Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Christmas Carol (1910)

Premiered December 23, 1910

We start at the beginning, with the oldest extant adaptation.  (There is one other film version from 1901 that pre-dates this one, but it is no longer complete.) 

Scrooge (Marc McDermott) arrives at work and is brusque with Bob Crachit (Charles Ogle).
Men from the charity committee arrive and ask for a donation.  Scrooge spurns them and tells them to leave his business.

His nephew Fred shows up with his fiancee and another couple. This is a change from the book (and most adaptations), where Fred shows up alone and invites Scrooge to Christmas dinner. Scrooge dismisses them and won't shake Fred's hand.

As Scrooge arrives at home, he sees Marley's face on the knocker.
Marley's ghost visits Scrooge's bedroom. There are no title cards, but we can guess that Marley tells Scrooge not to act the way he did in life.

"There's more of gravy than of grave about you whatever you are!"

Next, we have another big departure from the book: the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come are combined into one ghost called "The Spirit Of Christmas."  This ghost and Scrooge never leave Scrooge's bedroom.

Such events as Scrooge's childhood in boarding school, celebrating Christmas while working for Fezzywig, the Crachit's Christmas feast are all observed as visions that appear within the room.  He starts smiling while watching the Crachits.  Perhaps he's making progress?

More changes come during the visions of "Christmas Yet To Come." Scrooge actually watches himself die, then sees a headstone that reads "Ebenezer Scrooge -- He lived and died without friends." Scrooge also watches Fred's fiancee dump him due to lack of money.  Scrooge reaches into his pockets to help his nephew, but can't because he's invisible. 

Next, the spirit shows Scrooge "Want and Misery," which appears as a beggar at Scrooge's feet.  He's shocked and saddened by this.

In the book and most adaptations, Scrooge normally learns of his death by overhearing conversations.  Here, he actually watches himself die and sees a headstone bearing this inscription:

"Ebenezer Scrooge:He Lived And Died Without Friends"

The next morning, Scrooge is awakened by boys singing outside.

When he realizes he's not dead and has a chance at redemption, Scrooge dances a jig of happiness and drops money to the boys.

Dancin' Scrooge

In the remaining minute and a half, Scrooge makes a generous donation to the charity fund, makes Fred his partner (thus giving him financial stability to marry) and delivers the goose to Crachit's house (accompanied by Fred and his fiancee).

Bob Crachit thanks Scrooge & family for the goose.

Visions of present:Cratchit's dinner;nephew rejected for want of money.
“Want and misery”;beggar at Scrooge's feet.
Watches himself die; “he lived and died without friends”.
Boys caroling outside on Christmas morning; Scrooge dances, gives the boys money.
Scrooge donates to charity;makes Fred his business
Visits Cratchits house, frightens them all;Fred brings the goose.

RigbyMel says:

I am amazed at the economy of the storytelling in this adaptation.  They manage to trot along and get all the major plot points in there in just a few minutes.  It is also interesting to note the rather amazing special effects, considering this film was made in 1910.  There was not a CGI pixel to be had in those days, so there are great double exposures and other tricks employed.  It is also striking to think that the story of A Christmas Carol  was so familiar to people that the filmmakers didn't feel a need to include a lot of exposition.

This 1910 version of A Christmas Carol is well worth tracking down if you have an interest in film history!

RigbyMel's rating:
3 and 1/2 candy canes (for sheer historical significance)

J.A. Morris says:

Perhaps what's most interesting about this adaptation is its portrayal of Tiny Tim.  Or should I say lack of portrayal?  Tim can be seen in the background but he's never mentioned by name, nor is anything said about his condition.  Quite surprising considering the important role Tim plays and what he represents in Dickens' story.  

Crachit defends his family from Scrooge before he realizes his boss has changed.

In addition to Marc McDermott as Scrooge and Charles Ogle as Bob, imdb mentions 4 other actors but not which characters they play.

This short can be found on the internet, but the best way to watch it is to seek out a dvd called A Christmas Past.

For Christmasphiles like myself, this is a fascinating historical artifact.  It might not be something you'll watch every Christmas season, but it's certainly worth 10 minutes of your time!

J.A. Morris' rating:
3 candy canes.

1 comment:

bga said...

I had never heard of or seen this version. It seems like one I will need to watch. Thanks for sharing it.