Film adaptations of books are something that goes back all the way to the earliest days of cinema and the British Film Institute has announced the discovery of a very example of one such adaption in their archives.
The Death Of Poor Joe, a 1901 production that adapted a scene out of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House was discovered by archivist Bryony Dixon, while doing unrelated research. The film had come to the BFI back in 1954 as part of a collection from a film collector who knew the film’s director G. A. Smith. It had gone unnoticed in the archives as it had been mis-labeled as the 1902 film Man Meets Ragged Boy. It’s original release predates by a few months Scrooge (aka Marley’s Ghost) which had been thought the be the earliest Dickens film adaption.
The one-minute long film depicts the scene where Joe, a chimney-sweep, lies dying outside a church yard in the snow. As a night watchman attempts to comfort him, Joe mistakes his lamp for heaven and dies.
Smith was a British silents director who managed to create nearly 100 short films between 1897 and 1910.
The discovery of the one-minute long film comes just a day after the BFI held a celebration for the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth. The BFI has announced that they plan on screening the film at their upcoming program of Dickens’ pre-1914 shorts.