Name Occurs Before Title
Print Viewed By AFI
A Christmas Carol
New York opening: week of 2 Dec 1951
at Nettlefold Studios, Walton-on-Thames, England
Duration (in mins):
Print this page
Display Movie Summary
(Ebenezer Scrooge, as a young man)
Francis De Wolff
(The spirit of the present)
(Alice, young Scrooge's sweetheart)
(Fan, Scrooge's sister)
(Fred, Scrooge's nephew)
(The spirit of the past)
(The spirit of the future)
By special arrangement
By permission of the J. Arthur Rank Organization
On Christmas Eve, in 19th century London, Ebenezer Scrooge, a stone-hearted, penurious businessman, dismisses a plea by men collecting for the poor and disdainfully refuses an invitation to Christmas dinner from his cheerful nephew Fred. Scrooge, who browbeats his underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, grudgingly tells Bob that he can have Christmas day off, but warns that he should report earlier the following day. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cratchit happily buys food for Christmas dinner while their lame son, Tiny Tim, wistfully looks at expensive toys in a shop window. After having dinner alone in a tavern, Scrooge approaches the door to his house and is startled when the face of his long-deceased partner, Jacob Marley, seems to materialize on the doorknocker. Once inside, Scrooge is unnerved by the distant sounds of Marley’s voice and the ringing of bells. As Scrooge prepares for bed, the door to his sitting room flies open and the ghost of Marley, who died on Christmas Eve seven years before, appears. Though frightened, Scrooge orders the chain-laden Marley to be seated and dismisses him as “humbug,” a figment of his imagination and the result of badly digested food. Marley’s screams and demeanor soon convince Scrooge that he is real and he relates that he is destined to roam the world in chains, the consequence of ill things he did in life. He warns Scrooge to amend his ways because his chains will be even heavier, then announces that Scrooge will soon be visited by three spirits, and that their visits will give him a chance to avoid his partner’s fate. Terrified now, Scrooge rushes to his bed and closes the curtains around it. At 1:00 a.m., Scrooge is awakened by a less frightening ghost, the Spirit of the past. The spirit tells Scrooge to follow him for his own reclamation and transports them back to a Christmastime in Scrooge’s childhood: At his old school, young Ebenezer is the only boy not going home for Christmas. He is surprised by a visit from his beloved sister Fan, who tells him that their stern father finally has agreed to let him return home. Scrooge is touched by the scene and is reminded by the spirit that Fan died in childbirth, just as his own mother had. Now Scrooge is transported to an ebullient Christmas party given by Mr. Fezziwig, his former employer and a man who was kind to everyone. Scrooge has a twinge of regret as he thinks of Bob, then observes his younger self happily engaged to Alice. Scrooge continues to observe as time passes and sees Fezziwig refuse to sell his business to Mr. Jorkins, saying that there is more in life than money. The spirit then takes Scrooge to Fan’s deathbed: There the disconsolate Ebenezer leaves before hearing Fan ask him to promise to take care of Fred. After Fan dies, Ebenezer leaves Fezziwig for a higher paying position with Jorkins and meets Marley, another young clerk who shares Ebenezer’s new views on the importance of money. Soon after Fezziwig is ruined by Jorkins, Alice breaks her engagement to Ebenezer because she feels that money has replaced her in his affections. Seeing this, Scrooge is stricken by Alice’s tears and begs to see no more, but the spirit takes him several years further into the future, when Jorkins is ruined, due to the manipulations of Marley and Scrooge. Many years later, Scrooge is informed of Marley’s impending death and refuses to leave the office before closing to see him. When Scrooge does see Marley, he does not understand Marley’s words to “save” himself and callously takes over his dead partner’s house and property. Now Scrooge awakens in his bed and is beckoned by the jovial Spirit of the present, who takes Scrooge to see what is happening on this Christmas. He observes the impoverished but happy Cratchit family and sees that of all of Bob’s beloved children, the lame Tiny Tim is the most dear. When Scrooge asks the spirit if Tiny Tim will live, he is stung by a reminder of words he once callously uttered about reducing the population of the needy. Scrooge is further ashamed and startled by Bob’s toast to Scrooge’s health. Next, Scrooge is given a glimpse of the party that Fred and his wife are giving for friends, and hears Fred describe his uncle’s bad opinion of Christmas. In another part of London, Scrooge observes Alice as she is now, selflessly nursing impoverished women in a workhouse. The spirit then shows Scrooge two starving children who represent the world’s problems, and Scrooge runs away in horror. He is stopped by a black-hooded figure, the Spirit of the future. Scrooge sobs that he is too old to change, but the spirit wordlessly guides him back to the home of the Cratchits, who are grieving the death of Tiny Tim. Moments later, Scrooge sees his maid, Mrs. Dilber, a laundress and an undertaker bring things to a pawnbroker as they speak disparagingly about a man who died alone. At the stock exchange, businessmen joke about a man’s death, and Scrooge begins to wonder who has died. As the spirit takes Scrooge to a cemetery, Scrooge asks if these are things that will be or might be. The spirit does not answer, but points to a headstone that has Scrooge's name on it. On his knees, Scrooge cries that he has repented and is not the man he was. Scrooge is now awakened by Mrs. Dilber’s knock on the door. She does not understand his giddy exuberance after she tells him it is Christmas morning, and is shocked when he gives her money as a Christmas present and raises her salary. He then calls to a young boy in the street and offers a reward for him to summon the butcher. At the Cratchit house, the family is surprised by the anonymous delivery of a turkey, and laugh when Tiny Tim says he thinks it might be from Scrooge. That night, Scrooge goes to Fred’s house and is warmly greeted by Fred and his wife, who invite their uncle to dance with them. Early the next morning, Scrooge arrives at the office before Bob and pretends to be cross that his clerk is late, than laughs and says he is raising Bob’s salary. Scrooge states that he has come to his senses and wants to help Bob raise his family, then tells him to get more coal for the fire in his office. Scrooge laughs uproariously at his new happiness, and from that day forward is a changed man.
Renown Film Productions, Ltd.
United Artists Corp.
(1st asst [dir])
(Adpt and scr)
(Dir of photog)
Constance Da Pinna
(Cost for Mr. Sim, Mr. Hordern and Miss Edwardes des)
W. H. Lindop
Mr. M. Steiner
(Mechanical Victorian dolls loaned by)
Bracher and Partner
(Mechanical toys loaned by)
Great Britain and United States
Based on the novel
A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens (London, 1843).
Renown Film Productions, Ltd.
Western Electric Recording
Great Britain--History--Social life and customs
Brothers and sisters
Death and dying
The opening title cards of the viewed print read: "Renown Pictures Corporation Ltd./ Alastair Sim as/ Scrooge adapted from Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol.'" The film was copyrighted and released in the United States under the title
A Christmas Carol
, but released in Great Britain as
. According to information in copyright records, the American release may have changed the opening title card to read: "George Minter presents
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge."
Just before the action begins, a shot of the title page of Dickens’ novel is shown. Narrator Peter Bull then reads the famous last sentence of the first paragraph of Dickens’ novel: "Old Marley was as dead as a doornail." When the action opens, Bull delivers the first line of dialogue as a businessman in the stock exchange. At the end of the film, Bull is again heard in voice-over narration, relating words from the end of the novel. Like the novel, the film ends with the words, "And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!"
As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was produced at Nettlefold Studios, Walton-On-Thames. According to contemporary sources, prior to the film's production, Renown received financial backing from United Artists, which distributed the picture in the United States. According to press information contained in copyright records, for several key scenes in the film, director Brian Desmond-Hurst recreated vignettes from well-known illustrations of the book, among them the four color plates by John Leech, who illustrated the novel's first edition in 1843.
There have been many film and television adaptations of Dickens' story. For information on other versions, please consult the entry for the 1938 M-G-M production, directed by Edwin L. Marin and starring Reginald Owen and Gene Lockhart in
AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40
1 Nov 1951
8 Nov 1951
30 Oct 1951
New York Times
2 Dec 1951.
8 Dec 1951.
10 Dec 1951.
1 Dec 1951
3 Dec 1951.
14 Nov 1951
Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.