Category Archives: Silent Era

Top Ten Lost Horror Films

WITH Halloween just around the corner, one of my favourite sites – Cinemassacre – has posted a video countdown of the top 10 lost horror films.

Chosen by the Angry Video Game Nerd himself, James Rolfe, the list features some interesting choices among the usual suspects.

Click the image below to see the vid, hosted over on Spike.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema, Lists, Silent Era, Video

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Cinema, Comedy, Discoveries, Screenings, Silent Era

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema, Discoveries, Restoration, Silent Era