Oldest Dickens’ Adaption Discovered In BFI Archives

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.

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About Rich Drees 7040 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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