What the Dickens? An early celluloid gem & more

Check out the latest tidbit from the Internet time capsule: The British Film Institute has rediscovered what is believed to be the earliest celluloid adaptation of a Charles Dickens story. Granted it’s only a 1-minute long silent film depicting a scene from the Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House, but it’s still impressive considering its provenance. The silent film is believed to have been made in 1901 by G.A. Smith who was a pretty interesting dude. Apparently he was “a stage hypnotist, psychic, magic lantern lecturer, astronomer, inventor, and one of the pioneers of British cinema.”

This is great if you love cinematic ephemera. It’s totally awesome if you are a Dickensiac (or Dickens fanatic in layman’s terms). What? you didn’t know such people existed? For the hardcore Dickens enthusiast here’s this long read from The New York Times Magazine about Dickens World located in England. In a bit of cognitive dissonance, it is an amusement park that originally “promised to be an ‘authentic’ re-creation of the London of Charles Dickens’s novels, complete with soot, pickpockets, cobblestones, gas lamps, animatronic Dickens characters and strategically placed chemical “smell pots” that would, when heated, emit odors of offal and rotting cabbage.” The writer found the visit and experience to be its own “best of times and worst of times” that revealed certain truths while also embodying a metaphor for today’s global economic decline. However, count me in as being interested in visiting this place never. The University of California, Santa Cruz (go Banana Slugs!) hosts an annual Dickens Camp for more a more academic (and less olfactory) experience. You can read all about it in the New Yorker, obviously. I don’t want to go there, either.

You know where I do want to go? The New York Public Library to see Dickens’s letter opener which the author had mounted on his beloved cat’s paw after it passed away. You know who I bet would also be interested in tagging along? Actor Viggo Mortensen who named Charles Dickens as one of his heroes along with around 230 other people (yup, he listed them all) in this interview.