The actual premise of pretty much every Christmas movie you have ever come across is born out of a similar mould. Essentially, we see an unhappy situation be slowly turned into a more joyous one through the magic of Christmas. The reality is that if you’re searching through the festive film section, then you won’t find too much in the way of cinematic nourishment. Except, of course, if you’re Bill Murray.
Known today as everybody’s favourite movie star, Bill Murray’s career is as long and varied as his bar tabs are. Never afraid to pick up a cheesy or chintzy film, if the script was suitable, there was one film which immediately caught his eye when it came across his desk: Scrooged. Released in 1988, the film sees a cynical TV executive travel down the road of a Christmas Tale as he is haunted by three ghosts on Christmas eve.
It’s a tale as old as Charles Dickens and one which puts Murray in perhaps his most unusual position: being disliked. Directed by Richard Donner and featuring co-star credits for Karen Allen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, John Glover and even the New York Dolls frontman David Johansen as the Ghost of Christmas Past, the film is a guaranteed warm hug of a movie.
Donner actually struggled to handle the presence of bill Murray during the filming. Speaking with Philadelphia Daily News, Donner admitted directing Murray was like “standing on 42nd Street and Broadway, and the lights are out, and you’re the traffic cop.”
Not a fun place to be. However, Donner also confirmed that it was the moment he saw Bill Murray break out of his former role as a pure comedian (having been a big player for SNL during its heyday) and become an actor.
That feeling results in the final scene of the film. As most will know, after being visited by the three ghosts of Christmas, our protagonist, usually Scrooge and this time Murray’s Frank Cross, is a changed man. The scene in Scrooged is particularly chastening as it quickly snaps out of its comedy direction.
It was a pivotal moment for Donner, not only in the film but in Murray’s growing acting career. He told Philadelphia Daily news: “On the last take, I saw something happen to Billy. I saw Billy Murray become an actor.”
So, while most Christmas films are as good for you as a mountain of chocolate, drenched in brandy and set on fire, Bill Murray’s performance in Scrooged is simply beautiful. Watch the final scene below.