitence in this one as well and then it is the strangest thing.  Instead of going to Cratchit’s or Fred’s he imagines it. It’s like he is still the monster and can’t really celebrate with the people.

silent 2 cardssilent 2 toast Isn’t that so odd?

And that’s the end of the movie with his imaginary feasting.

I would say these films are more of a fascination than anything else.  The choices  they make, the way films worked, the silent movie acting are all very interesting.

If you aren’t a film buff than probably not for you.  They aren’t like Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin which will entertain in any era.  Definitely more challenging but I’m glad I saw them and if you can hunt them down give them a watch!

Scrooge 5: Scrooge 1951 (Alistair Sim)

1951posterBefore beginning this project I asked around social media and my friends what their favorite version of Christmas Carol is.  Some mentioned Muppets, Scrooged or other alternative versions but as far as traditional tellings Alistair Sim’s 1951 version came up the most.  It is without a doubt the most critically lauded and with good cause.  I would certainly rank it in my top 5.



Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge
Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Dilber
Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit
Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Cratchit
Michael Hordern as Jacob Marley/Marley’s Ghost
George Cole as Young Ebenezer Scrooge
John Charlesworth as Peter Cratchit
Michael Dolan as The Ghost of Christmas Past
Francis de Wolff as The Ghost of Christmas Present
C. Konarski as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Rona Anderson as Alice (Belle)
Carol Marsh as Fan
Brian Worth as Fred
Miles Malleson as Old Joe
Ernest Thesiger as the Undertaker
Glyn Dearman as Tiny Tim
Roddy Hughes as Fezziwig
Hattie Jacques as Mrs. Fezziwig
Louise Hampton as Laundress
Peter Bull as First Businessman, Narrator
Eliot Makeham as Mr. Snedrig
Hugh Dempster as Mr. Groper
Richard Pearson as Mr. Tupper
Jack Warner as Mr. Jorkin

Before beginning the review I wanted to speak out against the colorized version I saw at my local library.  Those colorized versions of classic black and white films are an absolute atrocity.  It looks terrible, like a pastel crayon was put to the film and ruin the gorgeous lighting and shadows we only get with black and white.  I’d rather you not watch the movie at all than watch a colorized version.

Moving on.


Scrooge- As I said Alistair Sim is Scrooge in this version.  He was a comedic British actor and evidently at the time Dickens films were all the rage.  Leonard Maltin does a fascinating introduction to the version I watched where he said David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Old Curiosity Shop and more had all been done and are considered masterpieces.  I will definitely be looking up those films because the shots looked gorgeous.

A comedic, yet still serious, actor like Sim is perfect for Scrooge because it creates a subtle performance that is hard to get when it is just anger, no wit behind the barbs and attacks. He is excellent at resisting yet being moved by the visits all the way till Future.  He feels he is too old to change and should just be done away with rather than try. That felt like a very human response.


Now we have to remember that the original text is a novella and so when taken to the big screen it is going to need some fleshing out in certain sections.  Each version adds to it in different ways and so far I haven’t seen a version that felt outrageous or so off keeping with the story that it angered me.


In this version we spend a lot of time with Past played by Michael Dolan.  We see Fan who is older than Scrooge in this version.  Scrooge’s Mother died in childbirth, which is why his father hates the sight of him.  There is a moment when Scrooge realizes he has done this same thing to Fan’s son and it is devastating.  We see Fan rescue Scrooge and then on her deathbed Scrooge storms out before he can hear her pleading with him to watch over her boy.  Again, another devastating moment very well portrayed by Sim.

We also get the Fezziwig’s and the girlfriend this time named Alice.  Some do not care for a man named Mr Jorkin played by Jack Warner.  He woes Scrooge away from Fezziwig and then embezzles money from the company, only to have Scrooge and Marley rescue the business and claim 51% of ownership as a result making ‘Scrooge and Marley.

The reason I do not have a problem with this is because the book does not tell you how Scrooge went from Fezziwig to losing Belle and being consumed with money.  We just know a new love has captured his heart and that he ‘fears the world too much’.  Something had to happen to have made him fearful.

He was a businessman so it is natural to assume he did business with all kinds of unsavory characters, especially the further down the line he got.  In fact, he compromises his judgement working with Jorkin once and as is often the case once leads to another, to another.  He alone is still responsible for becoming the man he becomes.  There are after all other men including Fezziwig who chose to not take the Jorkin bait.

So no that doesn’t bother me.  In fact, I found it an interesting take on the story. Like I said something has to have happened to have made him grow cold to the world.

The rest of the tale is pretty standard.  They do make a bigger deal of Mrs Dilber who is his charmwoman (servant).  She is one of the women who sells his things in the pawn shop scene and was played by a well known actress Kathleen Harrison who is very funny in the crazy scrooge segments (and so is Sim).

1951scrooge and cratchit

Strengths- All the acting is wonderful . Sim is great.  I love Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit, and Michael Hordem is my favorite Marley.  The scene of Marley’s ghost is so well done.  The music by Richard Addinsell is perfectly paced to build momentum towards our reveal.  The special effects of the era still look good and I love the way Marley looks tired and worn down.  It’s like every word is an effort.


This version also remembers the Christian element to the novella.  To Dickens, Scrooge just hasn’t ignored a pleasant holiday but he has ignored Jesus Christ and His gift.  At least to me, the book is so clear that Tiny Tim remembers who died on the cross and his foil Scrooge does not.

alistair and present

Present tells Scrooge “‘the child born in bethlehem. He does not live in men’s heart one  day a year but in all the days . You have chosen not to seek him in your heart; therefore, you shall come with me and seek him in the hearts of men of goodwill”.  That’s a message so often forgotten in most versions.

Because of the religious themes there is a real sense of repentance not just remorse at the end. As a Christian I find the ending very moving and definitely puts this version at the top of my watch list every season.

Like look at this shot where we see just Future's hand and then the look of horror on Scrooge's face.  It is stunning.
Like look at this shot where we see just Future’s hand and then the look of horror on Scrooge’s face. It is stunning.

The cinematography is uniformly strong with gorgeous shadows ,lighting and atmosphere.  They never go for the easy angle or uninteresting shot.  It reminds me of watching a Hitchcock film, that rich in cinematography and direction.   The acting is great all around and like I said the music is one of the best with carols coming at just the right moments (to emphasize the religious themes of repentance and atonement of Christ using carols).

Weaknesses- There aren’t that many.  But if I had to nitpick the past section maybe goes on a bit too long but it’s only an 86 minute movie so not really.  The Cratchit’s are great.  Tiny Tim is great.  The scene with Alice as an adult at the poorhouse is very moving.

I guess it is not the most kid friendly version with a lot of dialogue and definite scares but I don’t see that as a weakness because there are so many that are kid friendly (as my recent entries have shown!)

All in all a definite holiday classic that is a favorite of most film lovers and casual holiday moviewatchers alike and for good reason.