A chance discovery by British Film Institute (BFI) curator Byrony Dixon has brought to light what is believed to be the earliest Dickens-inspired film, ‘The Death of Poor Joe.’
Thought to be the work of British filmmaker G.A. Smith, the minute-long silent film is based on an episode in Dickens’ novel ‘Bleak House’, and was filmed in Brighton in 1901. Smith was married to the stage actress Laura Bayley, who plays the role of the young boy ‘Jo’ in this short film.
Ms. Dixon discovered the film shortly after the worldwide celebrations surrounding the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth with her research determining this be the earliest known occurrence of a Dickensian character on film.
Fond of fairytales and comedy, director G.A. Smith would go on in 1901 to film adaptations of ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Scrooge’, or, Marley’s Ghost’.