Monthly Archives: June 2010

Unknown Chaplin Film Discovered

A LOST Charlie Chaplin film has been discovered at an antiques show in America.

A Thief Catcher

Early Days: A still from "A Thief Catcher".

The 10-minute silent film – a Keystone comedy called A Thief Catcher – features the English comic actor in a cameo role. It is reckoned to be one of the first, if not the first, cinematic outing for his famed ‘Tramp’ character.

The 16mm print was found last year in Michigan by internationally respected film historian and collector Paul Gierucki.

Gierucki says he didn’t get round to viewing the print until March this year – thinking it was just another old Keystone comedy.

But when he did, he spotted an unmistakable moustached Keystone Kop and realised he was watching a previously unknown Chaplin film.

He confirmed his find with fellow collector Richard Roberts, sending along a frame grab.

Though Chaplin’s Tramp character was first presented to the public in Kid Auto Races at Venice (released Feb 7, 1914), it was filmed AFTER Mabel’s Strange Predicament, which hit cinemas two days later, on Feb 9.

A Thief Catcher, though, began production on January 5, 1914 – one day before Mabel’s Strange Predicament started shooting.

Roberts said: “It’s either his second moustache picture or his first. It cements the concept that he had the character before he came to Keystone and didn’t slap it together on the way to the shooting stage one day.

“Even when he’s doing a minor part he’s doing that character. It’s a new brick in the Chaplin biography. And this opens up the door to other unknown Chaplin appearances at Keystone.”

A Thief Catcher stars Ford Sterling, Mack Swain and Edgar Kennedy. It was the 36th film Chaplin made and he appears on-screen for around three minutes.

It was filmed about a month after Chaplin started work at Keystone Studios, in Edendale, California, and was released by the Mutual Film Corporation on February 19, 1914.

According to Roberts, the film “fell through the cracks pretty quickly” and was not included in a Chaplin filmography compiled by the British Film Institute in the late 1930s.

Until its discovery, the short – which is said to be in “decent” condition – was thought to be among the estimated 75 per cent of all silent films that have not survived to the present day.

  • A Thief Catcher will get its first showing in over 90 years at Slapstickon, a comedy film convention in Rosslyn, Virginia, on July 17. You can read more about the discovery on the Washington Post website.

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Online Trawl Catches Missing BBC Arts Film

AN AMATEUR missing TV enthusiast has discovered a lost BBC film featuring celebrated poet Adrian Henri, while scouring the internet.

Late Night Line-UpThe film, from 1968, profiles the Brighton Festival, where Liverpool Scene poet Henri was performing.

Filmed in colour and lasting 24 and a half minutes, the footage was originally used as an insert on pioneering BBC2 arts programme Late Night Line-Up.

It was located in the Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton by Ray Langstone, who says he was searching online catalogues “just in case” they contained any missing TV material.

He said: “I was searching online through a number of archives and I decided to start with the regional screen archives, just in case that there were any missing TV episodes in them.

“I thought it unlikely, but I thought ‘why not?’. I found a few TV clips in the Screen South Archives, and these included filmed inserts from Nationwide, Blue Peter and a Southern TV news report from the late ’50s.

“When I found the Late Night Line-Up in there, I had no idea it was missing. But after checking with people on the Missing Episodes Forum and contacting the BBC, it transpired it was.”

The film looks at the content of the Brighton Festival, then only in its second year, and considers its potential for development.

Description Shots of Brighton seafront on an overcast day open the film. LNLU presenter Joan Bakewell is filmed walking along Madeira Drive before interviewing a host of Festival participants.

These include artistic director Ian Hunter talking about the Festival’s value to local residents, musicians Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré discussing Festival concerts, composer David Cain assessing audience reaction to the premiere of his new work “Mass For Tomorrow”, playwright Janet Burroway discussing art culture at the Festival while riding aboard the Volks Railway and sculptor Jesse Watkins talking about his piece “The Talking Sculpture”.

Adrian Henri

Adrian Henri

Also featured is poet Adrian Henri, who performs his science fiction-inspired poems while traversing playground rides dressed as an astronaut.

The interviews are interspersed with images of Festival events and exhibits. Students from the College of Arts create chalk drawings on the pavement of King’s Road Arches, electronic music from “Mass for Tomorrow” is played over images of St Peter’s Church and colourful modern sculptures by sculptors including Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Francis Morland occupy the grounds of The Royal Pavilion.

In addition, the film contains a series of vox pops which gauge the reactions of the visitors to the Festival. According to the archive entry, most are “bemused” by the modern artworks.

After finding the film, Ray contacted BBC Archive’s Andrew Martin, who confirmed it was lost.

He said: “It is missing – specifically we have a record of it existing but it is listed as officially missing, whereas Infax does not normally list missing programmes from the ’60s. So now we know where it went.”

The BBC Archive team are currently arranging for its return. Originally broadcast on May 13, 1968, it is now one of the earliest BBC colour films known to still exist.

A delighted Ray has also found other material known to be missing from BBC shows, including Top of the Pops performances uploaded to YouTube, and says he is “continuing to search online” in his spare moments.

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Trove of Long-Lost Silent Films Discovered

YOU wait for one, then 75 come along at once…

A trove of 75 ‘lost’ silent American films – including an early movie from acclaimed director John Ford – has been discovered in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Film Archive and the National Film Preservation Foundation announced today (June 7) a partnership to preserve and make available the astonishing collection –  that have been unseen anywhere in decades.

Heading the list is John Ford’s full-length feature Upstream (1927), a backstage romance involving an aspiring Shakespearian actor and the daring target girl from a knife-throwing act.

Strong Boy

Silence Is Golden: A still from the recovered trailer for John Ford's "Strong Boy".

Only about 15% of silent-era films by the four-time Academy Award-winning director are thought to survive. The collection also includes another important Ford find—a trailer for the director’s lost feature Strong Boy (1929), starring Victor McLaglen.

“Upstream is a major discovery that illuminates a previously lost page of John Ford’s early years at Fox,” said Matthew Bernstein, Chairman of the Emory University’s Film Studies Department and co-editor of John Ford Made Westerns.

“Who would believe that it would be found complete, in good condition, and with original color tints? And that is only the tip of the iceberg of this amazing New Zealand collection.”

Among the other important finds are Maytime (1923), an early feature with Clara Bow; the first surviving film directed by and starring Mabel Normand; an episode of the popular serial The Active Life of Dolly of the Dailies, starring Mary Fuller as the unstoppable woman reporter; Westerns made in Tucson, San Antonio, and Yosemite; the only known narrative feature showcasing the Miller Brothers Wild West Show; comic shorts starring Charles Puffy, Snub Pollard, and Joe Murphy; an industrial film about the making of Stetson hats; and a number of documentaries and newsreels.

The films date from as early as 1898. About 70% of the nitrate prints are virtually complete, and more than two-thirds have color tinting. Taken together, the films are a time capsule of American film production from the 1910s and 1920s.

The “lost” films will be preserved over the next three years and accessed through the five major American silent film archives: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, and the UCLA Film & Television Archive, which are collaborating with the NFPF on this project.

Copies of the complete films will also be publicly available in New Zealand and viewable on the NFPF Web site (filmpreservation.org).

Only a fraction of the American films created during the first four decades of the motion picture still survive in the United States—probably fewer than 20%.

American silent films, however, had a worldwide popularity, and many works discarded in the United States survive abroad as distribution prints that were salvaged decades ago at the end of theatrical runs.

The Library of Congress has estimated that roughly one-third of American silent-era features that survive in complete form exist only in archives in other countries.

“We are delighted to collaborate with the NFPF to preserve and make available these notable films,” said Jamie Lean, Division Director, the New Zealand Film Archive.

“Hundreds of American motion pictures from the silent era exist in archives outside the United States. We hope that our example will encourage other international partners who have safeguarded “lost” American films for decades to share their long-unseen treasures with the world community.”

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I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again Restoration

Wiped catches up with Keith Wickham, whose restored episodes of pre-Python radio show I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again have recently been lighting up the BBC Radio 7 schedule.

Keith has also worked on restoring such shows as The Goon Show, The Embassy Lark and The Big Business Lark.

You can read the full interview here.

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The Troubleshooters Recovery – Interview

An interview with the collector who recently returned a missing episode of The Troubleshooters is now up on Wiped.

Oliver Ashmole chats about how he found the episode – “A Bird in the Hand” – and also about his experiences of dealing with the BBC in getting the print back to the archives.

You can find the interview here.

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At Last… Another Episode of 1948 Show Recovered

At Last the 1948 ShowCOMEDY sketches featuring John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Marty Feldman and Frankie Howerd have come to light after being missing for over 40 years.

The long-lost material, dubbed “comedy gold dust”, also features early appearances by Tim Brooke-Taylor, Arthur Mullard and Yootha Joyce.

The black & white footage, which dates from the 1960s, was handed over to the British Film Institute as part of its ongoing campaign to plug gaps in the British TV archives.

Dick Fiddy, TV consultant at the BFI, says that a private collector is to thank for the recovery of a missing edition of “Monty Python” precursor “At Last The 1948 Show” and an absent episode of “The Frankie Howerd Show”.

He said: “Recently, a private collector contacted the BFI’s “Missing Believed Wiped” project and handed over two priceless missing items of 1960s TV comedy.

“It’s good news all round with these finds – they feature some of the UK’s finest clowns at their peak and are pure comedy gold dust.

What was found
At Last the 1948 Show, Associated Rediffusion, tx 31 Oct 1967, Series 2, Programme 6 Includes: Police Banquet/Return Of The Sydney Lotterbies/The Chartered Accountant dance/MI5 Banquet/Dentistry With A Difference/The Four Yorkshiremen
The Frankie Howerd Show, BBC tx 15.01.65 With Yootha Joyce, Arthur Mullard., Julian Orchard, Felix Bowness; Wr: Galton & Simpson; Prod: Duncan Wood

“The ‘Frankie Howerd Show’, for example, not only features more rare Frankie stuff but boasts a script from Ray Galton and Alan Simpson and – particularly precious – the great Yootha Joyce hamming it up as a tipsy vamp trying to have her way with the aghast Frankie.”

Until the late 1970s, broadcasters regularly wiped TV shows to re-use expensive video tape and save space in their archives.

Both newly-recovered shows were casualties of this purge.

Thames Television destroyed all but two episodes of famous pre-”Python” sketch series “The 1948 Show”, which ran between 1967 – 8 and starred John Cleese, Marty Feldman, Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Aimi Macdonald.

The BBC, meanwhile, wiped the entire second series run of “The Frankie Howerd Show”, aired in 1965.

Mr Fiddy says the BFI, in conjunction with key partner organisations including classic TV organisation Kaleidoscope, has done much to undo the damage.

He said: “The ‘1948 Show’ episode plugs yet another gap in what has become the most successful rebuilding project of the entire “Missing Believed Wiped” initiative.

“Material has come back from Sweden, Australia, industry personnel and private collectors to rebuild the once-thought-lost programme.

“This latest retrieval is a near-complete episode which can be restored with the help of an existing clip of one of the two missing sketches and an audio recording of the other.”

Chris Perry of Kaleidoscope added: “Once again our partner organisation the BFI have found some brilliant examples of previously-lost TV. Hats off to Dick Fiddy and his team for tracking down these hilarious episodes.”

Both items will be shown later this year at Missing Believed Wiped, to be held at BFI Southbank.

If you want to check if you have a missing item, please contact Dick Fiddy at the BFI (dick.fiddy@bfi.org.uk).

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