Friday, February 19, 2010

For the Love of Film - Film Preservation Blogathon - What's Left if the Film is Lost?

It is a very sad, sad, SAD fact that over 90% of films made in the silent era are lost forever. There are so many forgotten faces and forgotten films from this rich period of film history. Many stars have a good rate of survival while others have nothing left but some stills, lobby cards and posters to chronicle a career. This is what is left of a film that is lost for the ages. A glimpse, a few stills, a stone litho poster, a couple of frames with ripped sprocket holes.

Offered for your pleasure are some stills,
posters and lobby cards for films that are lost.
Just for fun and so this is not so completely depressing,
I've included a few that are still with us including links where to get them on DVD.
Thanks to archivists and collectors from around the world for the few that do survive.

Red Hair (1928) - status LOST

A window card from Red Hair, only a few fragments remain.
The color snippets are tantalizingly wonderful of the incandescent Clara Bow.
The Impossible Mrs. Bellew (1922) - status LOST


Gloria Swanson would be well remembered for nothing else but Sunset Blvd., true it's a magnificent film. She was one of the biggest and most popular stars of the silent era. Many of her De Mille films survive, but little remain of her major starring period for Paramount from 1921 to 1925. You can't tell me this dramatic card (and fabulous gown) does not make you want to see this film. It does me! It's with great joy that I can report that Swanson's 1925 film Stage Struck does exist at Eastman House and if you get a chance to see it, do not miss it.


The Rose of Blood (1918) - status LOST

Theda Bara, one the biggest stars in the teens. The survival rate of her films is pathetically small. The 1915 breakthrough film A Fool There Was survives, but her lost 1917 film Cleopatra is among the most desired of all films from the era.

Flaming Youth (1923) - status LOST



As Colleen Moore quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald, "I was the spark and Colleen Moore was the torch that lit Flaming Youth." Sadly, it appears we shall never know as only tiny fragments remain of this film.

An American Venus (1926) - status LOST


Publicity portrait of the divine Louise Brooks.

Arizona (1916) - status LOST

On average, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. has a fabulous survival rate.

Arizona is not among them.

The Sea Hawk (1924) - status available on DVD

A gorgeous one-sheet poster.
This film is true to Sabatini's novel, unlike the Errol Flynn talkie which only retained the title. Milton Sills is not well known today, and he should be, he was a real hunk and a darn good actor, too.


Marc McDermott and Milton Sills in The Sea Hawk.



The Claw (1918) - status LOST

Clara Kimball Young
If you want to read more about Clara Kimball Young and some other wonderful
Unsung Divas of the Silent Screen, you must visit
Greta de Groat's excellent website devoted to these fine ladies.



In the Palace of the King (1923) - status LOST


A gorgeously costumed Blanche Sweet.

Uncharted Seas (1921) - status LOST

Alice Lake and Rudolph Valentino.

Yes, I know my previous posting was all about this film,
this is merely an excuse to use another still from the film. Sue me!

Camille (1927) - status LOST
An unbearably handsome Gilbert Roland as Armand and Norma Talmadge as Camille
in this 1927 modern adaptation. Maddeningly lost for the ages, for now.


In a bit of happy news, a couple of Norma Talmadge films (and two films with sister Connie) are soon to be released on DVD by our friends at KINO. We must thank the terrific Joe Yranski for these. I can hardly wait!



Hollywood (1923) - status LOST

Virtually every star on the Paramount lot had a cameo in this film.
All that remains are stills and this fantastic poster image.



Tiptoes (1927) - status LOST

Dorothy Gish and Will Rogers are pictured on the UK lobby card. Dorothy was noted as being a delightful comedienne and made many light and fun films, very few of which survive. Dorothy is less well known than her more dramatic sister Lillian and this is a real shame.

Dorothy can be seen in a charming 1916 film called Gretchen the Greenhorn, thanks to our friends at the National Film Preservation Foundation. This film is included on the More Treasures From American Film Archives and well worth a viewing for Dorothy and the many other fabulous treats on the DVD set.

We film fans are fortunate, thanks to companies like Milestone Films, Flicker Alley, KINO and Warner Archive, more and more obscure films are being rediscovered and released on DVD. This benefits us so we can see these rare films, own them in our home libraries and share them with friends and spread the gospel that CGI does not always a great film make. Unfamiliar performers become familiar, we can judge and critique their work, we can bask again in the magic of film from an earlier time.

The tireless work of the archivists, the film collectors who donate material and the film fans who donate money to aid in preservation of our cinematic legacy are all to be applauded. Our friends at KINO, Milestone and Flicker Alley are in business, to be sure, but they are also great lovers of film. This shows in the material they release and make available for film buffs, like me. They work with the Library of Congress, the George Eastman House and UCLA Film and Television Archive to name but a few.

Several of the stills I've used are from Bruce Calvert's terrific site The Silent Film Still Archive. Thanks Bruce for allowing me to pick and choose for this blogathon.

Please do your bit and donate $5, $10, $15 or $20 to the National Film Preservation Foundation. Even in these economically challenging times a few dimes will save something we can't easily replace. We can't save every single precious frame of the nitrate, but we can try. I'm a glass half full person, please help!


Nitrate Can't Wait! Please Donate Here.


Fundraising blogathon hosted by Ferdy on Films, etc., and The Self-Styled Siren to benefit the National Film Preservation Foundation.

4 comments:

Jennythenipper said...

It's maddeningly frustrating that the cheapest pulp paper is sturdier than the most expnsive nitrate film stock. Still it is better to have some memorabilia from a film than nothing at all. Thanks for sharing this collection.

Joe Thompson said...

Thank you for a neat post. You're right, it's better to have the paper than nothing. Some beautiful images.

Tinky said...

What stunning images. Thank you; they made my mouth water...

Catmommie said...

Another great post and some great photos, Donna! Thanks to you (and to Bruce).