Scrooge is a 1970 musical film adaptation of Charles Dickens' 1843 story A Christmas Carol. It was filmed in London between January and May 1970 and directed by Ronald Neame, and starred Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge. The film's score was composed by Leslie Bricusse and arranged and conducted by Ian Fraser. With eleven musical arrangements interspersed throughout, the award-winning motion picture is a faithful musical retelling of the original.
|Directed by||Ronald Neame|
|Written by||Leslie Bricusse|
|Based on||A Christmas Carol|
by Charles Dickens
|Produced by||Robert H. Solo|
|Edited by||Peter Weatherley|
|Music by||Leslie Bricusse|
|Distributed by||National General Pictures (United States)|
20th Century Fox (United Kingdom)
The film was a follow-up to another Dickens musical adaptation, 1968’s award-winning Oliver!. The posters for Scrooge included the tagline "What the dickens have they done to Scrooge?", designed to head off any criticism of an all-singing, all-dancing old skinflint. Finney won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy in 1971. The film received four Academy Award nominations, including for Best Original Song for "Thank You Very Much".
On Christmas Eve 1860, in London, Ebenezer Scrooge, a surly money-lender, does not share the merriment of Christmas. He declines his nephew Harry's invitation for Christmas dinner and reluctantly gives his loyal employee Bob Cratchit Christmas Day off. Cratchit and his children go shopping and prepare for the holiday at home ("Christmas Children"). As Scrooge leaves his office, he declines two gentlemen's offer to collect money for charity and visits some of his clients including Tom Jenkins ("I Hate People"). As he makes his way home, he is accosted and mocked by street urchins ("Father Christmas").
In his house, Scrooge encounters the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley, who warns him to repent his wicked ways or he will be condemned in the afterlife as he was, carrying a heavy chain forged by his own selfishness and greed ("See the Phantoms"). Before leaving, Marley informs him that three spirits will visit him.
At one o'clock, Scrooge is visited by the Victorian Ghost of Christmas Past, who takes him back in time to his childhood and early adult life. They visit his lonely school days, and then his time as an employee under Mr. Fezziwig. Attending a Christmas party held by Fezziwig ("December the 25th"), Scrooge falls in love with Fezziwig's daughter, Isabel ("Happiness"). However, the spirit shows Scrooge how Isabel left him when he chose money over her ("You..."). He dismisses the spirit as he finds himself back in his bed.
At two o'clock, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, a jolly giant who shows him the joys and wonder of Christmas Day ("I Like Life"). Scrooge and the spirit visit Bob's house, learning his family is surprisingly content with their small dinner, while Scrooge takes pity on Bob's ill son Tiny Tim. The spirit comments that Tiny Tim might not survive until next Christmas unless the course of events changes. They next visit Harry's Christmas party, where Harry defends his uncle from his guests' snide remarks. Before the spirit vanishes, Scrooge is warned that life is too short and to do as much as he can in what little time he has.
At three o'clock, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, a silent, cloaked figure who shows him the next Christmas with Tom and the other citizens rejoicing at the death of Scrooge ("Thank You Very Much"), with Scrooge unaware of the reason they are celebrating. The spirit transports Scrooge to Bob's house, where he discovers that Tiny Tim has died. The spirit escorts Scrooge to a cemetery, where the spirit shows Bob mourning at Tim’s grave, then points out Scrooge’s own grave. A horrified Scrooge promises to change his ways before the spirit takes on a Grim Reaper-esque appearance and causes him to fall through his grave into the caverns of Hell. Scrooge is met there once again by Marley, who shows him to his ice-cold "office" to serve as Lucifer's personal clerk. Scrooge is adorned with an enormous chain made from his lifetime of past sins by four masked demons before finding himself back in his bedroom.
Finding it's Christmas Day, a gleeful Scrooge decides to bring happiness to the citizens of London ("I'll Begin Again"). He goes on a shopping spree, buying food and presents. He runs into Harry and his wife and gives them some overdue presents as well. They invite Scrooge to Christmas lunch, which he gladly accepts. Dressed as "Father Christmas," Scrooge then delivers a giant turkey, presents and toys to the Cratchits, and after making his identity known, gives Bob a raise and promises that they will work to find the best doctors to make Tiny Tim better. Scrooge then frees all his clients from their debts, much to their delight ("Thank You Very Much (Reprise)"). Scrooge returns home to get ready for lunch with his family and thanks Marley for helping him at a second chance at life.
- Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge
- Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley
- Edith Evans as Ghost of Christmas Past
- Kenneth More as Ghost of Christmas Present
- Paddy Stone as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
- David Collings as Bob Cratchit
- Frances Cuka as Mrs. Cratchit
- Richard Beaumont as Tiny Tim
- Michael Medwin as Harry, Scrooge's nephew
- Mary Peach as Harry's wife
- Gordon Jackson as Tom, Harry's friend
- Anton Rodgers as Tom Jenkins
- Laurence Naismith as Mr. Fezziwig
- Kay Walsh as Mrs. Fezziwig
- Suzanne Neve as Isabel
- Derek Francis as charity gentleman
- Roy Kinnear as charity gentleman
- Geoffrey Bayldon as Pringle, the toyshop owner
- Molly Weir as woman debtor
- Helena Gloag as woman debtor
- Reg Lever as Miller, the puppeteer
- Karen Scargill as Kathy Cratchit
- Keith Marsh as well wisher
- Marianne Stone as party guest
- "Overture" (removed from current Blu-ray release)
- "A Christmas Carol" – Chorus
- "Christmas Children" – David Collings, Richard Beaumont, & Karen Scargill
- "I Hate People" – Albert Finney
- "Father Christmas" – Urchins
- "See the Phantoms" – Alec Guinness
- "December the 25th" – Laurence Naismith, Kay Walsh & Ensemble
- "Happiness" – Suzanne Neve
- "A Christmas Carol" (Reprise) – Chorus
- "You....You" – Albert Finney
- "I Like Life" – Kenneth More & Albert Finney
- "The Beautiful Day" – Richard Beaumont
- "Happiness" (Reprise)
- "Thank You Very Much" – Anton Rodgers & Ensemble
- "I'll Begin Again" – Albert Finney
- "I Like Life" (Reprise) – Albert Finney
- "Finale: Father Christmas" (Reprise) / "Thank You Very Much" (Reprise) – All
- "Exit Music" (Bonus Track, not included on LP)
A soundtrack album containing all the songs from the film was issued on Columbia Records in 1970. Due to legal complications, however, the soundtrack has never been re-released in the CD format. The current Paramount Blu-ray release of the film has removed the Overture (intact on all VHS and DVD releases).
The film features an opening title sequence of numerous hand-painted backgrounds and overlays by British illustrator Ronald Searle. Art of the Title described it, saying, "As is often the case with Searle’s illustrations, the forms jump and squiggle into shape, the strokes loose and sprightly. In each scene, swaths of colour and life pour out, white snowflakes dotting the brush strokes." The illustrations later appeared in a book, Scrooge, by Elaine Donaldson and published in 1970 by Cinema Center Films.
Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune awarded the film three-and-a-half stars out of four praising Finney's "masterful performance". Arthur D. Murphy, reviewing for Variety, favorably wrote the film was "a most delightful film in every way," in which he praised Finney as "remarkable" and Bricusse's "unobtrusive complementary music and lyrics; Ronald Neame's delicately controlled direction which conveys, but does not force, all the inherent warmth, humor and sentimentality to both younger and audiences". Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that Finney's performance was "absurd, sentimental, pretty, never quite as funny as it intends to be, but quite acceptable, if only as a seasonal ritual." Overall, he felt the adaptation was "surprisingly faithful", and complemented Ronald Neame for directing "the movie with all of the delicacy possible after a small story has been turned into a comparatively large, conventional musical. The settings — London streets and interiors, circa 1860 (updated from the original 1843)—are very attractive, somewhat spruced-up variations on the original John Leech illustrations."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four feeling the film "works very nicely on its intended level and the kids sitting near me seemed to be having a good time." However, he was critical of Bricusse's songs, writing that they "fall so far below the level of good musical comedy that you wish Albert Finney would stop singing them, until you realize he isn't really singing." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times applauded Scrooge as a "lovely movie, one of the few genuinely family-wide attractions of the whole year, calculated to please equally all those who have loved the Dickens work forever, and all those enviable youngsters who are about to discover it for the first time." Reviewing for the New York Daily News, Ann Guarino wrote Scrooge was "bright with humor and moves along at a lively pace in 19th Century settings." She further praised the cast as "excellent," but described Bricusse's songs as being "pleasant, but unfortunately forgettable with the exception of 'Thank You Very Much'".
Pauline Kael, writing in The New Yorker, found Scrooge to be an "innocuous musical version of A Christmas Carol, starring Albert Finney looking glum. The Leslie Bricusse music is so forgettable that your mind flushes it away while you're hearing it." Jay Cocks of Time magazine derided Finney's performance as "drastically disappointing. [He] grumbles and hobbles through his part, employing mannerism instead of nuance." Cocks was also critical of Bricusse's songs, and summarized the film as "a high-budget holiday spectacular, a musical extracted from Dickens' A Christmas Carol that turns out to be a curdled cup of holiday cheer...First frame to last, Scrooge is a mechanical movie made with indifference to every quality but the box office receipts."
|Academy Awards||Best Art Direction||Art Direction: Terence Marsh and Robert Cartwright;
Set Decoration: Pamela Cornell
|Best Costume Design||Margaret Furse|
|Best Original Song Score||Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse; |
Adapted by Ian Fraser and Herbert W. Spencer
|Best Song – Original for the Picture||"Thank You Very Much" |
Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Art Direction||Terence Marsh|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Albert Finney||Won|
|Best Screenplay||Leslie Bricusse||Nominated|
|Best Original Score – Motion Picture|
|Best Original Song – Motion Picture||"Thank You Very Much" |
Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
|Laurel Awards||Best Male Comedy Performance||Albert Finney|
In 1992, a stage musical adapted from the film, featuring the Bricusse/Fraser songs and starring Anthony Newley, was mounted in the UK under the title Scrooge: The Musical. "I Hate People" was re-written as "I Hate Christmas", and a cast recording was released.
The show was revived in 2003 on a tour of the country by British song and dance man Tommy Steele, and he again reprised the role at the London Palladium in 2004 -making him the performer to have done the most shows at the Palladium. In 2007, Shane Ritchie played the part at the Manchester Palace. The musical was revived at London Palladium in October 2012 with Steele reprising the role. It ran till 5 January 2013.
In December 2022, an animated remake titled Scrooge: A Christmas Carol was released by Netflix. Produced by Timeless Films (the team behind the Monster Family films) and written and directed by Stephen Donnelly, it featured a new book, but included many of Leslie Bricusse's songs from the 1970 film. The film features Luke Evans as the voice of Scrooge, Johnny Flynn as Bob Cratchit, Fra Fee as Harry, Giles Terera as Tom, Olivia Colman as the Ghost of Christmas Past, James Cosmo as Fezziwig, Jessie Buckley as Isabel, Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Jonathan Pryce as Jacob Marley.
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- "Tommy Steele brings Scrooge back to Palladium from 24 Oct". Whatsonstage.com.
- Kennedy, Lisa. "'Scrooge: A Christmas Carol' Review: Slightly Off Key". New York Times.
- Scheck, Frank. "'Scrooge: A Christmas Carol' Review: Netflix's Trippy Take on Dickens". The Hollywood Reporter.