A Christmas Carol (1999 film)

A Christmas Carol

DVD cover
Based on A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
Written by Peter Barnes
Directed by David Jones
Starring Patrick Stewart
Richard E. Grant
Joel Grey
Theme music composer Stephen Warbeck
Country of origin United Kingdom
United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Dyson Lovell
Running time 95 minutes
Distributor RHI Entertainment
Original network TNT
Original release
  • December 5, 1999 (1999-12-05)

A Christmas Carol is a 1999 British-American made-for-television film adaptation of Charles Dickens' famous novel A Christmas Carol that was first televised December 5, 1999 on TNT. It was directed by David Jones and stars Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge and Richard E. Grant as Bob Cratchit. The film was produced after Patrick Stewart performed a series of successful theatrical readings of "A Christmas Carol" on Broadway and in London.


In a prologue, Ebenezer Scrooge (Patrick Stewart) buries his business partner, Jacob Marley, in a rural churchyard. The funeral is poorly attended.

Time is shown passing (as the sign outside Scrooge's business grows rusty). It is Christmas Eve, and Scrooge's nephew, Fred, visits the counting house to wish his uncle a merry Christmas. Scrooge believes Fred's marriage is unsuitable, and they argue about it. Fred departs, and two gentlemen arrive seeking donations for the poor. Scrooge denounces such charitable efforts, and the men depart. Scrooge agrees to give his clerk, Bob Cratchit (Richard E. Grant), the day off on Christmas but demands that Cratchit arrive "all the earlier" the following day (December 26).

Scrooge arrives at his home and has visions of Jacob Marley's face appearing in his door knocker and the tiles around his fireplace. Marley's ghost (Bernard Lloyd) appears and convinces Scrooge of his supernatural nature. Marley tells Scrooge that the uncharitable are tormented after death, and he has come to warn Scrooge as well as tell him that Scrooge will be visited by three ghosts over the next three nights. The ghosts will try to convince Scrooge to reform.

At midnight, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Joel Grey). They visit Ebenezer Scrooge as a child, who is forced to spend his holidays at school due to his father's rejection. Scrooge's sister, Fran, arrives to tell Scrooge he is welcome at home again. The ghost then takes Scrooge to the business of his mentor, Albert Fezziwig (Ian McNeice). A young Scrooge (Kenny Doughty) is shown enjoying Fezziwig's Christmas party, and his romance with a young girl, Belle (Laura Fraser), is introduced. The ghost then shows Belle breaking off her engagement to Scrooge because Scrooge has become obsessed with money. The ghost takes Scrooge home, and in anger Scrooge snuffs out the spirit's light.

Scrooge wakes in bed, thinking it is 2 A.M. on the following night. A light from the next room draws him toward the Ghost of Christmas Present (Desmond Barrit), who takes Scrooge through the streets of London. They visit the Cratchit home, where Mrs. Cratchit (Saskia Reeves) is preparing dinner. Bob Cratchit brings his crippled son, Tiny Tim (Ben Tibber), home. Scrooge shows concern for the boy, although the ghost tells Scrooge that the boy will not live. They watch the family eat Christmas dinner, and the ghost hurls Scrooge's words about the poor back into his face. Scrooge is humiliated when Mrs. Cratchit denounces him before her family. The spirit takes Scrooge to see other scenes of Christmas, including men at a lonely lighthouse, the crew of a ship at sea, and coal miners in Wales. They then visit Fred's home, where Scrooge overhears Fred defending him to his wife and friends. Scrooge and the spirit linger to watch Fred and his party guests play games. The audience learns about Fran's death, and why Scrooge has a negative attitude toward Fred. The ghost takes Scrooge to a jail, where prisoners celebrate Christmas, too. Scrooge notices that the ghost has grown old, and the spirit shows Scrooge two demonic children beneath his robes (a boy, Ignorance, and a girl, Want). The ghost again hurls Scrooge's own words back at him as clocktower bells toll.

Scrooge flees down an empty street, but encounters the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Tim Potter, who has no speaking lines). Scrooge begs the ghost to hurry, knowing that his time for reform is short. The ghost takes Scrooge to the London stock exchange, where men of Scrooge's acquaintance joke about a man who has recently died. Scrooge is upset by their callousness. The ghost takes Scrooge to a rag-and-bone man, Old Joe (Trevor Peacock), who welcomes three guests looking to fence items stolen from a dead man's home. An undertaker delivers buttons, a watch, and some cufflinks. The charwoman, Mrs. Dilber (Liz Smith), gives some sugar tongs, bed sheets, and towels. The laundress, Mrs. Riggs (Elizabeth Spriggs), delivers a linen shirt stripped from the dead man and some bed curtains. Scrooge is horrified at the callousness of the thieves. Scrooge asks the spirit to show him someone who has feeling for the dead man. The ghost shows him a man and woman rejoicing that they no longer have to repay a punishing debt to the dead man. Scrooge asks the spirit to show him compassion, so the ghost takes him to the Cratchit home. Scrooge sees Bob Cratchit's grief at the death of his son, Tiny Tim.

The ghost next takes Scrooge to a foggy churchyard cemetery, and points to a grave. Scrooge is reluctant to look, but does so—seeing that he is the dead man for whom no one had any compassion. Scrooge claims he is reformed, and challenges the spirit's silent condemnation of him. The grave opens, and Scrooge sees his dead self lying in a coffin. He falls into the grave, then clings to his own dead body as he falls through the earth into Hell.

Scrooge awakes in his own bed, clinging to the bedpost. He is overjoyed to find he is still alive, and begins laughing hysterically. Scrooge throws open the window and, after speaking to a young boy, discovers it is still Christmas Day (and the spirits have done their work in a single night). Scrooge pays the boy to fetch a large turkey from a local butcher shop, and has the bird sent to the Cratchit house. Scrooge plays with some children in the street, and sings in church. He goes to Fred's home, where he is welcomed with open arms and reconciles with Fred and Fred's wife.

The following day, Scrooge feigns anger when Bob Cratchit arrives late for work. After briefly teasing Cratchit, Scrooge shows his kindly side. He raises Cratchit's salary significantly, and asks permission to assist the Cratchit family. The film ends with narration by Fred, who tells the audience how Scrooge continued to keep Christmas in his heart every day for the rest of his life. The film ends with Scrooge welcoming the Cratchit family to his home on Christmas Day.


Rather than deliberately trying to resemble either the 1938 MGM version or the George C. Scott made-for-TV version in the cheerfulness and "Christmassy" feeling of their settings, the 1999 film takes as its inspiration to the classic 1951 film version with Alastair Sim in the grimness of some of its scenes and set design, although it still includes many cheerful moments. It includes three scenes almost always omitted from other adaptations which are the lighthouse, coal miners, and sailors on a ship at sea montages which show different groups of people in different sections of the country singing Silent Night.

Main cast

See also

External links

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