A Christmas Carol (1938)

christmas carol poster 1938 movie reginald owen
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Nice visuals

Weak Scrooge, fat Cratchit!

Movie Info

Movie Name: A Christmas Carol

Studio: MGM

Genre(s): Drama/Family/Seasonal

Release Date(s): December 16, 1938

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

christmas carol 1938 ghost of christmas present scrooge reginal owen ann rutherford

Come fly with me, come fly away!!!

There is one day that Ebenezer Scrooge (Reginald Owen) hates more than every other day of the year:  Christmas!  This year, Scrooge’s world is going to be turned upside down when he learns that his behavior could damn him forever in the afterlife.  A visit from his former partner Jacob Marley (Leo G. Carroll) leaves Scrooge with unpleasant voyages with the Ghost of Christmas Past (Ann Rutherford), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Lionel Braham), and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (D’Arcy Corrigan).  What the ghosts will show Scrooge could change his life forever.

Directed by Edwin L. Marin, A Christmas Carol is a holiday movie adapting the Charles Dickins 1843 novella.  The film was originally suppose to star Lionel Barrymore in the title role, but due to increasing problems with his arthritis, he was forced to step down with Reginald Owen replacing him.  The film was featured in heavy rotation over the years and.

christmas carol 1938 ghost of christmas present lionel braham

I’m the “good times” ghost!!!

I find this version of A Christmas Carol a bit strange.  For years, it was possibly the Christmas Carol of choice until the classic 1951 version was released, but it is different than many other takes on the story.

The story is basically the same, but it doesn’t even start out like a normal Christmas Carol in the offices or at least outside of the offices of Scrooge.  Instead it chooses to focus on Scrooge’s nephew Fred (Barry MacKay) playing on an ice slide with the Cratchit kids for a few minutes, then meeting up with Bob Cratchit (Gene Lockhart), and then Scrooge is introduced.

Bob Cratchit is another odd thing about this version.  Gene Lockhart (his wife played by real life wife Kathleen Lockhart) is a bit pudgy for Cratchit.  I always pictured Cratchit an almost Ichabod Crane character…thin as a rail.  This Bob Cratchit is eating and eating well.  The movie also has Scrooge firing Bob Cratchit at the end of his work day (after Cratchit accidentally assaults him with a snowball).  Bob Cratchit then goes and spends his money (the food looks better and his home looks better than most versions) and worrying about telling his family.  Gene Lockhart’s daughter June Lockhart also gets into the mix as one of Cratchit’s children.

christmas carol 1938 bob cratchit tiny tim gene lockhart terry kilburn

Lay off the pork rinds Bob and maybe Tiny Tim won’t be so hungry…

Reginald Owen is kind of a ho-hum Scrooge instead of a bah-humbug type.  He isn’t awful but seems more to be going through the motions.  The story is structured in an odd way.  Scrooge already decided to change his ways before the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come even shows up, so it is almost a different Scrooge than other films.  It would have been interesting to see Barrymore in the role, especially with how well he did portraying the evil Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.  Owen just kind of moves through the movie, affected, but doesn’t enjoy the role like other actors who have portrayed Scrooge seemed to have.

A Christmas Carol is a classic tale and it is almost a classic “series” a movies.  This being one of the earliest talky versions of the movie, makes it an interesting stepping on point to watching the history of the story evolve on screen.  The 1951 version of the film might be the classic, but it is worth taking a trip back to this version to see how the 1951 version evolved to what it was.

Related Links:

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol (Scrooge) (1951)

Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)

Scrooge (1970)

An American Christmas Carol (1979)

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

A Christmas Carol (1984)

Scrooged (1988)

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994)

A Christmas Carol (1999)

Christmas Carol—The Movie (2001)

A Christmas Carol:  The Musical (2004)

Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas (2006)

Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

Batman:  Noel

Zombies Christmas Carol

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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