Carol for Another Christmas (1964)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In this Cold War adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol written by Rod Serling, Sterling Hayden plays wealthy, American industrialist Daniel Grudge, a man haunted by the death of his only son during World War II who uses his wealth and influence to press an isolationist agenda for the United States. On Christmas Eve, Grudge is visited by three ghosts representing the past, present, and future who show Grudge the dangers of his beliefs and the likely impact that they will have not only on Christmas, but the whole world.

‘Carol for Another Christmas’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Carol for Another Christmas (1964)The film begins with rich, American industrialist Daniel Grudge (Sterling Hayden) sitting alone in his deceased son’s dark bedroom in his mansion on Christmas Eve. He is playing a popular song from the World War II era and examining a framed display of war medals on the wall that belonged to his son who was killed on Christmas Eve 1944 during the war. He turns off the record and goes downstairs just as his nephew Fred (Ben Gazzara) is arriving for a visit. Fred has arrived to chastise his uncle for using his vast influence to cancel a cultural exchange program at Fred’s university that would have allowed a Polish professor to teach in the United States. Grudge opposed the program due to his isolationist position that the United States should stay out of international affairs, avoid contributing foreign aid to needy nations, and avoiding involvement in the United Nations. Grudge distrusts all foreign nations and believes that the United States should focus its resources on building up its arsenal, including nuclear weapons, as a means of deterrent. Pacifist Fred disagrees and believes that the United States should solidify international relations to avoid future wars. As Fred leaves, he reminds Grudge that they still share one thing in common, their mutual love for Grudge’s deceased son Marley.

As Fred leaves, Grudge hears the record playing upstairs and sees a brief vision of his dead son sitting at the dining room table. As Grudge turns to investigate, he suddenly finds himself on the deck of a fogbound troopship carrying coffins draped in flags being guarded by soldiers at attention. A solider introduces himself as the Ghost of Christmas Past (Steve Lawrence) and explains that the ship is carrying the dead from all the nations who participated in World War I. Through the fog, Grudge observes a second ship, and the Ghost explains that ship carries the dead from World War II. The Ghost explains that the two ships are a small part of a huge convoy that carries the dead from all conflicts throughout history. The Ghost explains that the way to stop the killing is to spend more time talking, since when talking stops, fighting starts. The Ghost then transports Grudge to Japan just after the country’s surrender at the end of World War II. Grudge sees himself as a younger Navy commander, being accompanied by his WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) driver, Lieutenant Gibson (Eva Marie Saint). The pair visit a makeshift hospital that is treating the unlucky survivors of the Hiroshima bomb. The doctor at the hospital (James Shigeta) explains that the children he is treating were looking in the direction of the bomb when it went off. As a result, their faces had been burned off. Lt. Gibson cannot bear to look at the children and breaks down crying, while the younger Grudge remains stoic.

We are the individual Me’s! And we must carry our glorious philosophy through to its glorious culmination! So that the end, with enterprise and determination, the world and everything in it will belong to one individual Me! And that will be the ultimate. The absolute ultimate! Imperial Me (Peter Sellers)

The present-day Grudge than walks through a door and enters a darkened room where the Ghost of Christmas Present (Pat Hingle) is seated at a dining table feasting on a large Christmas dinner. The Ghost turns on a light in the darkened room and reveals that next to the dining room is an internment camp full of displaced persons from different nations who are starving. The Ghost invites Grudge to indulge himself in the meal, but Grudge declines and criticizes the Ghost for being so uncaring. The Ghost responds by turning off the light and reminds Grudge of his earlier statement to Fred that refusing donations to the needy would make them less needy and more self-reliant. The Ghost argues with Grudge about the need for generosity in the world and finally pulls the tablecloth off the table in a fit of rage, dumping all the food onto the floor. Grudge cannot stand the room anymore and runs away into the dark.

Grudge next finds himself in the ruins of what he recognizes as his local town hall where he meets the Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert Shaw). The Ghost informs Grudge that the town hall was destroyed in a disastrous nuclear conflict that nearly killed off all human life on the world. As the Ghost explains, a handful of survivors enter the ruins led by a delusional man dressed in a Pilgrim suit and cowboy hat cut into a crown. The delusional man, known as Imperial Me (Peter Sellers), gives a speech exhorting each person to act in their own self-interest. Grudge observes his butler, Charles (Percy Rodriguez), try unsuccessfully to convince the crowd that acting collectively for the greater good of all is absolutely necessary for humanity to survive. Imperial Me and the crowd jeer and mock Charles. Imperial Me orders Charles to be brought forward and charges the desperate man with treason. Charles tries to escape the mob, but he is shot dead by a little boy in a cowboy outfit. Grudge’s cook Ruby (Barbara Ann Teer) cries over Charles’ body while Imperial Me rallies the crowd to attack a group of people who are living on the other side of the river who wanted to talk for the greater good. A battle ensues and the Ghost informs Grudge that the two groups kill off each other until only one person is left alive. A devastated Grudge asks the Ghost if this future is the world as it must be, or as it might be. The Ghost simply smiles and walks away, leaving the question unanswered.

Grudge next awakens back in the real world on Christmas morning. He finds himself on the floor of his study with a phone in his hand. Fred arrives and informs Grudge that Grudge had called him in the middle of the night and asked him to stop by on his way to church. Grudge apologizes for his comments made the previous evening. Grudge makes statements that cautious support for the United Nations and international diplomacy may help prevent future wars and nuclear devastation. Grudge listens in on a radio broadcast of children of UN delegates singing Christmas carols in their native languages. Fred leaves and Grudge goes into the kitchen to have his Christmas morning coffee with Charles and Ruby.

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Our Rating

ABC aired Carol for Another Christmas on December 28, 1964. Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed the TV movie starring Percy Rodrigues, Sterling Hayden, and Ben Gazzara.

User Rating: 2.85 ( 2 votes)
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