A Christmas Carol (1938)
Release year: 1938
Director: Edwin L. Marin
Screenwriter: Hugo Butler, Charles Dickens (based on the novel by)
Starring: Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Terry Kilburn, Barry MacKay, Lionel Braham, Ann Rutherford
On Christmas Eve the grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge (Owen) is visited by the spirit of his former partner, Jacob Marley (Leo G. Carroll). He tells him he during the night will be visited during the night by three ghosts and warns him to change his ways.
The most adapted novel (it has been made into an astonishing 24 movies), Dickens beloved Holiday story about redemption is one most people know. While not one of the most known versions of the Christmas film, this MGM production has a heartwarming charm due to a lovely cast. The production was rushed and parts of the story cut out to make it more family friendly and to keep the running time low, but watching it you don’t feel rushed, more like you are covered in a warm soft blanket. Owen (Mary Poppins, 1964), who replaced Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge in the last minute, is perfect for the part with his hunched figure and bushy eyebrows and he is just as good cheerful as grumpy. As something of a treat, the Cratchits are played by real life married couple Gene (Miracle on 34th Street, 1947) and Kathleen Lockhart (Sweethearts, 1938), both delivering heartfelt performances as the hard-tested couple. Every time you enter the Cratchit household you feel you are in a textbook example of the perfect family with extra icing and toppings. The perfect smiling and kind children threaten to bring the movie into a campy area of too much, but if you give into the Christmas spirit and the charitable message of the movie you will find yourself smiling. If you want a classic family version of Dickens’s classic tale, this is a good bet.
Gene and Kathleen Lockhart’s daughter June made her movie debut as the uncredited part of one of the Cratchit children.
MGM released a record-breaking 375 prints of the film so that as many people as possible could see it during the Christmas season.
Lionel Barrymore was originally set to play Scrooge, but had to back out due to illness. Barrymore instead suggested his friend Reginald Owen take over the role.
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Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video