Of all the film and TV versions of A Christmas Carol this 1951 version produced in England and starring Alastair Sim is our favorite. In 2021, our theme was A Christmas Carol, and we tried to watch every possible version — from the 1938 MGM to the recent FX version, which is far more of a grotesque horror movie. The 1951 version takes a few liberties with the script (embellishing some of the characters and adding some background, such as Scrooge’s mother and his sister dying in childbirth and connecting grief to hard-heartedness), but those additions serve to add substance to the story.
Do you really need one? Nothing essential from Dickens’s timeless tale is changed.
NEW YORK CONNECTION
There is absolutely no New York connection to this film, but we can’t watch Christmas movies without including this. It’s one of six non-New York essentials that we will be including, and most of those have some vague stretch to New York. Not this one.
It’s an essential Christmas story, without all of the action happening on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are carolers, trees, sumptuous dinners, dancing, and gifts. All of the important details.
Since it is a British production, nearly all of the actors did not do much in the classic Hollywood films that form the bulk of our Christmas watchlist. Alastair Sim has a key role in Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (1950). We remember Merwyn Johns (Bob Cratchit) from a frightening role in Dead of Night (1945), and he had a few bit parts in famed British TV series, such as The Avengers, The Saint, and Secret Agent. He played Peleg in John Huston’s version of Moby Dick, which starred Gregory Peck. Miles Malleson also appeared in Hitchcock’s Stage Fright and Dead of Night. He had small parts in several of the Ealing Studio comedies starring Alec Guinness, such as Kind Hearts & Coronets and The Man in the White Suit.
Not surprisingly, I could find no connection to Fred Astaire.
WHY WE LOVE THIS MOVIE
There are many reasons, but what always gets me is the tune “Barbara Allen” as the repentant Scrooge visits his nephew for Christmas dinner. I love this old song (I have a lovely version sung by Judy Collins). And that could be a “six degrees of separation” connection to New York: A Christmas Carol features the song “Barbara Allen,” Judy Collins sings the song on one of her albums, and we saw Judy Collins at the Cafe Carlyle in New York several years.