Wednesday, February 24, 2010

For the Love of Film - Film Preservation Blogathon - The Wrap Up

A time to celebrate! Clara is happy we all love film!

The final tally is IN, the blogathon raised $12,135.00. How awesome is that?

Last minute donations kicked the totals up.

The Siren's wrap up post is here

A hearty thank you to The Self Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films for organizing such a wonderful event.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

For the Love of Film - Film Preservation Blogathon - Thanks

What would we be missing if there were no film archives, no preservationists? We'd be missing a beautiful art form, an art we all can share and delight in, argue over, wonder at.

Without the National Film Preservation Foundation, UCLA, Eastman House, David Shepard, Flicker Alley, Lobster Films, KINO International, Milestone Films, we would not have these:

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Ella Cinders (1926)

The Narrow Road (1912)

The Son of the Sheik (1926)

It (1927)

Sunrise (1927)

Foolish Wives (1921)

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

This is an arbitrary look, a sampling, a glimpse of what we have and what is risked by apathy and lack of intrest in preserving and saving the art form of the 20th century, and beyond. Even films as recent as 20 years back are being lost.

Thanks to Marilyn (Ferdy on Films) and The Self Styled Siren for putting this blogathon together and helping in raising of funds to preserve a film. I understand that enough monies has been raised to work on something. Please, please, please, do your part and save a little piece of film.

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.

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.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

For the Love of Film - Film Preservation Blogathon

Yup, even on the internets you get commercials.

This is one you do need to watch.

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.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

For the Love of Film - Film Preservation Blogathon - Uncharted Seas with Rudolph Valentino

Valentino as the ardent and hopeful Frank Underwood.

Fans of Rudolph Valentino can really count themselves fortunate. Compared to the cinematic legacy left by other major stars and directors of the silent era, Valentino has a pretty good survival rate of his major starring films. We’re doubly fortunate so many are available on DVD. Other silent films and the stars themselves are not so fortunate. So many films are remembered only through stills and posters and some stars are remembered not at all. (Look for more on this in next For the Love of Film post over the weekend).

Of the fourteen films in which Valentino starred only three films are considered lost: UNCHARTED SEAS (Metro Pictures 1920), THE YOUNG RAJAH (Paramount 1923) and A SAINTED DEVIL (Paramount 1924).

The surviving portions of THE YOUNG RAJAH were cleaned up and released on DVD by our good friends at Flicker Alley. One still hopes for the miracle of a complete print surfacing since all the juicy footage of Valentino in his suit of little else than strands of pearls is not included in the extant footage, much to this Valentino fans regret.

A tiny fragment can be seen from A SAINTED DEVIL, i.e., exterior shots and behind the scenes footage in Brownlow & Gill’s Hollywood series as well as a snippet with Nita Naldi that is misidentified as a scene from COBRA in the documentary THE LEGEND OF RUDOLPH VALENTINO.

The lone starring vehicle film that is truly and completely lost, i.e., not a single frame is known to exist, is UNCHARTED SEAS. The plot is rather silly, yet this is one film I’d still very much love to see.

Valentino’s career is well documented and most of his films are covered thoroughly except UNCHARTED SEAS which remains an utter mystery and cipher to even the most dedicated of Valentino fans. It is barely mentioned and when it is mentioned at all.

Valentino was a contract player at Metro Studios. Even after the great success of THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, Valentino had no say in his next assignment and was routinely cast in production #101 entitled UNCHARTED SEAS. The film was directed by Wesley Ruggles (who later directed some better known films THE PLASTIC AGE which starred Clara Bow, 1931 Academy Award Winner of Best Picture CIMMARRON with Richard Dix and Irene Dunne and I’M NO ANGEL with Mae West. I am doubtful he actually directed Mae West. The cameraman was John Seitz who was Rex Ingram’s favored cameraman of choice who also happened to be the man responsible for some of the most visually arresting shots in films of the golden age. With a top notch director and cameraman, this was not exactly a “programmer” but surely it was a comedown from the exhausting and heady experience of playing Julio.

Aerial view of Metro Studios and a snow set for Uncharted Seas

UNCHARTED SEAS was filmed on the Metro Pictures Corporation lot located on Cahuenga Blvd. and also on location in the Northern California town of Truckee for some of the exterior snow scenes. Like so many of his early film roles, Valentino was cast as an American type, this time as Frank Underwood a famous explorer and former suitor to Lucretia Eastman played by Alice Lake. Alice Lake is better remembered today as one of Buster Keaton’s leading ladies.

Since the film no longer exists, we cannot judge either the film itself, nor Valentino’s performance. The scenario beyond hokey in 1920 and today is a real groaner to any modern feminist. Nevertheless, I want to see it.

The basic plot for UNCHARTED SEAS tells the story of Lucretia Eastman (Alice Lake) who is married to a loutish and useless fellow, Tom Eastman (Carl Gerard). The long suffering wife endures as much as she can stand and after a final humiliation, Lucretia decides to file for divorce. Stepping in, her father in law begs her to reconsider and hatches a plot to help redeem her husband and preserve their marriage. This plot being a race to get to the sunken ruins of a ship loaded with Klondike gold in the Bering Straits! Where does the character of Frank Underwood (Valentino) fit into the scheme of things? Well, he is a former, and more worthy suitor and a dashing world explorer, to boot. He is also the other party involved in the race to get to the sunken ship and claim the treasure.

Valentino and Alice Lake

The film begins:

“Lucretia Eastman had forgiven and forgiven until it seemed to her that the font of forgiveness had run dry. The love she bore at marriage for the boy whose moral caliber had been weakened by wealth and parental indulgence bravely stood the test until strained to the breaking point, it gave way to patient tolerance. And still she stuck. Her early training had something to do with this; her own sportsmen like nature. She had gambled and lost but she was not one to cringe and refuse to accept the hand she had drawn. (Martyr!)

Further along in the scenario we discover the truth, husband Tom is shirking his job and wasting his life away, an opium addict! Poor, long suffering fool of a wife Lucretia finds it is not only her duty to like it and lump it, but she is also responsible for seeking out and finding hubbo and dragging him home to sleep it off! Tom pretends to be on good behavior. This pretense does not last long! Soon enough he is back to his ways of wenching and dissipation. (Bastard!)

While visiting the local country club, Lucretia runs into her old flame, the dashing and good Frank Underwood (Swoon!). He inquires solicitously if she is happy and, true to form, she gives a pat answer. (Liar!) Poor Frank, a little too dense to read the truth and still carrying a big torch tells her “It’s not so hard to stay away when I’m sure life is being kind to you.” (Blind!)
At this point, she takes the golden opportunity of introducing Frank to her husband who is drunk, disorderly, obstreperous and rude. Frank helps Lucretia get her drunken husband home to cool his jets.

The next morning Frank returns for a heart-to-heart chat urging her to give up on her marriage and asks why she keeps on with the “false sense of duty.” She reminds him that she is still Tom’s wife. (Jeez oh Cripes!) Frank, being a good sort extracts a promise that if she ever needs him, she will call upon him, no matter where or when. (Swoon!).

Naturally, that very evening, Tom in a partying mood, brings some of his girls friends home to meet his wife! Lucretia, horrified hides in a locked bedroom and declines his invitation for a chat with the ladies. In her panicked state, Lucretia remembers her promise to call Frank if she was in need. She frantically picks up the receiver, calls and awakens Frank just as her husband successfully crashes through the door. (!!!!) As he drags her downstairs to meet his lady friends, she fervently prays that Frank is on the way. (Don’t we all?)

Frank Underwood arrives and makes straight for Tom Eastman. Tom, drunken and sneering “So, she sent for you did she? Or is it your habit to call at my house at this hour?” Frank being the upright gentleman he was, hotly retorted “Down on your knees to her you little rat, that is where you belong. You, women, get out of this house and never come back.” (Go! Frank! Go!) Fade out.

Lucretia finally stands up to her father-in-law and tells him she is through. The father, pleads with her “You are the only good influence in his life. If you go, he will end up in the gutter.” Ever the martyr, Lucretia then makes a deal with her father-in-law, “I’ll stick, but I set my own price. I don’t want money, but I do want Tom to do one manly thing in his life, to stick to it and follow through to the end. If he does that, I will stay, if he fails in this task, I will leave and am through with him for good.” (Unbelievable!)

Exasperated Dad tells his drunkard of a son, “I’ve chosen the task for you, three years ago, the steamship Stamford was caught in the ice of the Bering Straights and deserted by her crew. She is still there with a million dollars in Klondike gold aboard her. I’m going to give you a vessel to find her in the uncharted seas of the Artic. It’s your last chance and you must not fail.” As an aside Dad spills the beans, “You know Lucretia is interested in Frank Underwood and he is even now preparing for the same goal, to find the Stamford. But you are going to beat him to it if I have anything to say about it.” (Hiss!)

So the less than happy couple sails off for the uncharted seas. She did not have long to wait to discover that a leopard does not change its spots. (Duh!)

Once the sea of ice was before him, Tom gave up and was finished; he was going to take the ship back home. He was not about to throw his life away on a whim, no matter how much gold was involved. Somehow Frank and his ship show up just in time and Lucretia boards the Belisarius with Frank and, together, they faced an uncertain future. (What? Not a Carnival Cruise to Alaska?)

Days of contentment passed, even though danger lurked, Lucretia had never found herself to be happier than she was basking in the gentle considerations of Frank Underwood. (Swoon!)
A gale of such force it drove the Belisarius off course and stranded the ship and her now helpless crew in a sea of solid ice. Weeks passed slowly with no relief or respite and the discontented and fearful crew was growing mutinous.

Months go by, the crew is going crazy and Frank and Lucretia took the opportunity to leave the ship and explore the frozen wasteland. Taking a dogsled, they found a fantasy world on the icy landscape. Happy days passed with no inkling of the new dangers that lay ahead. Upon return from one of their sledding jaunts, Frank discovers to their horror the ship listing dangerously as a shifting and breaking ice damaged the hull and the ship was taking on water, fast! Frank plunges down into the hold of the ship and finds his drunken crew unaware of the danger and, in reality, too drunk to care nonetheless. Struggling as he made his way, the freezing water rose higher and he looked back in anguish as he knew both his ship and crew were irretrievably lost. Hearing a cry and looking up through the hold, to his horror, he saw Lucretia attempting to come to his aid. (Atta Girl!) Signaling her to remain where she was, he scrambled up to the deck and with alacrity he scooped her up in his arms and leapt off the deck onto a large ice floe. (Shades of Way Down East)

With the dogs they mushed forward through frozen wastes and storms. Days felt like weeks to Frank. As they traveled through an icy pass, a distant rumble grew to a deafening roar as boulders of ice came crashing around them. (Avalanche!!) The sled rolled and protected Lucretia as Frank was quickly struck and injured under the ice. Lucretia frees herself from under the sled and scrambled over the sharp ice to find Frank, unconscious and half buried. He is alive and she cradles him in her arms (Awwww).

As daylight shone on the 12th day of their journey, Frank looked ahead and saw to his horror, no more land, but a barren and menacing sea on the horizon. His heart, low already, sank as he realized, this was truly the end of their journey. Trying to comfort her, Frank gathered her to him and they rested quietly talking and awaiting death which was sure to come. (Don’t give up now, we’re in the last reel!)

Lucretia comforted in the arms of love, closed her eyes and sought a contented sleep. Frank watched the horizon and dreamt of what could have been. His eyes slowly focused on a spot on the sea, he blinked his eyes and closed them, “Dreamer, you are going mad.” he thought. But daring to feel a glimmer of hope, he looked again, and with widening eyes, he saw a ship, an ice breaker, and the funnels steaming. Shaking Lucretia, he urged her to her feet almost shouting. “Our dreams are reality, look, and look and see our salvation! A ship that will take us home, to our home.” And so they sailed away from the frigid uncharted seas of the north to navigate the uncharted seas of their future life together. The treasure they found was not the gold on the sunken vessel.

(Fade out, the end!)

This really does stretch the boundaries of believability; nevertheless, I still would love to see it. It's not a major film, nor is it a major film in the cannon of Rudolph Valentino. Nevertheless, this and A Sainted Devil are two I'd love to see found, preserved and viewed as they were meant to be, just for the sheer entertainment of it all.

UNCHARTED SEAS is a lost film. No US origin poster art is known to exist on this title. I know of only one extant lobby card in a private collection. The stills reproduced here are from my collection and even they are fairly rare. It's almost as if the film never existed at all.

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

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