Greatest Literature banner

A Chistmas Carol

CritiqueText • At the movies

1935, 1938, 1951, 1970, 1978, 1984, 1988, 1988, 1997

Christmas Carol first editionFirst edition
Publication details ▽ Publication details △

Original title
A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.

First publication

Literary form


Writing language

Author's country

Approx. 28,000 words

Stingiest Man in Town scene
Yes, the balding Scrooge with the bulbous nose, left, is voiced by Walter Matthau.

A Scrooge for nostalgic Brits only

The Stingiest Man in Town (1978): Animated film; director Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.; writ. Romeo Muller; voices Walter Matthau, Tom Bosley, Theodore Bikel, Dennis Day

So many adaptations of Dickens's Christmas story have been made—I can count over 50—and more are probably being made as we speak. There's even one that features nothing but dogs.

And every figure in popular culture seems to offer a twist on the story: The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Flintstones'..., Mr. Magoo's....

I guess it's inevitable that they all can't be great. Probably the biggest stinker I've come across is the 1978 made-for-TV cartoon The Stingiest Man in Town.

It's notable only for its impressive cast, starting with Walter Matthau as Scrooge's voice and Theodore Bikel as the voice of his ghostly late partner Marley.

It tells the familiar Christmas Carol story largely through the character of B.A.H. Humbug, a cheery, comical insect (humBUG, get it?), voiced by Tom Bosley. The bug is added to the story as Scrooge's unnoticed sidekick—a patent rip-off of Disney's Jiminy Cricket.

The animation is flat and clichéd. The musical numbers pretty well stop the story and, perhaps to appeal to present-day American tastes, manage to bring in both Christ's nativity and Santa Claus, which I don't recall in Dickens.

However, I must concede that a number of British TV viewers seem to love this film. The Stingiest Man in Town is actually based on a musical of the same name by Janice Torrey. It played live on television in 1956 (with Basil Rathbone as Scrooge!) and is remembered fondly by those who saw it. For a long time, it seemed no copies of the original production existed and fans were happy to get this animated version to keep the music alive.

But that's no reason to inflict this disaster on today's more sophisticated kids.

— Eric


CritiqueText • At the movies

1935, 1938, 1951, 1970, 1978, 1984, 1988, 1988, 1997