The next film to be reviewed from my list of 10 Classics to see in 2016 is A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951).
The 1938 MGM version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL was the first one I ever saw and holds a special place in my heart, especially as I have a great fondness for MGM movies and cast members such as Ann Rutherford, June Lockhart, and Lynne Carver. I also particularly like the very fine 1984 TV version starring George C. Scott.
Since I usually go to one of those versions when I want to see the story, or MICKEY'S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1983), I'd never gotten around to seeing the highly regarded British version starring Alastair Sim (GREEN FOR DANGER).
Well, what can I say? I shouldn't have waited so long. The Sim version was every bit as special as advertised.
I won't spend time recounting the story, which surely must be known to all my readers -- if not, please watch this movie! Suffice it to say that it's a lovingly rendered adaptation, with a beautifully modulated performance by Sim.
Sim keeps his Scrooge grounded and real, including in the film's last, joyous scenes; he's ecstatically happy, scaring his housekeeper with his delight at having a second chance, but there's also great depth and regret underneath the laughter.
In some ways it thus seemed to be a "quieter" telling, yet those depths of emotion conjured tears from me such as I have never before cried during any version of this story. The look on Scrooge's face when he asks Fred's wife (Olga Edwardes) to forgive him was deeply, deeply moving. Sim was perfectly cast and responded with one of the great film performances.
The supporting cast is also superb, including Mervyn Johns and Hermione Baddeley as Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit, the great Michael Hordern as Jacob Marley, and Patrick Macnee as Marley's younger self.
Kathleen Harrison, Jack Warner, Rona Anderson, Carol Marsh, Michael Dolan, and Francis De Wolff are also in the large cast.
I particularly liked the score by Richard Addinsell, conducted by Muir Mathieson, which incorporates Christmas carols. It added a great deal to the film's mood.
Brian Desmond Hurst and filmed in black and white by C. Pennington-Richard. The screenplay was by Noel Langley. The running time is 86 minutes.
A fun bit of cast trivia: Hermione Baddeley, Mrs. Cratchit, would go on to play Ellen, the maid in MARY POPPINS (1964). Ellen's employer, Mrs. Banks, was played by Glynis Johns, the daughter of "Mr. Cratchit," Mervyn Johns.
I watched A CHRISTMAS CAROL on DVD in a lovely restored Ultimate Collector's Edition from VCI. It's part of a two-disc set which also includes a colorized version and the 1935 version of the film starring Seymour Hicks.