The Spirit of Christmas

Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost is the oldest surviving adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic. The 1843 novella A Christmas Carol may be the most beloved Christmas story of all time. Movie adaptations are as old as film itself. It was the goal of British film pioneer R. W. Paul to adapt already familiar stories. That way audiences didn’t have to read more than they had to. Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost is the first silent film to use intertitles. The 1901 adaptation is well preserved for a 6 minute black & white short.

Normally I wouldn’t review movies this old, but Marley’s Ghost is very innovative for the time. It feels like a stage production with a streamlined interpretation of the book. We see Daniel Smith as the quintessential miser Ebenezer Scrooge. He leaves Bob Cratchit on Christmas Eve and is visited by the ghost of his deceased partner Jacob Marley. Although he’s just a guy in a bedsheet, director Walter R. Booth was a trick filmmaker who manged to superimpose Marley’s face on a doorknocker. Along with ghostly visions on a black curtain.

Like the stage version, Marley is the only spirit who shows Scrooge the past, present, and yet to come. The iconic catchphrase “Bah, Humbug!” is never shown on-screen, but “God bless us, everyone” can be seen at the Cratchit home alongside Tiny Tim. Fred is also seen, but the movie abruptly ends with Scrooge seeing his potential grave. Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost may be in incomplete, but it was groundbreaking.

Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost

Scrooge sees the ghost of Jacob Marley

P.S. Being public domain, Iโ€™ve supplied the full movie underneath.

6 thoughts on “The Spirit of Christmas

  1. Wow, I always thought Edison’s adaptation of Frankenstein was the oldest of its kind, but this is way better, both in execution and style. In a way it’s a good thing A Christmas Carol didn’t get a full on Silent Film adaptation at another time as I think pantomiming it would’ve lost so much in the potency of what Dickens intended.

    Liked by 1 person

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