A Christmas Carol is a 1999 British-American made-for-television film adaptation of Charles Dickens' famous 1843 novella 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 one man shows of A Christmas Carol on Broadway and in London.
On Christmas Eve in 1843, Ebenezer Scrooge, a surly money-lender at a counting house for seven years after his business partner Jacob Marley passed away, does not share the merriment of Christmas. He declines his nephew Fred's invitation to join him for Christmas dinner and dismisses two gentlemen collecting money for charity. His loyal and low paid employee Bob Cratchit offers Scrooge to have Christmas off since there will be no business for Scrooge during the day and Scrooge accepts, but demands that Cratchit arrive "all the earlier" the following day. In his house, Scrooge encounters the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley, who warns him to repent his wicked ways or he will be condemned in the afterlife like he was, informing him that three spirits will visit him during the next three nights. Even though Scrooge was reluctantly declined their visits. Jacob Marley warned Scrooge, without their visit that he can't escape the path he took, expect the first one around midnight.
At midnight, Scrooge is visited by the childlike Ghost of Christmas Past who takes him back in time to his childhood and early adult life. They visit his lonely school days in boarding school where his friends were all going home for Christmas and he isn't allowed to come home because his father treated him badly after his mother died of giving birth to him. Scrooge sister Franny comes to Scrooge's school and their father is a lot nicer than he is now and he agreed that he could come home for Christmas. Franny died a young woman and had a nephew who also died of giving birth to him. Next Christmas, this time as an employee under Albert Fezziwig who had a good heart and treated Scrooge like a second father. Fezziwig throws a Christmas party, Scrooge attends and meets a young woman named Belle, whom he falls in love with and was engaged. However, the Ghost shows Scrooge how Belle left him when he chose money over her. A tearful Scrooge extinguishes the Ghost as he returns to the present.
At two o'clock, Scrooge meets the merry Ghost of Christmas Present, which shows Scrooge the joys and wonder of Christmas Day. Scrooge and the Ghost visit Cratchit's house, learning his family is content with their small dinner, Scrooge taking pity on Cratchit's ill son Tiny Tim. The Ghost eventually ages, commenting that Tiny Tim will likely not survive until next Christmas. As the Ghost dies, he warns Scrooge about the evils of "Ignorance" and "Want", who manifest themselves before Scrooge as two demonic children.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrives, appearing as a tall, silent cloaked figure, and takes Scrooge into the future. At the stock exchange, Scrooge's acquaintances discuss the death of an unnamed colleague, but would only attend the funeral if lunch is provided and no one would go since he wasn't nicest guy in the world. In a den, Scrooge recognizes his charwoman Mrs. Dilber, his laundress Mrs. Riggs, and the local undertaker trading several of the man's stolen possessions to a fence named Old Joe. Later, he sees a young couple who owed the man money are relieved he is dead, as they have more time to pay off their debt. The Ghost transports Scrooge to Cratchit's house, discovering Tiny Tim has died with his father still talking to him . The Ghost escorts Scrooge to a cemetery, where the Ghost points out his own grave, revealing Scrooge was the man who died. Realizing this, Scrooge vows to change his ways just as the Ghost disappears. 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.
Awakening in his bedroom on Christmas Day, Scrooge finds the ghosts had visited him all in one night instead of three. Gleeful at having survived the spirits, Scrooge decides to surprise Bob's family with a turkey dinner, and ventures out with the charity workers and the citizens of London to spread happiness in the city. The following day, he gives Cratchit a raise and becomes like "a second father" to Tiny Tim, who escapes death. Scrooge and the Cratchits celebrate Christmas. and Tiny Tim has recovered from his illness
- Patrick Stewart – Ebenezer Scrooge
- Richard E. Grant – Bob Cratchit
- Joel Grey – Spirit of Christmas Past
- Ian McNeice – Albert Fezziwig
- Saskia Reeves – Mrs. Cratchit
- Desmond Barrit – Spirit of Christmas Present
- Bernard Lloyd – Jacob Marley's Ghost
- Dominic West – Fred
- Trevor Peacock – Old Joe
- Liz Smith – Mrs. Dilber (Charwoman)
- Elizabeth Spriggs – Mrs. Riggs (Laundress)
- Kenny Doughty – Young Ebenezer Scrooge
- Laura Fraser – Belle
- Celia Imrie – Mrs. Bennett
- John Franklyn-Robbins – Mister Crump (Undertaker)
- Claire Slater – Martha Cratchit
- Barnaby Francis – Young Boy Cratchit
- Tim Potter – Spirit of Christmas Future
- Jeremy Swift – Mr. Williams
- Rosie Wiggins – Fran (Scrooge's sister)
- Crispin Letts – Topper Haines
- Helen Coker – Betsy
In Popular Culture
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, by showing montages with different groups of people in different sections of the country singing "Silent Night". The scene of the young couple who are relieved at Scrooge's death is also taken from the original story.
In a positive review, Variety wrote "Oft-told tales are difficult to pull off, but...this one gets it right...Director David Jones displays a smooth hand that adds mounds of style to the rendition, and his approach to Peter Barnes’ script is a tribute to delicate staging...Stewart as Scrooge is such a perfect piece of casting that it will be hard to imagine anyone else as the sour ol’ tightwad in years to come." The New York Times concurred, calling it "a glorious Christmas Carol."
Ian Wilson was nominated for Outstanding Cinematography at the Emmy Awards in 2000.