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How Do You Like Your Scrooge?

Black and white, singing puppets or a near-sighted cartoon?

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It's quite possible that next to Santa Claus, Ebenezer Scrooge is fiction's most-famous Christmas character. Ever since Charles Dickens introduced the mean miser in London in 1843, A Christmas Carol has been adapted countless times in theater, television, radio and even opera. Perhaps Scrooge has been immortalized in celluloid more than any other medium. Going back to as early as 1901, Scrooge has been portrayed in silent films, musicals and animated classics.


OLD SCHOOL

Alastair Sim was born to play Scrooge. In fact, after playing Ebenezer in the 1951 feature film Scrooge, he was forever typecast--even his name is a bit sinister. The somber production aired on television for decades, due in large part to its copyright lapsing into eminent public domain, allowing TV station owners to play it repeatedly without paying any fees. The 1938 American production of A Christmas Carol, starring Reginald Owen, is another fondly remembered old chestnut.

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SINGING IN THE SNOW

Though A Christmas Carol is indeed a grim ghost story, it provided perfect source material for a musical. The biggest and best live-action adaptation was 1970's Scrooge, starring Albert Finney in the title role and Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley's ghost. The film was nominated for four Oscars, and Finney won the Best Actor Golden Globe for his performance.

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The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) co-starred Kermit as Bob Cratchit, but the true star was two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine. Caine chose to play the role straight, without any silliness or mugging. As a result, the film is one of the best Dickens adaptations on film.

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CARTOON CLASSICS

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, still considered by many to be the best of the best, was the very first animated Christmas special ever telecast when it aired on NBC in 1962. The program was so successful that producers re-released it to the big screen every holiday season for nearly two decades. Year after year, audiences continued to pay to see Magoo, in spite of the fact that the show had already been televised for free. The score, written by Jule Styne (Funny Girl), was as good as any Broadway musical.

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Mickey's Christmas Carol, Disney's 1983 adaptation, starred (who else) Scrooge McDuck and Mickey as Bob Cratchit. It was the first original Mickey Mouse theatrical cartoon produced in more than 30 years. The hand-crafted artwork is quite beautiful.

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SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Scrooged is a 1988 parody featuring Bill Murray as a ruthless television executive who produced cold-hearted, cruel Christmas specials.

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The movie's highlight came in the first 10 minutes, featuring adverts for some hilariously tasteless faux telecasts starring Lee Majors, Robert Goulet and John Houseman. Anyone remember "The Night the Reindeer Died," featuring the Six Million Dollar Man and an AK-47-toting Santa? It warms the heart.

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