Christmas Night (lost BBC television adaptation of A Christmas Carol; 1946)

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Issue 1,212 of Radio Times listing the adaptation.

Status: Lost

Christmas Night is the title given to a televised ballet aired on BBC television. Broadcast on Christmas Day 1946, it is the earliest British television adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol.


A Christmas Carol was a Charles Dicken novel originally published in December 1843.[1][2] It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly man who is extremely rich yet mean and frugal, who has an exceptional hatred for Christmas primarily because of the excessive spending it incurs.[3][2] His personality is forever transformed to become more generous with a love of Christmas after being visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come during the night prior to Christmas Day.[3][2] It has been regarded as Dickens' most successful and influential book, possibly shaping modern Christmas for many within the United Kingdom and United States.[1]

Christmas Night was not the first televised adaptation of A Christmas Carol.[4] In the United States alone, several adaptations had been made in the 1930s and 1940s.[4] However, it is listed by several sources as the first British adaptation of the novel, with BBC's music producer Philip Bate responsible for its concept and production.[5][6][7][8][4] A Christmas Night was a televised ballet, with Hubert Foss, a composer also noted for being the first Musical Editor for Oxford University Press until 1941, being the story's narrator.[9][4][6][7][5] The play was also complimented by music from Vaughan Williams, whose work for the BBC would solidify the musician's reputation nationally and worldwide.[10][6][7][4]

It is unclear who played Scrooge and the other characters, although it is known that the fantasy-based ballet was also a mime.[4][6][7] However, Issue 1,212 of Radio Times indicates that the ballet primarily focused on Scrooge's past, particularly during Mr. Fezziwig's Christmas Ball.[6][7] This was a critical scene in A Christmas Carol, as it shows Scrooge's growing hatred of Christmas because of the spending involved; as well as the differences between him and more generous capitalists like Fezziwig that Scrooge would later adopt following his visits with the ghosts.[2][3] Other characters featured included Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley, and the Spirit of Christmas. Christmas Night aired on Christmas Day 1946, lasting for an hour.[6][7][4]


Ultimately, the adaptation was televised live in an era where recordings seldom occurred until videotape was perfected in the late-1950s.[11] No footage of the ballet is known to have survived, with it alongside most other A Christmas Adaptations from the 1930s to the 1950s also becoming lost.[12] Nevertheless, the Radio Times helps to document the play itself.[6][7]

See Also