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Looking back at the worst Ebenezer Scrooge portrayals in film and TV history

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Rich Little – Rich Little’s Christmas Carol (1979) HBO gave Canadian-born comedian Rich Little free reign with this cable remake of the Charles Dickens’ story and mercy did he hog the spotlight. Since Little was an impressionist by trade, he played his Scrooge as W.C. Fields, except unlike the real Fields, his version was snapping off one-liners like a character from Three’s Company. Even more unforgivably, Little assumed virtually every other character in the story. For reasons still unknown, he played Bob Cratchit as Paul Lynde, Jacob Marley as Richard Nixon and the Ghost of Christmas Past became Humphrey Bogart. Then and now, it was painfully unfunny.


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Bill Murray – Scrooged (1988) People rave over Bill Murray’s performance of the classic curmudgeon in this update of the Dickens fable, but don’t believe the hype. As per his wont, Murray steamrolls every other actor on-screen in his portrayal of the cruel TV executive Frank Cross, whose obsession with his career cost him his one true love, yada yada. Basically, Murray portrays Scrooge as the same wiseacre he played in Ghostbusters, except he’s a big jerk. When the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane) smacks him in the head with a toaster, you’re practically cheering.


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Michael Caine – The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) The fine English actor Michael Caine seems to have enjoyed a career resurgence in recent years, courtesy of the Batman film franchise, but back in the early nineties he was reduced to starring opposite a group of sock puppets. As a result, Caine phones in his performance and his version of the famous miser seems pasteurized and tame compared to most portrayals. You can literally see him pulling back in order to share the spotlight with Elmo, Kermit, et al. Most Scrooges have to contend with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future; Caine had the Ghost of Jim Henson hanging over him.

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Susan Lucci – Ebbie (1995) Rumour has it Susan Lucci tracked down and destroyed all copies of this woeful 1995 TV-movie, but you can still watch it on YouTube if you’re a glutton for punishment. The daytime soap diva somehow channels Nora Desmond and Cruella DeVille in her portrayal of nasty businesswoman Elizabeth “Ebbie” Scrooge, owner of a department store and naturally cruel to her overworked employees. The weird part about Lucci’s portrayal: When she wakes up on Christmas morning following visits from the three Ghosts, she’s even more shrill than before!


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Tori Spelling – A Carol Christmas (2003) Who says there are no second acts in American television? Several years following her role as Donna on Beverly Hills, 90210 (the original version), Tori Spelling attempted some sort of career comeback in this Hallmark TV-movie casting her as Carol Cartman, an egotistical talk-show host who treats her guests with disdain and her staff with contempt. Carol gets her comeuppance one Christmas Eve when she’s visited by three ghosts (including William Shatner as the Ghost of Christmas Present!) warning her to change her ways. It’s predictable fluff but the movie might have actually worked except for one problem: Tori Spelling really, really can’t act.


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