Santa Claus: 1898, early local silent film.

December 21, 2020

Great Christmas short films from the British Film Institute

Because The Snowman isn’t the only short film worth adding to your festive ritual.

Santa Claus from 1898. 1 min. Made in Hove. 

One Christmas Eve, two excitable children go to sleep dreaming that Santa Claus will slide down their chimney. Happily he does, and by dint of early cinema showmanship we see his arrival on the rooftop, and his night-time visit, bearing gifts and a tree. The superimposition revealing that Santa is on his way is the first example of a film showing what is happening in two places at once – the circular projection betrays the fact that director George Albert Smith was once a magic lantern artist.

The mother and infants in this film are played by Smith’s wife Laura Bayley and their two children, Harold and Dorothy. Early film companies were small outfits, and Smith’s was very much a family concern. Smith first became well-known on the stage, with a hypnotism act, before opening a pleasure garden in Hove where he put on magic lantern shows. He 1896 he enthusiastically embraced the new medium of cinema and became one of Britain’s first filmmakers.

You can learn more about the BFI’s series of short classic, free to watch, Christmas  films here.