The First Film Adaptation of A Christmas Carol (1901)

As an appendix to our previous post on the interesting history of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, here is a link to a Youtube video containing the first known film adaptation of Dickens’s classic story. Directed by Walter R. Booth, the British-produced film was only a short piece, and the only surviving footage we have is incomplete. The film’s title was Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost. Until the 2011 discovery (or rather rediscovery) of a short film from 1900/1 called The Death of Poor Joe (based on the death of the crossing sweeper in Bleak House), this was the oldest known film adaptation of Dickens’s work.

Since the film was made in 1901, it is, of course, a silent film. As a result, a number of intertitles (pieces of filmed printed text edited into the midst of the photographed action of the film) had to be utilised. This was the first time that such intertitles had been used in a film. So, as well as being the first film of A Christmas Carol, and almost the first film adaptation of Dickens’s work, this short piece also has another filmic claim to fame.

Watch out for some state-of-the-art special effects (well, for 1901, anyway), including the chilling appearance of Marley’s face in the door-knocker…

We should add that we do not own the copyright of this video, but that according to the BFI this footage ‘can be accessed by anyone within the UK under the terms of the Creative Archive Licence‘. We hope you enjoy the film, and Merry Christmas!

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47 thoughts on “The First Film Adaptation of A Christmas Carol (1901)

  1. I enjoyed that.

    My grandfather used to play a violin in the silent picture houses. On theme, have you seen the ‘oldest photograph,’ ‘oldest person ever photographed,’ ‘oldest audio’ – all on youtube. atb Loughbrough

    Oh, [Mat,Brighton] – Shoreham, down the road, was the first Hollywood: the place to be seen in 1910, tho not so glitzy these days, no. Seeya

    • Really it surprises you, who put the first man on the moon..Americans. Who made t.v possible for mass consumption..Americans, who made computers for mass consumption…you got it.
      And I´m from Spain, I think we did invent bullfighting maybe,not sure about that one.

      • Hang on – cars, movies, television, photography, aeroplanes, guns, cameras, fireworks, Christmas trees, electricity EVERYTHING!! NONE of that was invented by Americans. What’s with this irrational love for America…??!! They might think they invented everything, but they actually didn’t invent ANYTHING!!

        • Might not invented it, but people believe it. And the credit goes to them. I guess life ain´t fair.
          Let´s cheer up, it´s christmas. I´m having a beer right now and is 12:29,36 sec here in Spain.

          O.K, if you tell me what Australians have invented I´ll tell you something if your interested that is, that the Spanish invented( Apart from the inquisition)that very few people know.

        • Don´t lie, you know the truth. They only tell you that in school to make you feel better. We invented the Inquisition, yep, us Spaniards, if we have to be proud of something well let it be the Inquisition. Plus it has a nice ring to it.

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  3. Great Christmas treat! My great-grandmother used to play the piano on silent films :)
    Thank you for all your wonderfull post. Merry Christmas and may 2014 be a great year filled with more good stuff!

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