Monday, December 22, 2008

Uptown Christmas Bragging Rights

A reader tipped us off to this little known fact:
The very first film adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was produced at Essanay Studios in Uptown in 1908 and starred Thomas Ricketts. There was an earlier British film short called, “Marley’s Ghost,” but the Uptown film was the very first full length film from Dickens’ book, and the very first film titled, "A Christmas Carol."


  1. It says on the link that he went on to direct the very first Hollywood film a year later.

    My question is who invented the casting couch?

  2. I'm not sure you can accurately claim that the Essanay film was the first full length version, since it was only 15 minutes long.

    Now, you could argue that 15 minutes was full-length at the time, because it was made so early in film history, but by the same argument one could say that the 1901 British version was full-length as well, since it was 11 minutes long and came out a full seven years earlier in film history...

    Uptown obviously gets some bragging rights nonetheless, and certainly can claim to be the first American version. For anyone who has the interest and the time, an exhaustive document on the film adaptations of "A Christmas Carol" can be found here.

  3. Sorry, that second link should have gone here.

  4. This really is another reason why TIF funds are wholly unneccessary to develop any property in Uptown. This area is rich in Hollywood history and would make a spectacular tourist destination for folks interested in film. Visitors could go from stage downtown to screen Uptown. Silent film was all over the place up here. This neighborhood is just amazing.

  5. Either way, UptownWalker, it looks to me like Uptown had the first "A Christmas Carol" film. The British film wasn't called "A Christmas Carol."

    Below is a link to the British film. It looks to be the whole film and it is only 4:59 minutes long on YouTube, even with the intro and credits. I couldn't find the 15 minute Essany version online.

    Three times as long...That would be about like sitting through "Titanic" to today's audiences. No wonder they invented movie butter popcorn and Milk Duds!

    Marley's Ghost

  6. Zesty Marinara,

    The name "A Christmas Carol" obviously came from the original novella, but it's true that Essanay's version was the first film version called "A Christmas Carol". The British version's full title appears to have been "Scrooge; or Marley's Ghost" (which makes me think of some more modern adaptations, such as Bill Murray's "Scrooged")

    Marley's Ghost was 11 minutes long, as I wrote. However, as is not unusual with silent films, much of the footage has been lost, so only a few minutes survive. According to the The Internet Movie Database:

    This was an elaborate film for 1901; originally, it supposedly contained 13 scenes. What remains is less than five minutes with about six scenes in their entirety and a brief glimpse of another scene.

    The remaining 4:59 minutes is still considerably more surviving footage than the Essanay version, which has been lost in it's entirety (as far as anyone knows). Consider reading the document I linked covers much of this in depth, and even includes the original script to the Essanay version.

  7. UW, I definitely realize the importance of historical accuracy and intellectual debate over historical detail. Facts gain more power and credibility if they are just that - facts. Thanks for contributing and forcing the rest of us to dig deeper.

    That aside, isn't it cool that Uptown has so much history still to be uncovered. It's like living in the neighborhood of an Egyptian pyramid or something, only many of the historical figures and populations are still alive.

    I'm sure Archiologists get historic details wrong from time to time, but that hasn't stopped them from revealing some incredible facts and artifacts to the world. Hopefully, more than just a hanful of locals will find Uptown's history interesting enough to study and learn more.

    I'm with Chuck, Uptown has such great potential if we were only to tap into a fraction of the history around us. I'm really glad neighbors have fought so hard for historic designations and preservation, and that buildings such as the ones in Uptown Square are being meticulously restored.