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Scrooge (1913)


Main image of Scrooge (1913)
35mm, black & white, 2,500 ft, silent
DirectorLeedham Bantock
Production CompanyZenith Film Company
AdaptationSeymour Hicks
Original StoryCharles Dickens

Cast: Seymour Hicks (Ebenezer Scrooge); William Lugg, J.C. Buckstone, Leedham Bantock, Dorothy Buckstone, Osborne Adair, Leonard Calvert

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Cold-hearted miser Ebenezer Scrooge receives a ghostly visitation and is persuaded to repent his selfish ways.

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Many of the great actors of the early 20th century were drawn to well-known characters from Dickens or Shakespeare. Seymour Hicks was better known as a cheerful song and dance man, as well as a successful playwright and musical theatre impresario, so Ebenezer Scrooge might seem a strange choice of signature role. But Hick's Scrooge was a runaway success - he first played the role in 1901 and apparently played him some two thousand times before committing it to the screen in this 1913 film for Zenith Films. He would reprise the role one last time in 1935 for Henry Edwards' sound version.

The film opens with a vignette showing Hicks in contemporary dress, then again in costume and make up as Scrooge. This is followed by a shot of the exterior of Dickens' house at Gad's Hill (which served at that time as a Dickens museum) and a representation of Dickens himself, pacing his library at Gad's Hill waiting for inspiration and beginning to write 'A Christmas Carol'. As with other Dickens adaptations, the film is careful to establish the credentials and expertise of its lead player, as well as to pay attention to authentic locations. The inclusion of the author himself seems to suggest that the great man would somehow have approved the production.

With years of practice behind him, Hicks understandably makes a convincing Scrooge. Marley's shrouded ghost is suitably grisly and care has been taken with the costumes, sets and the snowbound London street scenes, enlivened with plenty of energetic children. At 34 minutes, this 1913 version is interesting to compare with Thomas Bentley's feature-length David Copperfield, released the same year.

The shorter film, more typical in length for its time, necessarily condenses the story, so elects to have Marley's ghost stand in for the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. The scenes of Scrooge's past life are presented as short vignettes as Scrooge and Marley's ghost look on in the manner of Dante and Virgil. This form of representation was a legacy of the pictorial traditions in book illustrations and magic lantern adaptations which left their mark on early films, but which were being edged out by greater naturalism and expanded running times.

Bryony Dixon

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. 'Humbug!' (2:42)
2. Past, present and future (9:35)
3. 'God bless us, every one' (5:49)
Complete film (37:12)
Scrooge (1951)
Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1901)
Christmas Carol, A (1977)
Dickens on Film