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Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost

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ScroogeOrMarleysGhost

Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost is a 1901 British film adaptation of Charles Dickens' 1843 novel A Christmas Carol. It is the oldest known film adaptation of the novel.

Filmed in 35mm and in black and white, only 620 feet of this silent film's footage survives today. It was produced by the English film pioneer R.W. Paul, directed by Walter R. Booth (1869 - 1938), and was filmed at Paul's Animatograph Works. It was released in November 1901. As was common in cinema's early days, the filmmakers chose to adapt an already well-known story, in this case A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, in the belief that the audience's familiarity with the story would result in the need for fewer intertitles. It was presented in 'Twelve Tableaux' or scenes.

Evidence suggests that Paul's version of A Christmas Carol was based as much on J. C. Buckstone's popular stage adaptation Scrooge as on Dickens' original story. Like the play, the film dispenses with the different ghosts that visit Scrooge, instead relying upon the figure of Jacob Marley, draped in a white sheet, to point out the error of Scrooge's ways. The film featured impressive trick effects by 1901 standards, superimposing Marley's face over the door knocker, and displaying the scenes from his youth on a black curtain in Scrooge's bedroom. R.W. Paul was a trick film specialist; Walter Booth, credited as the film's director, was a well-known magician as well as a trick and comic film specialist. The film makes early use of dissolving between scenes. Some scenes are tinted.

The film was shown to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at Sandringham House in December 1901 in a Royal Command Performance.

Content

The only known surviving footage, about 5 minutes and 30 seconds in length, is preserved by the British Film Institute. This footage starts with Bob Cratchit showing someone out of Scrooge's office on Christmas Eve, just before he and Scrooge leave for the night, and ends at a scene showing the death of Tiny Tim. The film shows Scrooge walking back to his home, where the doorknocker changes into the face of Jacob Marley before he falls asleep in his chambers, leading to the suggestion that all that happens after is a dream. The film does not show the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, or Christmas Yet to Come, instead relying on the ghost of Marley to present the visions to Scrooge.

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