A Christmas Carol (1910) is the second-oldest surviving filmed adaptation of Charles Dickens’ story, and the first example we have of a pretty complete telling of the tale. The oldest known movie was from 1901, a British film called Scrooge or Marley’s Ghost, and with only a little over three minutes in existence, that movie cuts out most of the story to center on the interaction between Scrooge and Marley.
This post is part of the countdown to Christmas coinciding with the launch of my newest book, Christmas in Classic Films.
The 1910 film is around 13 to 17 minutes, depending on which version you can find, but whisks us through much of the plot efficiently and with simple but evocative special effects requisite to the story. Snow flies off the hat brims and clings to the shoulders of the men requesting Scrooge to donate to charity. The ghosts are superimposed in a double exposure of trick photography. The title cards abbreviate the bullet points in this already well-known story.
The main limitation, which perhaps adds a bit of theatricality to the film’s appearance, is that all the action takes place either Scrooge’s office or in his flat. The Ghost of Christmas Past, (and Present, and Future) brings the scenes to him. So Scrooge is not lifted to travel through space and time, but the images from Fezziwig’s ball, to his courtship, to the vision of his lonely death and eerie headstone all play out in corners of his room.
The movie was made by the Edison Company up in the Bronx before Hollywood was ever a gleam in anyone’s eye. Marc McDermott plays Scrooge, a tall figure who towers over the cowering Bob Cratchit, played by Charles S. Ogle.
The story of Scrooge, with its supernatural events, was a natural for this medium. How amazed Charles Dickens would have been.
May I take this moment to wish my fellow Americans a very peaceful and pleasant Thanksgiving Day!
Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Memories in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism. Her latest book is Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.