According to the Internet Movie Database, there are 45 movies and TV episodes entitled “A Christmas Carol.” In addition, there are more than 200 movies and shows with the words “Christmas” and “Carol” in the title.
A friend of mine has no trouble believing that. That’s because his son owns many if not most of the film adaptations of Dickens’s classic and has uncovered many of the others on YouTube. For instance, did you know that Susan Lucci and Cicely Tyson have both portrayed the “Scrooge” character? So has George Jetson’s boss, Cosmo Spacely, in an adaptation that, according to my friend, was only made watchable by Astro’s star turn in the role of Tiny Tim.
No offense to Hanna-Barbera, but I think I’ll pass.
Now my favorite version is one of the relative handful that aren’t entitled “A Christmas Carol” or something like it. My favorite is the 1970 musical, “Scrooge,” starring Albert Finney.
I will never ever forget the first time I saw it. I was seven years old, and my grandmother took me to Radio City Music Hall in December of 1970. We lived in Queens and took the subway in to Manhattan—what we called "The City." I got to see the Christmas Show with the Rockettes and everything else, and that was before I saw this wonderful movie.
I was captivated by it at the time. But what did I know? I was only seven, right? Wrong. Because years later I saw it on TV as a teenager, and I was just as thrilled. Then after I got married, someone gave me a DVD of “Scrooge” and it captivated me all over again. In fact I was moved to tears. It shouldn't come as a surprise when I tell you that my daughter and wife and I watch it every single year.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Tom Jenkins, the “soup man,” sings the very catchy song "Thank you very much!" literally dancing on Scrooge's coffin. It's quite a song and dance number. Well, in 2006 I was watching a C.S. Lewis docudrama and the actor playing Lewis looked familiar. Eventually I realized it was Tom Jenkins the “soup man,” 36 years later!
Now we actually ended up having a Socrates in the City event premiering that C.S. Lewis film, and Anton Rodgers (the actor who played the man dancing on the coffin) flew in from England. Meeting him was a huge joy for me. We became instant friends and we even watched that scene from the movie with him sitting in our living room. Somebody pinch me! He died only two years later, and now when I see the movie I get tears in my eyes over that, too.
Performances and personal memories aside, there's a reason that this is my favorite adaptation: its depiction of Ebenezer Scrooge's conversion. "A Christmas Carol" is at heart a story about grace, repentance, and conversion. Scrooge is headed for damnation, and only a supernatural intervention can save him.
Provided that he is willing to avail himself of the grace being offered.
Albert Finney's Scrooge is the only one I've ever seen where the sense of his repentance and change is palpable—he’s practically born-again before our eyes. It's a tribute to Albert Finney's amazing acting. So while the seven-year-old me loved the spectacle, the adult me comes back for the reminder of what the season and the story it inspired is all about.
As Astro might say if he could talk: God bless us, everyone.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: December 19, 2013