A Christmas Carol (1938)



A gentle, less scary version of the classic.
  • Review Date: December 8, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1938
  • Running Time: 70 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This moralistic tale demonstrates that greed and lovelessness can lead to spiritual ruin, and that no one is too old or too hardened to be saved.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that younger viewers might still be unnerved by the ghosts.

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What's the story?

After rejecting his nephew's invitation to Christmas dinner and firing his clerk on Christmas Eve, the incorrigible Scrooge is visited that night by the ghost of his ex-partner, Jacob Marley, who urges him to change his ways. Three more spirits follow, who show him how his past, present and future actions affect not just him, but everyone he had once been close to. Their work complete, Scrooge awakens on Christmas day a changed man. Full of life, he rushes to make amends and to accept an estranged nephew's dinner invitation.

Is it any good?


Those well versed in the more faithful adaptations of the Dickens tale will notice that this charming early adaptation does things its own way. It veers away from Scrooge for uncommon stretches, lingering on the Cratchit family, on Scrooge's nephew and his wife-to-be. The living are the stars here, the ghosts rather restrained and unmemorable, which makes it a good one for kids who might otherwise be intimidated by the subject matter.

Other peculiarities include Tiny Tim, who isn't at all tiny, and whose full lips and saintly features make him look more like Joan of Arc than an ailing child. Scrooge, embodied by spindly Reginald Owen, is almost spider-like, with an unsettling hair arrangement that wouldn't look out of place in Oz or Whoville. In contrast to Alastair Sim, who would fill the same shoes 15 years later, this Scrooge's miserliness comes as a result of his cruel nature, not the other way around. He's so twisted up inside that he actually seems to enjoy the taste of cough syrup.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what Christmas is really about. Families with teens can compare this movie to later versions. The theme that one man's cruelty affects the lives of many is a worthwhile subject for families to discuss. Families may also want to discuss how people survive and deal with unfair circumstances. How do the Cratchits cope?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 16, 1938
DVD release date:October 16, 2001
Cast:Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Reginald Owen
Director:Edwin L. Marin
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:70 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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