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Jacob Marley is a fictional character who appears in Charles Dickens's 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. He is Ebenezer Scrooge’s deceased business partner, now a chained and tormented ghost, doomed to wander the earth forever as punishment for his greed and selfishness when he was alive. Marley roams restlessly, witnessing the hardships others suffer and lamenting that he has forever lost his chance to help them. Marley arranges for the three spirits to visit Scrooge and gives his friend an opportunity for redemption, which Marley tells him was "...a chance and hope of my procuring."

Jacob Marley
A Christmas Carol character
Marley's Ghost-John Leech, 1843.jpg
Jacob Marley's ghost visits Scrooge in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Original 1843 illustration by John Leech.
First appearanceA Christmas Carol (1843)
Created byCharles Dickens
  • J.M.
  • Mr. Marley
SpeciesGhost (formerly human)
FamilyJohn Marley (father)
BornMarch 8,1783
DiedDecember 24, 1836 (aged 53)

Appearances in various film adaptationsEdit

Frank Finlay as Marley
  • In the 1935 film Scrooge he is played by an uncredited Claude Rains. In this adaptation, he is invisible, and the viewers only hear his voice.
  • In the 1938 film A Christmas Carol, he is played by Leo G. Carroll.
  • In the 1949 television film The Christmas Carol, he is played by Earl Lee.
  • Michael Hordern played Marley twice, once in the 1951 film Scrooge and then as the voice of Marley in Richard Williams' 1971 animated film. Hordern also played the role of Scrooge in a 1977 television adaptation for the BBC, with the role of Marley played by John Le Mesurier.
  • In the 1954 television film A Christmas Carol, he is played by Basil Rathbone.
  • In the 1956 television film The Stingiest Man in Town, he is played by Robert Weede.
  • In the 1962 animated television special Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, he is voiced by Royal Dano.
  • In the 1969 animated TV film by Famous Classic Tales, Marley is voiced by Bruce Montague. This incarnation of Marley has a skull-like head with hair dancing up like a flame, a floor-length nightgown and chains wrapped around his waist.
  • In the 1970 film Scrooge, Marley is played by Alec Guinness. He is given an extra scene as he jovially greets Scrooge in Hell and shows him to the icy-cold office where the latter is to work as Lucifer's personal clerk. He even watches Scrooge being given his chain, which is larger than originally supposed, before leaving him with a "Bah! Humbug!" and a "Merry Christmas."
  • In the 1978 HBO special Rich Little's Christmas Carol, a one-man show in which all of the major roles are played by comedian and impersonator Rich Little doing impressions of various celebrities, Marley is played by Little (for comedic effect) as Richard Nixon wrapped in reel-to-reel tape. Many of the jokes center on Nixon's scandal during Watergate. For example, when he tells Scrooge that he's come to save him, Scrooge (Little playing W.C. Field) scoffs "You couldn't even save yourself. Also, much of the comedy is aimed at Nixon's trademarks, i.e. instead of the piercing scream that the character usually makes, he instead flashes his double-peace symbols and shakes his jowls.
  • In the 1983 special Mickey's Christmas Carol, the character is played by Goofy (Hal Smith). This version of the character was mentioned to be like a twisted version of Robin Hood, "robbing widows and swindling the poor," which ultimately led to his punishment of carrying his chains “for eternity... maybe even longer”. He was also mentioned to have left very little in the way of a fortune, leaving only enough for Scrooge to pay for Marley's tombstone, so the former had him buried at sea instead. After bidding Scrooge farewell, he falls down the stairs, letting out Goofy's signature howl as he tumbles.
  • In the 1984 made-for-television film of A Christmas Carol, the film opens with Marley's funeral procession. While Scrooge walks home, he hears Marley's voice calling him from an apparitional hearse, and then again before Scrooge sees Marley's face on the door knocker. Frank Finlay's performance as Marley is considered one of the best portrayals of the character.[1]
  • In the film Scrooged (1988), a modern interpretation of Dickens' novella, Lew Heyward, a version of Jacob Marley, is portrayed by John Forsythe. In a particularly memorable scene, he is depicted as a walking mummified corpse all covered in dust and cobwebs as he appears to Frank Cross, the film's Scrooge, played by Bill Murray.
  • In the 1991 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Devil's Due", Data reenacts Jacob Marley's scene, playing the role of Scrooge. A holodeck version of Marley is portrayed by William Glover.
  • In the 1992 movie The Muppet Christmas Carol, the character is bifurcated into two brothers named Jacob and Robert (a reference to Bob Marley) so that they can be played respectively by Statler and Waldorf (Jerry Nelson and Dave Goelz).
  • In the 1994 special A Flintstones Christmas Carol, the character is called "Jacob Marbley" and is played by Mr. Slate (John Stephenson). A stone tablet portrait shows Marbley cheating Scrooge by tipping his side of the scale with his finger.
  • In the 1995 made-for-TV film Ebbie, Jeffrey DeMunn plays Marley's modern version, Jake Marley, Elizabeth "Ebbie" Scrooge's mentor and later partner who dies of a heart attack right in front of her.
  • In the 1997 made-for-television film, Ms. Scrooge, Katherine Helmond portrays a female version of the character, Maude Marley. She explains that her only chance for salvation is for Ebenita to change her ways.
  • In the 1998 Canadian made-for-television Western version, Ebenezer (portrayed by Jack Palance), the character's last name has been changed to "Marlowe" and is portrayed by Richard Halliday.
  • In the 1999 made-for-television film version, he is portrayed by Bernard Lloyd. This film version opens with his funeral in 1836, then jumps ahead to 1843.
  • In the 2000 VH1 made-for-television film A Diva's Christmas Carol, Rozonda Thomas plays a female version of the character Marli Jacob, the former singing partner of Ebony Scrooge who died in a car crash years earlier. Unlike other adaptations, she is freed from her chains when Ebony changes her ways.
  • In the 2001 film Christmas Carol: The Movie, Marley is voiced by Nicolas Cage.
  • In the 2004 parody An Easter Carol, Marley is voiced by Tim Hodge. (as Grandma Nezzer)
  • In the 2004 film A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Marley is played by Jason Alexander. The film features a sequence in Scrooge's flashbacks in which he witnesses Marley die in the office and is unable to help.
  • Marley's Ghost is a 2003 play by Jeff Goode which is a prequel to A Christmas Carol.
  • In the 2006 movie A Christmas Carol, the character is portrayed as an anthropomorphic cricket (just like Jiminy Cricket, who played the Ghost of Christmas Past in Mickey's Christmas Carol). In this adaptation, he is given an extra scene where Scrooge's redemption frees him from his punishment.
  • In the 2006 animated film Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas the role of Marley is played by Sylvester the Cat and that of Scrooge is played by Daffy Duck.
  • In the 2008 comedy film An American Carol, the role of Marley is taken by the spirit of John F. Kennedy, portrayed by Chriss Anglin.
  • In the 2008 film Barbie: in a Christmas Carol, main character Eden Starling's Aunt Marie (Pam Hyatt) takes on the role of Marley. Marie first visits Eden in the form of a ghost chained with mirrors to warn Eden of her possible fate. Later, her strict upbringing of Eden was shown through flashbacks depicted by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Marie is later shown at the end of the film waving goodbye to Eden, this time without her chains and mirrors, showing that Eden's redemption had freed her from her punishment.
  • In the 2009 animated film adaptation, he is voiced by Gary Oldman. This version is shown to be in a state of decay, with his eyes taking some time to look at Scrooge properly and cheeks splitting at one point, rendering him unable to talk properly.
  • In the 2015 BBC television series Dickensian he is played by Peter Firth.
  • Early in planning for the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "A Hearth's Warming Tail", Discord was cast as a Jacob Marley like character; however, the concept was cut for time.
  • In the Thomas and Friends episode, Diesel's Ghostly Christmas, the role of Marley's Ghost is portrayed by Emily (played by UK: Teresa Gallagher/US: Jules de Jongh).
  • In the 2017 film The Man Who Invented Christmas, he was played by Donald Sumpter.
  • In the Beavis And Butthead episode "Beavis and Butthead Do Christmas", Marley is portrayed by Butthead, who visits a sleeping Beavis who is dreaming himself as the boss of his workplace Burger World, which he is running in a similarly draconic way as Scrooge acted. When Butthead appears, Beavis points out that he isn't even dead, but Butthead still tells him about the three spirits before departing.
  • On October 28, 2019, it was reported that Walt Disney Pictures is developing a musical film titled Marley, which will adapt A Christmas Carol through the perspective of Marley. Bill Condon will write and direct the film, while Stephen Schwartz is set to write songs for the film.[2]


  1. ^ "Scrooge U: Part XV - Great Scott!". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  2. ^ ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Director Bill Condon To Direct Musical Re-Imagining of ‘A Christmas Carol’ For Disney