Seymour Hicks as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge (1935)

Seymour Sees More Scrooge

I've mentioned it before but I will mention it again, I often feel that Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" must be one of the most often used stories in the history of cinema. As such, because there are so many movies based upon this tale that with the exception of those which completely re-imagine the story it becomes a case that you watch a traditional version not so much for the story of Scrooge but to see what is different. And it is these differences which make the 1935 version of "Scrooge" interesting, and I say interesting because whilst it's worth watching it's not the best version of Dickens' classic tale. In fact watching the 1935 version of "Scrooge" now it comes across feeling almost something akin to a TV movie with dated effects and differences making it feel inferior to say those versions which feature Albert Finney and Alastair Sim. But whilst feeling inferior the performance from Seymour Hicks as Ebenezer Scrooge along with its occasional darker tone makes it worth a watch.

So as already mentioned when you've watched one traditional adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" you tend to watch other traditional versions to see what differences they have. As such "Scrooge" from 1935 is very much a traditional version and one which feels more serious in nature but mixes things up ever so slightly. As such this version embraces the darker nature of Dickens' story with a scene where we have Bob Cratchit actually sitting beside the lifeless body of Tiny Tim rather than telling us that he had died. It's because there are these darker scenes, and the scene featuring those selling of Scrooge's possessions following his death is just as dark, helps make this version of "Scrooge" worth watching.

Oscar Asche in Scrooge (1935)

What also makes this version of "Scrooge" worthy of your time is the performance of Seymour Hicks as Ebenezer Scrooge, a role which he had previously played in a 1913 short. Hicks takes us on Scrooge's journey from curmudgeonly miser to joy giver but he also takes us on a journey of style playing Scrooge with restraint during the first half, almost minimilistic but grows Scrooge into this theatrical figure with a sense of mischief as he has his epiphany. And it is a good job that Hicks does such a good job of playing Scrooge as whilst there are no bad performances the rest of the cast sort of fade into the background.

Now whilst "Scrooge" has so far been good it does have issues and it's these issues which cause it to feel like a TV movie. The first of these are the special effects; they not so much feel dated but cheap as if they were limited by budget constraints rather than technology. For example we never meet the ghost of Marley instead we just hear his voice and a door opens as if some ghost has entered the room, we even get spoon fed the line that only Scrooge can see his old partner which makes it slightly tacky. It's almost the same with the Ghost of Christmas Past where all we see is a body outline and that leads to the next issue as when the Ghost of Christmas Past visits he shows Ebenezer visions of just two events, Belle calling time on their relationship and then a new scene where Belle is happily married with a huge family. The other spectral visitors are not much better and each seems to have the various episodes of Scrooge's life kept down to a minimum.

Ironically whilst the episodes which Scrooge gets to witness are limited in number they are not limited in length and end up feeling drawn out. When Scrooge is taken by the Ghost of Christmas Present to visit the festivities in the Cratchit household, we not only get the expected toast to Ebenezer and Mrs. Cratchit not being happy but we then get a whole series of scenes surrounding their meal including one about the Christmas pudding which adds nothing to the story. Talking of adding nothing there is a scene in this version where the Mayor of London is holding a Christmas Party and we get a very patriotic rendition of "God Save the Queen". It has absolutely nothing to do with the story and Scrooge isn't even at the party, in fact Scrooge is in a pub having a drink which considering his penny pinching ways seems questionably out of place. As such whilst there are differences in this version of Dickens' tale and some of them make it interesting not all of them work.

What this all boils down to is that whilst interesting and mildly entertaining this 1935 version of "Scrooge" does have its issues which cause it to feel inferior to those which are better known and came later. But for those who enjoy the tale of Scrooge it is well worth a watch just for Seymour Hicks brilliant performance as Ebenezer.

Tags: Christmas Movies, A Christmas Carol