A Christmas Accident (1912)

This fifteen-minute film tells a story about conjoined homes housing two families, the Giltons and the Biltons. The Giltons have no children but are well off financially. Mr. Gilton is curmudgeonly and selfish, though his wife seems nice enough. The Biltons, in contrast, have three kids and are relatively happy, but they are poor and struggle to make ends meet.

So, yeah, we're doing a Scrooge riff, minus the ghosts. 

Anyway, the film takes us through a number of brief interactions, the first few show us that Mr. Gilton is a dick. He does have a dog, though, so I guess he's not all bad.

Correction: he had a dog - it gets poisoned pretty quick. We never actually learn how the dog got poisoned, and the sparse use of title cards makes it difficult to tell exactly what's going on. My impression is that Gilton suspects his neighbors were somehow responsible, though it's a safe bet they're innocent (they're pretty much paragons of virtue; besides, they liked the dog).

There's also a segment where a shop delivers groceries intended for Gilton to his neighbors, who cook them up without realizing the mistake. Again, the movie isn't clear whether they think it's a gift or what, but they seem contrite when they realize what's happened.

We soon jump ahead to Christmas Eve. Mrs. Gilton wants to do something for their neighbors, but her greedy husband refuses. He goes out to buy a turkey while the Biltons celebrate as best they can. There's a heavy storm, which distracts Mr. Gilton as he returns home and wanders in the wrong door.

Just before he comes in, the Biltons are disappointed to realize they're without a Christmas turkey. Then a spectral Santa Claus appears in their doorway (they don't seem to be able to see him) and laughs. He vanishes and Mr. Gilton comes in with a turkey. One of the Bilton kids mistakes the turkey for a gift, and - realizing he's in the wrong house and seeing how little food they have - he hands it over. They convince him to sit and reveal there's a gift for him: a teddy bear with a note saying it's because his dog died. That seems... insensitive to me, but it warms Gilton's heart. They get his wife and seem ready to celebrate together.

I found myself a little surprised by how much I enjoyed the ending. It wasn't at all surprising, but the actor playing Mr. Gilton sold the character's gradually thawing heart over the course of the scene. It was an effective moment.

The rest was fine. I could have done without the Santa Claus appearance - it felt comically out of place, and overall the whole thing felt longer than it needed to be. But overall it was solid as a brief exploration of class and charity.