Purists tend to hate this adaptation
, and while it's hard to blame them on those grounds, MGM's warmly produced version of the Dickens’ classic offers a number of charms the more respected darker and deeper versions do not. Namely, it is bursting with an ebullient Christmas spirit and has no agenda other than to immerse you in the flavor of the season courtesy of the studio's beautifully designed back-lot and a wonderful cast of character actors.
Of the many fine film and television portrayals of Bob Cratchit, the indomitable spirit of Gene Lockhart's interpretation sets the bar for all the others. He's the heart and soul of the film, and the pathos always simmering just beneath a bubbly exterior -- the lost and confused eyes of a good but helpless man in an impossible situation -- never fails to get to me. I doubt Lockhart was a method actor, but it couldn't have hurt his performance that his real life wife (Kathleen
) and their daughter (June
of "Lost In Space" fame) play his wife and daughter onscreen.
And give MGM credit. They knew they had nothing more than a cheery time-filler and never pretended it was anything else. With an unambitious 69 minute run-time, Reginald Owen as a perfectly passable if forgettable Scrooge, Leo G. Carroll as Marley's ghost, and a very young Ann Rutherford
as the Spirit of Christmas Past -- this version of A Christmas Carol
is like watching a beautiful if artifical porcelain Christmas village burst to joyous life.