Sunday, 25 March 2012

Oldest surviving film adaptation of a Dickens film surfaces

Just in time for the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens and 110 years after it was filmed the oldest known film adaptation of a Dickens novel has surfaced in the library of The British Film Institute where it has lain since it was donated in 1954 by a collector, but was catalogued under the wrong name and date.

Filmed in March 1901 British film pioneer G.A. Smith, it is entitled "The Death of Poor Joe", a scene from the novel "Bleak House". It is about a minute long and stars Smith's wife Laura Bayley in the title role (playing a teen aged boy streetsweeper. The other cast member is unknown. The short length is typical of the era and this film was probably originally shown in Nickelodeon machines rather than on a big screen. It is of course silent.


It's been pointed out that even this one scene is inaccurate from the novel since it gets the character's name wrong as it should be spelled "Jo". More seriously in the novel Jo dies indoors and in bed, not outside in the snow, and it has the character hold his hands in prayer, which Jo would not do since he had never been taught to pray.

The likely date for this film makes it a few months older than the previous entry for oldest Dickens film, a three and a half minute version of "A Christmas Carol" which is epic by comparison. Directed by R.W. Paul


The BFI is planning an exhibition of Dickens films from the pre WW1 era.

BFI short doc about silent Dickens films;

No comments:

Post a Comment