Jimmy Stewart westernWelcome back to Balladeer’s Blog’s Fourth Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon, during which I examine various obscure and/or forgotten versions of the Dickens classic.

THE TRAIL TO CHRISTMAS (1957) – This is a fun western-style adaptation of the venerable Dickens story. The Trail to Christmas originally aired as a Yuletide episode of G.E. Theater on December 15th, 1957.  That means this black & white wonder has an introduction by G.E. Theater‘s usual host Ronald Reagan and as an added bonus this Cowpoke Carol was directed by Jimmy Stewart himself!

Stewart also starred in the half-hour story as Bart, a cowboy who encounters a little boy named Johnny Carterville (no, not Jebediah Springfield – Johnny Carterville) in the desert around Christmas. The boy has run away from home, bearing a grudge against his parents and feeling disillusioned about the holiday season of love and giving. To set Johnny straight Bart tells him the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, adapting it to the American West to give the youngster familiar points of reference. Stewart’s radio show The Six Shooter once did this same basic story under the title Brit Ponset’s Christmas Carol

Ebenezer Scrooge (John McIntire) owns a ranch in this version of the story with Bob Cratchit (Sam Edwards) as his long-suffering ranch-hand. Will Wright portrays Scrooge’s late partner “Jake” Marley, Dennis Holmes plays Tiny Tim and Sally Frazier appears as Scrooge’s lost love Belle. The Trail to Christmas has a lot of fun with the western twist on the familiar story but is too short to compete with lengthier Cowpoke Carols like Ebenezer (1998) with Jack Palance as a miserly saloon owner or Skinflint (1979), the country-western musical version of the Carol.  

G.E. TheaterTo dispel one BIG misconception about this version of A Christmas Carol let me point out that it does NOT feature future Bonanza star Dan Blocker as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Blocker played that holiday spirit in a Christmas episode of Cimarron City, NOT in The Trail to Christmas. Kevin Hagen, who went on to be a regular on Little House on the Prairie does triple duty as all three incarnations of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

In the end not only does Scrooge change his ways but Johnny decides that maybe there IS something in this whole Christmas thing and that maybe, just maybe, his parents may be doing their best to raise him. Overall this is a fun but not particularly moving version of the Dickens tale and it goes by like the wind given its short run-time.


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 





  1. Wow! u find versions of this story that are way buried.

  2. I have to to own this now!

  3. So much fun to read about these versions!

  4. Gotta luv western Christmas shit!

  5. I love A Christmas Carol!

  6. u find hundreds of these Christmas Carols!

  7. A Christmas Carol is always so touching!

  8. Vvey enjoyable! Your Christmas Carol posts are always part of my favorite holiday reading!

  9. Jimmy Stewart directed this?

  10. R. Tyson

    Is this version of ACC available for purchase, and where?

    • I got is as a gift years ago from a friend who got it by chance in one of those DVD packs that are sold hyping the fact that they contain “FIFTY” or some such number Old Western films and television episodes. He just wrapped the disc with The Trail to Christmas on it – a Sunset Carson movie was on the same disc – and gave it to me. It was as plainly put-together as all those DVD packs are, be they westerns, horror, sci-fi, etc so the individual disc has no extras or company name I’m afraid. Those jumbo packs are often full of old, super-cheap and not very good items, that’s why they are sold with 50 or 100 or whatever items in them.

  11. TeeVee

    Enjoyed reading about this and would also love to find it. Appreciated these clues but haven’t unearthed anything yet in my search for these DVD packs. Do you have a photo of the disc? What was the name of the Sunset Carson movie? Appreciate your help.

    • Okay, I’ll get it and find the movie title.

      • You are very kind to go to the trouble. This set is evidently long out of print as I’ve searched for Western sets and Christmas sets to no avail. I don’t suppose your friend still has the remainder of the DVD pack with the name?

      • He does not, I’m afraid. I asked him years ago on behalf of another person who wanted it. Hopefully today I will have time to dig out the DVD and let you know the name of the Sunset Carson flick. (I was never a fan of his so I have never even watched it.)

  12. Thanks for checking. This one continues to be as elusive as that Winchester ’73 rifle if carried off by Harvey.

  13. Joe

    I have a copy of this, albeit with a running time stamp right in the middle of the screen the entire show. But other than that its working if anyone is interested.

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