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A Christmas Carol (1951)
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know this adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic may be too frightening and dramatic for younger viewers. Serious themes are the center of this film: A man is forced to relive his greatest agonies; and there are two heart-wrenching deathbed scenes. And a cycle of guilt and anger is passed from an embittered father to his emotionally-wounded son.
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What's the story?
In this classic Charles Dickens adaptation, Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) is too busy collecting debts on Christmas Eve to be bothered with making merry. He scoffs at those who would help the less fortunate, refuses his kind nephew's invitation to dinner, and berates his own underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, for wanting the following day off. That night, he's visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley, and three spirits who show him his past, present, and dreadful future in order to convince him of his wrongdoing. Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning a changed man, and makes good his promise to carry the spirit of Christmas in his heart all year round.
Is it any good?
Aided by Noel Langley's (The Wizard of Oz) insightful script and some truly phenomenal performances, director Brian Desmond Hurst gave us a grand Christmas present with this film. It's inarguably the best version of Dickens' immortal tale of greed and redemption ever to be captured on film. Alastair Sim breathes depth and complexity into Scrooge, showing us a man bewildered at times by his own cruel nature; it's like an unshakeable illness he's come to accept over the course of his life. Resigned to his lonely fate, he resists the spirits who might save him, telling them he's beyond help.
Maybe it's that conviction, the utter dourness he exudes, that makes the ghosts especially hard on this Scrooge. Marley shrieks lamentably and bangs his chains for attention. The Ghost of Christmas Past shows him painful scenes that no other version has presented: a heartbroken young Ebenezer at the deathbed of his beloved sister; his and Marley's evolution as shrewd and tyrannical businessmen; a dying Marley telling Scrooge with his last faint breath that they were wrong, to save himself. Sim's transformation at the end is the most dramatic you'll ever see, hilarious and touching and insanely energetic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how people overcome bad habits. Why do we have them? Did Scrooge have good reasons for being hurt and emotionally stunted? How do you deal with that pain?
How does this version compare to other productions of the classic tale?
Why is this story considered a classic?
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