A Dickens of a Scrooge

Times Staff Writer

For anyone who grew up in the 1960s, watching “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” was probably an annual tradition.

Every December, usually on a Saturday evening, NBC would air a traditional lineup of “Mr. Magoo” followed by a musical special featuring Lorne Greeee and a choir of children and then Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. In my neighborhood, all the kids would gather at one house to watch NBC’s Christmas programming, drink egg nog and devour Christmas cookies. A highlight was Magoo’s Ebenezer Scrooge.

Though such award-winning actors as Fredric March, George C. Scott and Albert Finney have played miserly Scrooge in various versions of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” they were outdone by Mr. Magoo . . . actually, by the late Jim Backus, who provided the memorable voice for the befuddled, myopic Magoo.

Mr. Magoo as Scrooge? “Bah, humbug,” you say?


Doubting viewers can decide for themselves and baby boomers can wax nostalgic about their childhood Thursday when USA Network (cable) airs “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.” (“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” also is available on Paramount Home Video for under $15).

Made in 1962, “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” has held up quite well. The one-hour animated musical faithfully follows Dickens’ story. Although it may seem sacrilegious to cast the Magoo as Scrooge, thanks to Backus, Magoo handles his dramatic scenes with aplomb. Dickens would have been proud.

“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” also features the voices of Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy, Paul Frees, Joan Gardner, Royal Dano and Jean Kean and sprightly original songs by Broadway composers Jule Styne and Bob Merrill.

“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on USA. The popular animated show will repeat on Saturday at 3 p.m.; Dec. 16 at 10 a.m.; Dec. 25 at 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.