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MOVIES / TELEVISION

The evergreen Ebenezer Scrooge

Over the decades, numerous actors have inhabited the role of Dickens' memorable skinflint Scrooge.

November 09, 2009|Susan King

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" embodies the true spirit of the holidays with its indelible characters: miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who learns the meaning of the yuletide when he's visited by three spirits during Christmas Eve; his earnest employee Bob Cratchit; and Cratchit's youngest son, Tiny Tim.

The story also has captured the imagination of filmmakers over the last century, with some of the most accomplished -- and often unusual -- actors taking on the role of Scrooge, the latest being Jim Carrey in Disney's animated take on the tale, which took in an estimated $31 million at the box office this weekend. Here's a look at some of the actors who would be Scrooge:

Sir Seymour Hicks

"Scrooge" (1935)

This rarely seen adaptation stars the legendary Hicks as the miserly one. It's definitely worth checking out because Hicks was the seminal Scrooge in the early part of the 20th century in England. He began playing the role on stage in 1901 when he was 30. He also starred in a 1913 silent version.

Reginald Owen

"A Christmas Carol" (1938)

Dickens gets the glossy MGM treatment. Though a tad sentimental, the film benefits from Owen's deft turn as Scrooge, Leo G. Carroll's terrifying Marley and Gene and Kathleen Lockhart as Bob and Mrs. Cratchit. Franz Waxman supplied the endearing score.

Lionel Barrymore

"A Christmas Carol" (1939)

Drew Barrymore's great-uncle more often than not chewed the scenery whole in movies, but his distinctive theatrical voice is perfectly suited for Scrooge in Orson Welles' magical Campbell Playhouse production that aired on the radio Christmas Eve 70 years ago.

Alastair Sim

"A Christmas Carol" (1951)

This British production is considered by many to be the most satisfying of all the adaptations of Dickens' tale. Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, this version features an absolute crackerjack of a performance from veteran Sim, who beautifully handles Scrooge's transition from heartless money-grubber to a man freed from his shackles of hate and greed.

Mr. Magoo

"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" (1962)

Most baby boomers got their first taste of Dickens' classic with an innovative musical adaptation featuring myopic Mr. Magoo (voice of Jim Backus) as Scrooge. It may sound like a ridiculous idea, but it works beautifully. Backus' Magoo plays it straight, and he's ably matched by such voices as Jack Cassidy as Bob Cratchit, Les Tremayne as the Ghost of Christmas Present and Royal Dano as Marley's ghost. An added plus is the terrific score from award-winning Broadway composers Bob Merrill and Jule Styne ("Funny Girl").

Albert Finney

"Scrooge" (1970)

Finney was all of 34 when he tackled the role of Scrooge in this colorful musical adaptation featuring an effective score by Leslie Bricusse -- the toe-tapping "Thank You Very Much" received an Oscar nomination. Though Finney can't sing his way out of a paper bag, his scratchy vocals seem appropriate for Scrooge. The supporting cast includes Alec Guinness as a very scary Marley's ghost. Ronald Neame directed.

George C. Scott

"A Christmas Carol" (1984)

Clive Donner, who was the editor of the 1951 adaptation, helmed this splendid TV version with Scott at his curmudgeonly best -- and sporting a spot-on British accent -- as Scrooge. The handsome production features several acclaimed British actors including Frank Finlay, Edward Woodward, David Warner, Susannah York, Nigel Davenport and Roger Rees.

Scrooge McDuck

"Mickey's Christmas Carol" (1983)

Oscar-nominated animated short with all Disney characters playing the roles -- Scrooge McDuck, Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Goofy as Jacob Marley's ghost and Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Bill Murray

"Scrooged" (1988)

Murray tackled spirits in two "Ghostbusters" hits, but he's defenseless against the ghosts in this updated, unsatisfying take on the Scrooge story. Murray plays Frank Cross, a selfish, glib TV executive who is producing a live version of "Christmas Carol."

Michael Caine

"The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992)

The Oscar-winning Caine has a field day as Scrooge in this warm and cuddly adaptation featuring the adorable Muppets -- Kermit is Bob Cratchit; Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit; the Great Gonzo is Charles Dickens.

Patrick Stewart

"A Christmas Carol" (1999)

Stewart has been performing a one-man theatrical version of the story for years. But he plays only the part of Scrooge in this TV production that premiered on TNT. Joining him in the festivities are Richard E. Grant, Joel Grey and Ian McNeice.

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susan.king@latimes.com

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