Turner Classic Movies
A Christmas Carol DVD
Written by Diana Saenger   

The 1938 A Christmas Carol is based on Charles Dickens' timeless tale, and although I find it one of the more interesting versions, I can not say it's one of the most entertaining of the films made from this classic story. Reginald Owen stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, Gene Lockhart plays Bob Cratchit and his real-life wife Kathleen plays his film wife, Mrs. Cratchit.

Surely everyone knows the story by now. Bob Cratchit is a likeable guy with very excitable kids, and one, a crippled boy named Tiny Tim (Terry Kilburn), who has the face of an angel and a disposition to match.

The kids are so eager at every turn. In a family where there is little enough to go around, each child is happy with what they get and make their parents feel happy too.

Bob would be a lot happier if he didn't work for Ebenezer Scrooge. One of the meanest and stingiest men in town. One day when Ebenezer's nephew Fred (Barry Mackay) stops by and Ebenezer is out of the office, Fred offers Bob a drink. He at first refuses, afraid what will happen if he gets caught. Which he does, and is fired.

Back at home he informs his wife of the situation who like a good wife embraces him, and the family makes plans for Christmas as if nothing happened. Meanwhile, in a subplot that is a far stretch from the nephew in Dickens' novel, Fred is shown at a Christmas party with his beautiful fiancΓ©e. I must admit, I liked this subplot as it added some more realism to the story.

As Christmas Eve arrives Ebenezer is joyous to go home alone and retire behind the black curtains surrounding his bed. But suddenly he has an intruder, the first of four ghosts - his former and now deceased partner, Jacob Marley (Leo G. Carroll), the spirits of Christmas Past (Ann Rutherford), Christmas Present (Lionel Braham), and Christmas Future (D'Arcy Corrigan) - who each take Ebenezer on a journey to point out what a dreaded man he is.

I went along with the Jacob Marley character, as Leo G. Carroll make him totally believable. Lionel Braham and D'Arcy Corrigan were a bit over brooding for my taste. Ann Rutherford, I believe, is the only woman to play a spirit and in the many adaptations of this story. She didn't bother me in the role but didn't excite me either.

Reginald Owen is great up until the time that he "sees the light." For me the transformation from evil man to "I'll help everyone, " was a little too easy coming and somewhat insincere. Cratchit is an amazing character played with perfection by Gene Lockhart. The kids do a terrific job in bringing a sense of joy and goodness to the film and its message about sharing what you have to make the world a better place.

A Christmas Carol is part of Warner's Classic Holiday Collection which includes Boys Town (Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney) and Christmas in Connecticut (Barbara Stanwyck).

Special Features:

—  Full Screen Version Black & White Version

— Featurette - "The Christmas Party" (1931), stars Jackie Cooper as a young boy who asks Norma Shearer to ask Mr. Mayer if he can use a sound stage to throw his birthday party. Soon the place is filled with famous faces stopping by to say hello. It's obvious that this was a put up job by someone at MGM, but Cooper seemed happy to go along with the joke. The short film shows how much Jackie was maturing and it offers a chance to see a few of the classic stars of the time such as Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Jimmy Durante, Marion Davies and others.

— Featurette - Judy Garland singing "Silent Night," short and not too exciting

— Oscar-nominated cartoon, "Peace on Earth," 1939

— Threatical Trailer

— Scene selections

— Subtitles: English, French and Spanish (feature only)


Director: Edwin L. Martin

Writers: (novel) Charles Dickens (screenplay) Hugo Butler

Cast: Reginald Owen, Leo G. Carroll, Barry Mackay, Ann Rutherford, Lionel Braham, D'Arcy Corrigan

Rating: Unrated

Classic Movie Guide Rating: 3 our of 5 stars

Run Time: 69 minutes

DVD Release Date: 11/08/2005

Studio: Warner Home Video

Black & White

A Christmas Carol © Warner Home Video




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