It’s been a holiday favorite to young and old alike, beginning as a novel and later making its way into the theatre, radio and eventually onto the silver screens of movies and television.
Historian Dave Trumbore of the entertainment news website Collider.com has a list of what he considers to be the 20 best adaptations of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” which was originally published in December 1843 and follows wealthy business owner Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited by three Christmas ghosts.
The Times-Gazette submits his list for your consideration during this Christmas season and offers up a few other titles not included, as a way of looking back on a novella some historians have said heavily influenced the way America celebrates the holiday.
Although not in the top 20 list, he gave credit to the first filmed production of the adventure, citing the 1901 British silent film “Scrooge” or “Marley’s Ghost,” which starred an unidentified actor playing the title role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Another movie not included in his top 20 was “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” a 2017 film with veteran actor Christopher Plummer portraying Dickens as the writer journeys toward writing the beloved classic.
Trumbore’s top 20 list of movies and TV shows includes:
#20—“Scrooge,” a musical from 1970 starring Albert Finney.
#19—“Rich Little’s Christmas Carol,” which starred the comic impressionist in what he said relied heavily on celebrity impersonations and topical (1978) humor.
#18—“The Stingiest Man in Town,” an animated special from the producers of “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The Rankin/Bass holiday special aired in 1978.
#17—“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” was the first animated Christmas special made for television in 1962. It starred Jim Backus in another of a long line of animated adventures of the nearsighted, wealthy old senior citizen.
#16—“Bugs Bunny’s Christmas Carol” featured all of the Looney-Tunes characters with Yosemite Sam blowing his stack as a hassled and harassed Ebenezer Scrooge and Porky Pig stammering as the nervous Bob Cratchit. It debuted in 1979 as a part of the “Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales” holiday special.
#15—“A Christmas Carol: The Musical” was a live-action TV special from Hallmark that first aired in 2004. It starred Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge and Jason Alexander as his late partner, Jacob Marley.
#14—“Ms. Scrooge,” which Trumbore described as an alternative take on the story, had women in the leading roles. The 1997 TV movie starred Cicely Tyson as Ms. Ebenita Scrooge with Katherine Helmond as Scrooge’s partner, Maude Marley.
#13—“Christmas Carol: The Movie” was a 2001 animated production that Trumbore referred to as “another attempt to embellish Dickens’ original tale and depart from the established storyline.”
#12—“Disney’s A Christmas Carol,” a 2009 Robert Zemeckis computer-animated Disney special, starred the voice talents of Jim Carrey, who played Scrooge as well as the three Christmas ghosts.
#11—“Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” a great introductory version of the Dickens story according to Trumbore, was a 25-minute special from 1983 that featured many familiar Disney characters.
#10—“A Flintstone’s Christmas Carol,” from 1994, was “a must-watch for fans of Bedrock’s first family and a great way for the whole family to enjoy Dickens’ Christmas tale,” Trumbore said.
#9—“A Christmas Carol” (1999), which Trumbore said came about after a long run of Patrick Stewart’s theatrical performances of the story on Broadway and in London.
#8—“A Christmas Carol” (1997), an animated musical that featured the voice talents of Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as Scrooge.
#7—“The Muppet Christmas Carol” was a 1992 send-up to the Scrooge story, featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets with veteran performer Michael Caine in the title role.
#6—“A Christmas Carol,” a 1984 made-for-TV movie, is recognized by many as one of the most faithful of all the adaptations of the Dickens novel. It starred George C. Scott, and Trumbore noted that “if you haven’t seen this version, definitely add it to your list.”
#5—“Scrooged” was a 1988 comedy starring comedian Bill Murray as Frank Cross, who Trumbore described as “a TV network executive who’s under the gun to bring in huge numbers for his channel’s upcoming Christmas special.” Trumbore said what followed was a character examination of Murray’s character as a modern-day Scrooge.
#4—“A Christmas Carol,” was a 1971 animated special that had Alastair Sim reprising his role of Scrooge, a role he made famous some 20 years earlier. Trumbore referred to the 25-minute cartoon as being “both charming and spooky,” but still a hidden gem.
#3—“Scrooge,” from 1935, is looked upon by Trumbore as “one of the three best traditional adaptations of “A Christmas Carol” that currently exist. This version starred Sir Seymour Hicks in the title role.
#2—“A Christmas Carol” came out in 1938, and Trumbore described it as “one of the rare adaptations that explores the lives of some of the tale’s supporting characters a bit more, [doing] so in a way that casts light on Scrooge’s character, or lack thereof.” Reginald Owen appeared in the role of Scrooge, along with Gene and Kathleen Lockhart (and their 12-year old daughter June Lockhart, who was making her film debut) as the Cratchits.
#1—“A Christmas Carol” debuted in 1951 with Alistair Sim in the title role. Trumbore called it “the best adaptation of all time and the most dramatic work of all the versions listed.”
Two others that didn’t make Trumbore’s top 20 list but are still worthy of mention are 1979’s “An American Christmas Carol,” which starred Henry Winkler as an old miser, who according to Critic’s Choice Video, wanted to repossess the meager possessions of a New England town hit by the Great Depression.
Three years after the Alistair Sim classic, Fredric March and Basil Rathbone starred in a 1954 retelling that the magazine described as a “star-heavy version.”
The latest edition of Dickens’ 176-year old classic appeared in the form of a three-part fantasy miniseries on Dec. 19 on American TV screens that subscribe to FX, according to BBC One, where it will be shown to audiences in the United Kingdom Dec. 22, 23 and 24.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571