A Christmas Carol (1938) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Christmas Carol (1938)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

A Christmas Carol Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

For a generation of radio fans, Lionel Barrymore was the definitive Ebeneezer Scrooge. Alas, Barrymore was crippled by arthritis by the time MGM got around to filming Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in 1938, so the Scrooge role went to contract player Reginald Owen - who, though hardly in the Barrymore league, does a splendid job. Hugo Butler's screenplay must make some adjustments from the source material. The Ghost of Christmas Past, for example, is played not by a robust middle-aged man but by a beautiful young woman (Ann Rutherford). Impeccably cast, the film includes such reliable character players as Leo G. Carroll (Marley's Ghost), Barry McKay (Scrooge's nephew Fred) and Gene and Kathleen Lockhart (Bob and Mrs. Cratchit). The Lockhart's teenaged daughter June makes her screen debut as one of the Cratchit children, while Terry Kilburn is a fine, non-sentimental Tiny Tim. Commendably short for a major production (69 minutes), MGM's Christmas Carol is one of the best adaptations of the oft-filmed Dickens Yuletide classic, and definitely on equal footing with the more famous 1951 Alastair Sim version.more
Rating: G (nothing objectionable)
Genre: Drama, Kids & Family, Classics, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: Hugo Butler
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 8, 2005


Reginald Owen
as Ebenezer Scrooge
Gene Lockhart
as Bob Cratchit
Kathleen Lockhart
as Mrs. Cratchit
Leo G Carroll
as Marley's Ghost
Terry Kilburn
as Tiny Tim
Lionel Braham
as Spirit of Christmas ...
Ann Rutherford
as Spirit of Christmas ...
D'Arcy Corrigan
as Spirit of Christmas ...
Ronald Sinclair
as Young Scrooge
Charles Coleman
as Twill, Charity Canv...
Billy Bevan
as Watch Officer
June Lockhart
as Cratchit's Daughter
Forrester Harvey
as Mr. Fezziwig
Boyd Irwin
as Men in Street
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for A Christmas Carol

All Critics (12)

Effective adaptation of Charles Dickens novel, well acted by Reginald Owen and the rest of the cast.

Full Review… | July 18, 2011

A gentle, less scary version of the classic.

Full Review… | January 2, 2011
Common Sense Media

Although slightly corn-ball, this 1938 production...should appeal to fans of old-fashioned Hollywood-style filmmaking.

Full Review… | November 11, 2009

A great and eternally heart-warming film that can stand an appreciative viewing every year through every decade.

Full Review… | November 27, 2007
TV Guide's Movie Guide

The movie is nothing if not sincere, which goes a long way in a sentimental tale like this one.

Full Review… | November 23, 2005
Movie Metropolis

Most viewers will still remember other versions of the film more readily, but this is one worth seeking out 'round holiday time.

Full Review… | November 10, 2005

Audience Reviews for A Christmas Carol

Alastair Sim's 1951 version has it's devotees,but many consider this 1938 version a favorite of one of the screen adaptations based on Charles Dickens' classic novel. One of the reasons why is for counting actress June Lockhart,the daughter of Gene Lockhart,who made her theatrical debut at the age of 12,as one of the children of Bob and Emily Cratchit(played by her real life parents Gene and Kathleen Lockhart). Acclaim British actor Reginald Owen stars as Ebenezer Scrooge,the Christmas-hating curmudgeon who finally gets into the spirit of the Holiday season.

Mister Caple

Super Reviewer

This is film number 7 of 30, the first and original Christmas Carol. Thought I have seen many different versions of this film, this is the first time I have seen this edition, and I must say it's the best by far, old school black and white film. Scrooge is played as good as one can play that part, the ghost are not meant to be scary and there not. This version is an excellent family film that can be watched by all. 5 Stars

Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

A story like this that has been made into countless film adaptations can be a little difficult to discern from all the others. When it comes down to it, all we really have to differentiate one Scrooge from another is the acting (and to a lesser extent, how the effects are handled) and just how many liberties the film-makers take with the original story by Charles Dickens. While a few liberties may have been taken in 1938's A Christmas Carol, the performances more than excuse this. Originally, Lionel Barrymore was meant to play Scrooge, reprising the role he had made famous through many radio productions throughout the 30s. When Barrymore had to back out of the role due to illness, Reginald Owen stepped in and the result is a memorable and iconic performance. The Lockhart family (Gene, Kathleen and June, for the first and only time they all appear in a film together) give us a sweet turn as the Cratchit family, and Barry MacKay as Scrooge's nephew Fred, is also quite good. If you're looking for an infusion of yuletide spirit, look no further.

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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