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Top 10 Scrooges to watch on TV

Published November 29, 2012 8:16 am

Television • Old movies and specials run the gamut from Alistair Sim to Mr. Magoo.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dec. 18 marks the 50th anniversary of the first animated Christmas special in television history — "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol."

The story, adapted from Charles Dickens' tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, was classic. The hour became an instant hit, with performances by Jim Backus, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy and Paul Frees and music by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill — who would do the songs for "Funny Girl" shortly thereafter.

"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" holds up half a century later. Funny, scary and heartfelt, it can bring a tear to your eye as Scrooge and the child version of himself sing, "Where is a voice to answer mine back? Where are two shoes to click to my clack? I'm all alone in the world."

There's a new release of a 50th-anniversary Blu-ray of the special, which remains one of the best Scrooges you can watch on TV. Here's a top 10 list — OK, a top 12 list — to enjoy.

10. Scrooge (1970) • Albert Finney is great in this musical, but the music itself is just so-so. There are better songs in "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol."

9. A Diva's Christmas Carol (2000) Before she was a diva on "Ugly Betty" or "Desperate Housewives," Vanessa Williams was camping it up as Ebony Scrooge — a pop-music diva who's visited by three Christmas ghosts (one played by Kathy Griffin!) in this over-the-top TV movie.

8. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) C'mon, how can you not love Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit and Miss Piggy as his wife? Oh, and Michael Caine as Scrooge?

7. Scrooged (1988) • Bill Murray plays Scrooge as a network TV executive who is visited by a ghost of Christmas future (John Forsythe) who's decomposing, a ghost of Christmas past who's a cab driver (David Johansen) and a ghost of Christmas present (Carol Kane) who keeps beating him up.

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) • No, this isn't an adaptation of Dickens, but the spirit is there. Think about it — mean, unpleasant guy who hates other people enjoying Christmas but who eventually embraces it when his heart grows three sizes.

5. Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988) • The nicest man in England (Rowan Atkinson) is transformed into the meanest man in England in this hilarious parody.

4. A Christmas Carol (1984) and A Christmas Carol (1999) • George C. Scott starred in the former; Patrick Stewart starred in the latter — and these are arguably the two finest portrayals of Ebenezer Scrooge ever delivered on the small screen.

3. A Christmas Carol (1938) and A Christmas Carol (1951): Reginald Owen starred in the former; Alistair Sim starred in the latter — and these are arguably the two finest portrayals of Ebenezer Scrooge ever delivered on the big screen.

2. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983) • This charmer is great for kids and will entertain parents and grandparents as well. And Scrooge McDuck is perfectly cast as, well, you-know-who.

1. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962) • I defy you to watch this and not go away singing about razzleberry dressing.

spierce@sltrib.com