Movie 10min

The Christmas Angel (1904)

Original title: L'ange de Noël
A family has a sick woman at home. Her girl goes out in the snow to beg.

+ 4 images
Director Georges Méliès
Country France
Language French
(Original) L'ange de Noël
(Alternative) Détresse et charité
(Complete) L’ange de Noël (ou Détresse et Charité)
Angels Beggar Black and White Charity Children Christmas Christmas Movie Church Drama Mercy Poverty Short Silent Film

A poor family in a rundown house where snow falls through the broken roof, there's no coal to heat the pathetic little stove, mother is sick, father sends daughter out to beg. Rejected by other beggars, the girl collapses in the snow…

Two endings for the film were made. In the version for French audiences, the beggar girl freezes to death after her collapse, and her soul is brought to Heaven by the Christmas Angel of the title. In the version for British and American audiences, a rich couple passing by in an automobile rescue the girl, bring her home, and lavish gifts upon her family.

7 Scenes
The Poverty Stricken.
In a wretched garret a poor woman lies helpless from sickness upon a bed, besides which is her husband, an unlucky workman, and her Little daughter, Mary. They are nursing her with the care that her malady demands. The window-panes are broken and the snow comes into the room. Misery has descended upon them with a heavy hand, for there now remains no wood nor coal for keeping up the fire. In the midst of this desolation a sheriff arrives to seize the poor furniture, for the proprietor remains unpaid. In spite of the entreaties of the tenants the sheriff performs his duties, and retires utterly unmoved by such misery. The father, in despair and without means, implores his daughter to go to the neighboring city to stretch out her hand at the church door to seek a penny or two from some charitable worshippers. Little Mary, full of courage, embraces her father and sets out boldly in spite of the snow squalls which whirl about in the darkness. She departs hoping for it is Christmas eve, to bring back a few coins begged after the Midnight Mass.
The Wintry Landscape.
The snow has buried everything. The poor girl, shivering under her rags, hastens toward the city. She is numb from the cold, and the snow which surrounds her face blinds her and forces her to lose her way. But she finally finds it again and resumes her journey with the energy of despair.
The Midnight Mass.
(Pictures setting representing the porch of a large church.) - The steps of the church are covered with professional beggars who await the exodus of the pious souls who are almost always generous on that day. She comes along and takes her place beside them, but the latter drive her away, threatening her with their canes and crutches. The poor child, exhausted from fatigue, goes away and sits down by a gas-jet. Exit of the congregation, who give alms to the professionals. The footmen and servants bring umbrellas and cloaks to the ladies returning to their carriages. Poor little Mary stretches out her hand in turn, but very timidly. She is sternly refused, for they have exhausted their money by giving to the others and are quite wearied of solicitations. A gentleman from whom she persistently begs some money treats her brutally and pushes her away with a shove. She falls on her knees sobbing.
The Cook Shop. Christmas Geese.
(Beautiful setting with perfect realism.) - On the right the street fading away in the night. The lighted windows glimmer upon the snow cheerfully. At the front, on the left, there is a cook-shop in which the fire burns brightly. The assistants are busy plucking and roasting fowls. Some noisy groups of people, who are getting ready for a fine collation, enter and buy food. The poor little beggar in her turn comes along but she stays outside, her nose pressed against the window of the shop. She shakes from the cold and devours with her eyes those good things which awaken the tortures of her empty stomach. Alas, none of that is for her. When she decides to push open the door and to ask for a piece of bread, the boss thrusts her out. The two guardians of the peace themselves brutally drive her away to beg elsewhere.
Upon the Bridges.
(Paris by night; upon the left the Palais de Justice outlines the bridges of the Seine, illuminated by gas jets casting their reflections in the river) - Mary, driven off wherever she goes, reaches a bridge, falling down from exhaustion and fatigue. Some late pedestrians, blinded by the snow, flee away without paying any attention to the poor girl. Having the strength to go no further, she lies down upon a parapet and falls asleep. A ragpicker comes along, picking up the pieces of paper scattered over the bridge, and stumbles against the body of the ill-fated girl. He throws upon her the bright projection of the light from his lantern. The good fellow in his pity, awaken her and tells her to hurry home so as not to get pneumonia from sleeping in a bitter snow-storm. Moved by her pathetic condition, he shares with her a piece of bread which he finds after rummaging in his pockets, and wraps the child in a piece of covering. Being very poor himself he can do no more. He looks sadly at the sorrowing child as she disappears, but not without having thanked him. He wipes away an escaping tear and resumes the course of this wanderings.
The Snow-Storm.
This time, Mary, hurrying along in the black night, has passed beyond the gates of the city. The country is white with snow as far away as the eye can see. The growing dawn lights but dimly her way. The storm increases in intensity; the poor child, dazzled by the flakes of snow which bluster around her and finally overcome by the cold which she has bravely withstood all night, can go no further and falls by the wayside, unconscious. The pitiless snow gently covers her up. Just at this moment an automobile enters. In it are seated a gentleman and his wife, who live in the neighborhood. They are moved to pity at the wretched plight of little Mary and carry her away with them.
The Christmas Angel.
The father and mother begin to lament over the failure of their daughter to return. The poor man, in his agony, falls upon his knees and offers up to God a fervent prayer for the restoration of his daughter. His prayer is heard. He beholds the Christmas angel, who forthwith consoles him and tells him that his misfortunes are at an end, on account of his faith in God and the filial devotion of his beloved child. The vision disappears and immediately their daughter returns accompanied by her benefactors, who, having heard from her the story of the sad condition of her parents, enter to pay the debts of these poor people and at the same time, bringing an abundance of provisions for their immediate needs.
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Georges Méliès - The Rag-and-Bone Man/Coal Seller
Rachel Gillet - Marie, the beggar girl
Georges Méliès - Producer
Georges Méliès - Director
Christmas film from Melies

Melies show that he indeed can do well with longer format films at the time, without too much trickery. I liked this one, even though it's sad, it brings hope for the Christmastime in a very American, materialistic, way - in the US ending that is. I could not find the French ending. There is a critique of the seemingly rich churchgoers here as well, as they are the ones that are supposed to give and help, but they ignore and mock the beggars instead - a sad scene in itself.