The BFI says it has discovered the oldest surviving film to contain a Charles Dickens character.
Dating from 1901, The Death of Poor Joe was discovered by BFI researcher Bryony Dixon while researching early films of China.
Dixon noticed a catalogue entry referring to a film called The Death of Poor Joe which she realised might be a reference to a character in Bleak House.
Further investigations revealed the film was listed as being in the BFI’s collection under the alternative title of Man Meets Ragged Boy and wrongly dated to c1902.
The BFI says the film conflates two stories: it has similarities to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Matchgirl which has a child die in the snow while fantasising about the warmth she so dearly needs; and Dickens’ story of Jo from Bleak House which has similar pathos (but no snow).
The Death of Poor Joe will be screened as a special late addition to the BFIs season of Dickens short films.
“It’s wonderful to have discovered such a rare and unique film,” Ms Dixon said.
“It looks beautiful and is in excellent condition. This really is the icing on the cake of our current celebration of Dickens on Screen.”
Until now the earliest known Dickens film was Scrooge or Marley’s Ghost (1901), which is currently on nationwide release from the BFI National Archive.