A Christmas Carol (TV Movie 1984) - Plot Summary Poster

(1984 TV Movie)


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  • Made for television version of the Charles Dickens classic of the same name. Ebenezer Scrooge is a hard-nosed, single-minded businessman in Victorian London. He has disowned his only living relative - his nephew Fred - and generally treats everyone he meets with extreme contempt. He hates Christmas, only cares about making money and only gives his clerk, Bob Cratchit, the day off. However, he is taught the true meaning and spirit of Christmas by three ghosts who show him his own past and present. He is also shown what the future holds for him if he doesn't change his behavior.

  • Ebenezer Scrooge is an old bitter miser who cares only about making money. He has no friends, has disowned his only living relative - his nephew Fred - and generally treats everyone he meets with extreme contempt. He particularly loathes Christmas, which he a sees as an excuse for picking a man's pocket once a year, and only reluctantly give his clerk, Bob Cratchit, the day off. On Christmas Eve however, he is visited by the ghost his long dead partner, Jacob Marley, who begs him to change his ways. Refusing to do so, he's told that three ghosts - the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and that which is Yet to Come - will visit him that night. In doing so, they show him what he has lost and what he will leave behind after he is gone unless he mends his ways.

  • An old bitter miser who rationalizes his uncaring nature learns real compassion when three spirits visit him on Christmas Eve.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In London on Christmas Eve 1843, Ebenezer Scrooge (George C. Scott) is a miserly businessman who does not share the merriment of Christmas. Bob Cratchit, a clerk employed by Scrooge, comments that Jacob Marley has been dead for seven years, but is gruffly ordered to return to work by Scrooge. Bob attempts to add some coal to an almost nonexistent fire, but is stopped by Scrooge, who gives him a curt and cutting lecture on clothing as protection against the cold, and that "coal burns, coal is momentary, and coal is costly". Scrooge declares that there will be no more coal burned in the office that day, and orders Cratchit to return to work lest he be fired.

    Bob returns to his desk as Scrooge's nephew Fred Holywell cheerfully enters the office; Scrooge mocks his cheerful demeanor, calling Christmas a "humbug", a holiday that has never done anyone any good, summing up his view with a very well-known quote, in a mockingly cheerful manner, "If I could work my will, every fool with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips would be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart." Despite this declaration, Fred patiently states that his own views of how Christmas has benefited him in many ways, even if not with momentary gain. "Though it has not put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, it has done me good; and I say 'God bless it!'" Bob applauds from his desk in the office, only to be sternly warned by Scrooge that he will spend Christmas unemployed should he make more noise. Fred invites his uncle to dinner, who curtly declines, and dismisses his nephew with, "You are wasting my time."

    Despite his uncle's rudeness, Fred maintains his good humor, wishing Bob and his family a Merry Christmas as he departs the office. Scrooge prepares to leave for the Exchange; he grudgingly gives Bob Christmas Day off with pay, likening it to "picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December", wanting him to be at work all the earlier the next day. As he leaves for the Exchange, Scrooge encounters Bob's youngest son Tiny Tim waiting across from Scrooge's office. The lad is a naïve and very sick boy who walks with a crutch but is unfailingly cheerful and polite, courteously greeting Scrooge as the man walks by. Scrooge mistakes Tim for a beggar, but after the lad introduces himself, Scrooge assures him that he will have a long wait for his father in the cold. Tim cheerfully thanks Scrooge and continues his wait for his father.

    In the stock exchange, Scrooge is greeted by three other businessmen who wish to purchase some corn; they has delayed in concluding the deal, apparently in hopes that Scrooge will lower his price. However, Scrooge informs them to their dismay that the price has gone up 5% because of the delay, and unless they come to an agreement, the price would go up another 5% the next day. Before leaving, Scrooge informs them that he will not ship without the cash in hand. After being approached by two gentlemen collecting money for charity, Mr. Poole and Mr. Hacking, Scrooge turns down their offer. In his house, Scrooge encounter the ghost of his dead business partner Marley, who warns him to repent his wicked ways or he will be condemned in the afterlife like he did, carrying heavy chains for his own greedy ways. He informs Scrooge of the coming visits of three time-traveling spirits for that night.

    At one o'clock, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Past, who takes him back in time to his childhood and his early adult life. They visit Scrooge's time as a boarding school student, when he spent the holidays alone with only his books for company. His father Silas, who has him become an employee for Fezziwig, and his sister Fan, who died after giving birth to Fred. Eventually becoming a successful career in money lending and business, Scrooge becomes engaged to a woman named Belle. However, the spirit shows Scrooge how Belle left him one afternoon, when he expressed his reluctance towards focusing on his increasing finances or their relationship. The visions conclude with a display of Belle's married family several years later on Christmas Eve. When her husband informs her of sighting Scrooge, she wistfully considers him a "poor, wretched man". Unable to watch any more memories, Scrooge puts out the Ghost of Past with its cap as he returns to the present.

    At two o'clock, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows the joys and wonders of Christmas Day. Scrooge and the Ghost visit Bob's house, learning his family is surprisingly content with their small dinner, and Scrooge takes pity on Tim when he learns of his terminal health. The two then visit Fred's Christmas party and Fred's pity towards his uncle, hoping to gain his uncle's trust on behalf of Fan. Scrooge and the spirit go to a desolate street and encounter a poor family, whose father has ambiguously come across menial means of food and is considering taking the family to a poorhouse to get them off the streets. Before disappearing, the Ghost of Present displays to Scrooge the youthful, impoverished forms of Ignorance and Want. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrives next, appearing as a silent cloaked shadow, and take Scrooge into the future. Scrooge witnesses businessmen discussing the death of an unnamed colleague journey where they would only attend the funeral if lunch is provided. The spirit shows him that several of his possessions have been stolen and brought to a fence named Old Joe. The spirit transports Scrooge to Bob's residence where he learns that Tim has died. Scrooge is escorted to a cemetery, where the spirit point out his own grave, revealing Scrooge was the man who died. Realizing this, Scrooge swears repentance and kindness on the remainder of his life, and collapses sobbing on the tombstone.

    Awakening in his house on Christmas Day, Scrooge finds the Ghosts of Christmas had visited him all in one night. Gleeful for his redemption, Scrooge decides to surprise Bob's family with a turkey dinner, ventures out with the charity workers and the citizens of London to spread happiness in the city, and accepts Fred's invitation after reconciling with him. The following day, he gives Cratchit a raise and becomes like a second father to Tim, who survives and outgrows his crutches. A changed man, Scrooge now treats everyone with kindness, generosity, and compassion; he now embodies the spirit of Christmas.

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