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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  2. Reblogged this on Life, the universe and poetry. and commented:
    This interesting: both the first film adaption of Christmas Carol and the first silent film to use intertitles.

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  4. Awesome. I had no idea that this film includes the first ever use of intertitles, such a cool bit of trivia. Thanks!

  5. Adding to all the above comments …. Thoroughly enjoyed this blog and the film. -:). MERRY CHRISTMAS TOO.

  6. Wow! Cool! From 1901.

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  8. Reblogged this on Bastet and Sekhmet's Library and commented:
    Have a look…a great classic in a very early film adaptation!

  9. Reblogged this on 1WriteWay and commented:
    I’m a bit late with the reblog, but this silent film is so Interesting and timely :)

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  12. 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!

  13. That was great. Merry Christmas Mr. Interesting literature.

  14. Season’s best wishes,

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  16. Reblogged this on In Times Gone By… and commented:
    Australia might be able to claim the first feature film (1906), but here’s something from 1901!

    • 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.

      • And the first feature film was from AUSTRALIA. Not America!!

        • 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.

    • Thanks for the reblog!

  17. That was so cool. Thanks for sharing, and Merry Christmas to you!

  18. Thank you for sharing! My all time favorite movie of a Christmas Carol is Scrooge, a musical with Albert Finney. But this may film now ties.

  19. 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

  20. That’s wonderful – thanks for sharing and for all your posts this year – Merry Christmas!