MGM's casting of Reginald Owen as the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge in their 1938 production was the best decision they ever made. He is a natural, and absolutely the most believable Scrooge I have ever witnessed. Moreover, the screenplay helps him by cohesively flowing from one scene to the next, while at the same time continuing to reveal the most depth and christmas spirit within his character, as well as within all the other supporting characters.
Compared to all the other portrayals of Scrooge out there, Reginald Owens is the only actor who gives true love and meaning to his character. This allows the viewer to actually witness Scrooge's frozen heart slowly melt away as the movie unfolds, to reveal a sincere and genuinly kind old man, who, in the end, actually wants to truly help his fellow human being.
Personally, I don't understand why the other reviewers applaud Simm's portrayal of Scrooge in a later version of this movie, as I found Simm's personality to be much too abrasive and a bit overacted [especially the scenes where he is laughing after he has supposedly found redemption]. However, in contrast to the poor acting by Simms, Reginald Owen's character is acted with an honest sincerity and love that grows deeper and deeper after each succesive visit from the three spirits of Christmas. This allows his character to slowly transform into his new and redeemed self as each new scene unfolds. You can actually feel his heart opening up to receive the Christmas spirit and love that is meant to be shared during the holiday season, which is something that the other less believable movie versions try to hold back until the very last visit from the spirit of Christmas future [but then it is much too late to be believable, or to be viewed as a sincere transformation].
Finally, this MGM version is the only adaptation that shows substantial interaction between Scrooge, his nephew, Fred, and Bob Crachit's family at the very end. It is only through this in depth amends with Bob Crachit and his entire family, that a sincere sense of completion is created. For example, Scrooge actually gives some indication of what will transpire in the very near future for Crachit, for his sons, and for his nephew, Fred, who he names as his new business partner. I found a similar sense of a fulfulling conclusion to be lacking in the other movie versions. For all these reasons, I thoroughly recommend this 1938 MGM version of "A Christmas Carol."
I won't care if the disc has colorized and B&W versions, but it would be a shame if a DVD gives the consumer only a colorized version. That's really why I didn't give more stars in my review here, which is about both the movie and presentation. I'm a traditionalist, and I don't believe that colorizing a movie makes it better. The 1938 "Christmas Carol" is a wonderful classic, and it has stood the test of time for that very reason.
I have seen many reviews where people compare this version to the 1951 release, "Scrooge" (starring Alastair Sim). For the people who simply enjoy movies during the holiday season, I wouldn't pick, I would suggest you choose both versions! They both are very fine movies. What people liked about "Scrooge" is that the characters produced some more spontaneously funny moments that break the otherwise dark and gloomy tone of the story (read below, if you like my rambling!).
For those of you who want the B&W version, stay away from this particular tape (MGM has a B/W VHS title). I have already written MGM/UA requesting a remastered DVD, in the meantime.
Don't hold your breath waiting for a DVD for the 1938 version. I have not seen anything about any future release dates for a DVD. I guess the VHS format will have to hold us off until then.
Okay, some rambling.... There are two characters in the "Scrooge" movie that I could have sworn mimic two other characters in a different flick. The maid, Mrs. Dilber (Kathleen Harrison) in "Scrooge" seemed so much like the maid, Minnie (Una O'Connor) in "Bride of Frankenstein." Watch the similarities in how these caracters play off each other in the different movies (Mrs. Dilber with Mr. Stretch, the undertaker [Ernest Thesiger] in "Scrooge;" Minnie with Dr. Pretorius [also played by Thesiger!]) I actually just discovered that Thesiger played in both movies! Maybe the producer and/or director tapped some ideas from the light moments of the Frankenstein flick, but it worked.