The Editor’s Desk: The best Christmas Carol?

The Editor’s Desk: The best Christmas Carol?

It isn’t the best, but the Rich Little version of Dickens’s story is a favourite

It’s almost Christmas, which means one of the perennial film debates is upon us once more. No, it’s not “Is Die Hard actually a Christmas film?” (yes, it is); it’s “What is the best film version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol?”

I’m not going to tell you which is the best; that’s highly subjective. I will tell you what my favourite version is, and it’s definitely not going to make any “best” lists. First, however, here are a few versions of the classic tale that you really can’t go wrong with, from among the several dozen film and TV versions that have been made from the book since the first one, in 1901.

The 1951 British film Scrooge, starring Alistair Sim as the titular miser, has aged extremely well, and Sim turns in a performance for the ages, selling Scrooge as the hard-hearted skinflint he is before joyously transforming into a redeemed man; I defy anyone to watch his Christmas morning change of heart without blinking away a tear of happiness. A close runner-up is the 1984 made-for-TV version of the story starring George C. Scott, who similarly pulls off the task of making Scrooge the man you love to hate before pulling the rug out from under you when he realizes how wrong he has been.

The Muppet version (1992), starring Michael Caine as Scrooge alongside a cast of Muppets (Kermit the Frog plays Bob Cratchit), scores unexpectedly high marks, and the 1971 TV animated version — with Alistair Sim reprising the role of Scrooge — is well worth a look; after being released theatrically, it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

All of these are wonderful, and worthy, versions of Dickens’s story, but my favourite is Rich Little’s Christmas Carol, made in 1978 by the CBC in partnership with HBO. The special was filmed at the CBC’s Vancouver headquarters, and I got to visit the set thanks to my Media Studies teacher at Hugh Boyd Jr. Secondary in Richmond, who somehow wangled an invite for the class to tour the set.

None of the actors were there when we visited, but we were able to prowl through the set and see it up close (Scrooge’s tombstone is made from styrofoam, as I can personally attest). When the special aired on CBC I made sure to watch it, but it wasn’t until several years later that I saw it again, and was able to videotape it. That led to me obtaining a DVD copy of the show, and thus began a Christmas tradition, in the Roden household, of watching it every Christmas Eve.

Is it as corny as Kansas in August? Absolutely. Is it dated, inasmuch as all of the celebrities Little impersonates are long gone? You bet your sweet bippy. Does it have the obligatory musical interludes of Christmas specials of that era, that bring everything to a grinding halt at regular intervals? Of course.

And yet, there’s something about it that continues to appeal (to me, at least). Little — an impressionist extraordinaire — plays Scrooge as W.C. Fields, so repeated viewings on Christmas Eve meant that my son (born 1997) is perhaps the only person of his age in North America who can do a decent Fields impersonation. The show gave birth to several catchphrases within the household, including “I’d like to compliment you on your work; let me know when you’re going to start”; “When I donate to charity I like to remain anonymous; that’s why I never sign the cheque”: and — when something goes awry — “Quick, Spirit, before you completely wreck my humble abode.”

If I want a strictly canonical — and wonderful — film version of A Christmas Carol, I’ll look to the Sims and Scott versions. If I want one that brings me joy, and many happy memories, I’ll probably look to Rich Little’s Christmas Carol, as the version that evokes so many Christmas Eves with the ones I love. If you want to check it out, the full version is available on YouTube at

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
RCMP investigating suspicious trailer found abandoned in Cache Creek

Hazardous materials believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs were found

The trustees of the Spences Bridge Improvement District argue that one reason the EV charging station (l) should be moved is because it could compromise emergency response from the nearby fire hall. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Time is running out for Spences Bridge EV charging station

Lease for the site runs out at the end of January and no new agreement has been reached

Areas in blue show properties in Cache Creek zoned C1, which the village’s Cannabis Regulatory Framework proposes as properties where retail cannabis stores could be sited. The area outlined with a dotted orange line shows a 200 metre buffer zone around Cache Creek Elementary School, within which no retail cannabis establishments could operate. (Photo credit: Village of Cache Creek)
Cache Creek council gets more input on cannabis regulations

Council considers options to regulate retail cannabis sales and production within the village

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Most Read