As I’ve written before, one of the things that appeals to me about A Christmas Carol in its many adaptations is that it’s about Scrooge learning to feel, to connect with people, to experience joy again. Of all the various Scrooges, Albert Finney in SCROOGE (1970) seems to be the least joyful, if not outright anti-joy (all rights to image remain with current holder).
Of all the screen Scrooges, Finney’s bitter misanthrope seems to be the most miserable. He hates people, he hates life, and he assumes life hates him back. Unlike the classic Alistair Sim version (or the Patrick Stewart or George C. Scott takes) Scrooge seems to derive no joy from his wealth or business success. Where Sim’s Ebenezer is shown rising to become a ruthless shark in the financial world, Finney is closer to a loan shark, squeezing vig from struggling poor people who borrow from him, spreading the misery around. He’s chasing money more from fear of being poor than a desire to be rich.
Scrooge has nothing but disdain for Cratchett wanting to spend money on his family and have fun at Christmas. Even more for his nephew, who married for love (and joy is very much a part of love) instead of (presumably) holding out for a rich bride. There’s no sign Frank is suffering financially, but Scrooge finds it unacceptable nonetheless that he’d be so foolish.
(None of which is a radical reinterpretation of the original text, of course. Scrooge’s cramped, miserable nature is part of Dickens’ concept, it’s purely a matter of emphasis).
This film is a musical, so when the dam finally cracks and Scrooge re-embraces the world, his embrace is big, loud and spectacular. The climax has him leading a dancing, singing throng through the streets as he spreads joy everywhere — giving away toys, delivering Christmas dinner to the Cratchett family, donating to charity, and wiping out the debts people owe him. All to reprises of various numbers including “I Like Life,” “Father Christmas” and “Thank You very Much.”
The best Scrooge is still Sim’s A Christmas Carol but I think Finney’s version may be the one I love best.