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Scrooge; Or, Marley's Ghost

Debut film outing for Dickens' Yuletide classic

Fantasy 1901 6 mins Silent


This first filmed version of Dickens' beloved story is packed with charm. In common with other filmed literary works or this time, it's a heavily condensed 'scenes from the book' tableau rather than a full-scale adaptation. For contemporary audiences, the pleasures lay in seeing familiar scenes and characters brought to life, and from the ingenuity of the visualisations. Sadly, the only known surviving copy, preserved by the BFI National Archive, is missing its ending, leaving us to fall back on our memory of the villain's contrition.

There's some neat double-exposure effects - particularly when the head of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's late business partner, appears on the miser's door knocker - courtesy of director Walter Booth, a former stage magician and 'trick film' specialist. In Booth's version, a be-sheeted ghost of Marley replaces Dickens' three Christmas ghosts - an approach probably borrowed from a popular stage adaptation of the day. This was long believed to be the earliest filmed adaptation of a Dickens work, until the 2011 rediscovery of the Bleak House-inspired The Death of Poor Joe (c.1900).