Christmas on Film: ‘Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost’ (1901)

One of the earliest surviving adaptations of Charles Dickens’ work on film (and certainly the earliest surviving film version of A Christmas Carol), this is a remarkably ambitious piece of film-making for the time – for a start, it attempts to cram an eighty page story into a mere five minutes, which, for anyone who knows the source text well, seems quite an achievement!

Sadly, the only known remaining print is incomplete, but enough of it is left to demonstrate magician and director W.R Booth’s (1869-1938) creative approach to special effects (watch out for the scene where Scrooge’s doorknocker turns into Jacob Marley’s head, and the initial appearance of Marley’s ghost himself), some of which even now are pretty impressive.

Those familiar with Scrooge’s three other spectral visitors will not find them here, as this film appears to be as much based on a popular stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol of the time (which used Marley’s ghost to play their parts) as it was on Dickens’ original story – although a great deal is still unknown about the film, including the identities of the actors involved.

However, it does appear to have been a successful production, even being shown to the royal family at Sandringham during the Christmas period of 1901 (a seal of approval and a real selling point at the time). Its success was almost certainly a result of the familiarity and popularity of both Dickens’ original story and J.C Buckstone’s (1859-1924) stage version, making it that much easier for the film-makers to tell this complex tale in a short form and without the help of sound.

For more from the BFI National Archive, visit their website or their excellent YouTube channel.

For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.

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3 comments

  1. Pingback: Christmas Corner | Another Kind Of Mind
  2. Pingback: Christmas on Film: ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1914) | Another Kind Of Mind
  3. Pingback: Christmas on Film: ‘The Mistletoe Bough’ (1904) | Another Kind Of Mind

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