The Top 10 Lost Films I’d Love To See

There’s a lot of legendary lost films that everyone wants to see, like Browning’s London After Midnight, the Laurel and Hardy silent Hats Off, Murnau’s late silent feature Four Devils, and so on. But I’m sure every silent fan has their own personalized “wish list” of lost films they’d really, really love to see. My own is a bit silent comedy-centric and Griffith-centric, because I love a good comedy (duh) and I’m a big fan of Griffith’s wonderful stock company (Marsh, Harron, Gish–priceless!). So here’s my list of films that I’m crossing my fingers will turn up some day. I wrote it as a “top ten” list, but just know that only #1 is truly ranked:

10. Back to the Kitchen (1919)

Back To The Kitchen From Left: Louise Fazenda Phil Dunham On A Lobbycard  1919. Movie Poster Masterprint (14 x 11) - Walmart.com

Many of Louise Fazenda’s starring comedies with Mack Sennett have vanished, and that’s a shame, because as you guys know I’m a big fan of this highly-overlooked comedienne. She usually played a “kitchen slavey” or other type of working girl who’s either revealed to be an heiress or is fought over by determinedly inept suitors. It’s very hard to decide which short I’d like to see best, but I actually own the above lobby card for Back to the Kitchen (1919) so it’d be mighty special to see it!

9. In the Year 2014 (1914), or Practically Any Early Joker Comedy, Darn It

Louise Fazenda, Comic Venus | Silent-ology

Speaking of Fazenda, her start in films was at Universal, where she became a key player in their one-reel Joker Comedies. She and fellow actors Gale Henry, Harry McCoy, and more were in literally dozens of these films–Joker filmed by the truckload, apparently. And truckloads of them have disappeared. So I’d love to see some of these (I wrote about In the Year 2014 so it’s high on the list), partly for the sheer fun of watching early slapstick, and partly to see Fazenda’s early performances–I’d be fascinated!

8. Cleopatra (1917)

File:Cleopatra-sceneB-1917.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Yes, everyone wants to see this elaborate costume extravaganza starring our unique and scantily-clad Miss Theda, but after bits of Salome turned up recently now I really, really want to see it. It’s doubtless a wonderful campy spectacle-fest for the ages.

7. We Moderns (1925)

We Moderns (1925) - IMDb

A number of Colleen Moore’s flapper films have vanished, and this one might intrigue me the most. Surviving stills of a partying Moore in a top hat are irresistible, and many scenes were apparently filmed at actual London nightlife spots. We just don’t get to see enough of London in the Roaring Twenties!

6. Why Squirrels Leave Home (1927), Or Any Lost Bowers Comedy In General

THE AMAZING CHARLEY BOWERS IS DISCOVERED—AGAIN – Leonard Maltin's Movie  Crazy

The brilliantly imaginative and highly surreal Charley Bowers is one of the best creators you’ve never heard of. His “Whirlwind Comedies” are full of fantastical inventions and intricate stop-motion sequences, featuring charmingly odd sights like baby model Ts hatching out of eggs. Many of Bowers’s shorts thankfully survive, but a few are still elusive. Since I love bizarre imagery like tough-talking oysters walking around and cockroaches throwing china, I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll behold even more of it in the future.

5. The Escape (1914)

So this is a change of pace. This was one of Griffith’s early features, and certainly the most lurid one he ever made. It deals with all kind of dark topics, including eugenics, STDs, abuse, insanity, prostitution, “kept” women…my gosh, it has it all. At one point Bobby Harron‘s sweet character is turned into a monster and forced to strangle a cat as a weird “coming of age” ritual. (Yes, Bobby Harron.) Lillian thought this was one of the best films Griffith ever made, and I admit I’m mighty curious to see it for myself.

4. The Greatest Thing in Life (1918)

File:The Greatest Thing in Life (1918) - 1.jpg - Wikipedia

Another Griffith feature! And it also features more Bobby Harron, this time as the rich, snobby Edward who falls for sweet shopgirl Jeannette, played by Lillian Gish. Jeannette and her father are homesick for their native France, and Edward decides to pay for their passage home. In time Edward goes to France himself to see Jeannette, but World War I breaks out and he decides to enlist. The film was known for a scene where Edward is in a shell hole with a dying black soldier who deliriously calls for his mother, and he kisses him in the mother’s place. A pretty interesting scene to see in that time period, especially coming from Griffith!

3. Coincidence (1921)

Coincidence (1921) - IMDb

Okay fine. I really want to see more of Bobby Harron! This feature is unique since it was the first light comedy Harron made “on his own,” so to speak, when Griffith loaned him to Metro. Unfortunately Harron died under mysterious circumstances in 1920 and the film wasn’t released until 1921. I really like Harron’s humorous performance in The Girl Who Stayed At Home (1919) and would love to see him in his own starring comedy, but alas, so far not this is not to be.

2. The Miracle Man (1919)

File:The Miracle Man 1919.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

This sensitive, gripping drama was a huge success when it was released and seemed to please everyone–young and old, directors and actors in the industry, even the critics. And it’s noteworthy for an early performance by Lon Chaney, too. How did we ever lose this one?

1. A Country Hero (1917)

All About Arbuckle's “A Country Hero” | Silent-ology

My #1 most-desired lost film is the only Arbuckle silent comedy with Buster Keaton that’s currently missing. I did a bunch of research on the film here, and boy oh boy does it sound tantalizing: it costars Buster’s father Joe, it contains the first appearance of Buster’s famous “snake dance” he performed for troops in WWI, Arbuckle and Al St. John have a showdown involving chucking furniture at each other, and there’s a big climax involving a train and at least one doomed car. Where is this film?!

So that is my current lost film wish list, what’s yours? Feel free to share in the comments below, my friends!

36 thoughts on “The Top 10 Lost Films I’d Love To See

  1. I love that you included We Moderns as stills from this film have tantalized me for ages. I would also include any film featuring Louise Brooks, particularly The American Venus as what I’ve seen is fabulous! I would also be interested in an Theda Bara film, but Cleopatra is the holy grail. Keep up the good work!

  2. There are so many lost films that it would be wonderful to watch.
    As a Murnau fan, Four devils is my top one.
    And agree that A country hero needs a very special place in the list.

    Thank you for this very nice post Lea.

  3. I never heard of The Escape somehow– it sounds intriguing!

    Love your list. My number one lost film is She’s a Sheik with Bebe Daniels, a gender-inverted send-up of the desert romance genre so popular at the time. It looks like a hoot!

    I would also love to see the 1915 Life Without a Soul, which was an early adaptation of Frankenstein and I think the first one to be feature-length.

  4. “Remodelling Her Husband” which Lillian Gish directed starring sister Dorothy, just to see if how Gish was as a director.

    The original 1914 version of “The Golem” and of course the full uncut 53 hours of von Stroheim’s “Greed”! 😛

  5. I am greedy. Anything with Marguerite Clark and Lon Chaney. ANY Kalems! Wow!! An impossible want list! (yes, and Theda Bara)

  6. I think Miracle Man hurts the most for me on the list. I’ve seen a lot of glowing contemporary reviews and seeing a young Lon Chaney and Betty Compson would be awesome.

    For me, I’d love to see The Patriot. A late silent Lubitsch historical epic sounds sooo good!

  7. More Talmadge films – especially the Constance comedies, such as Polly of the Follies – those costumes – ZOWIE! Greta de Groat’s website lists a couple dozen extant films of CT – get them out of the vaults and onto dvds! Same goes for Pauline Frederick’s Madame X. Eastman House has a copy that they’re keeping all to themselves and showing only at rare screenings. Not nice!
    And Charles Ray and Jack Pickford. They were both hugely popular in the late teens. Film reviewers piled compliments on their work and I want to see for myself what all the hoopla is about. And how about Louise Glaum – vampire extraordinaire. And Betty Blythe, bosom baring vamp in the Queen of Sheba, directed by J. Gordon Edwards, who did all those Bara films. And then I want … well, that’s enough for now.

    • This is a great list, kudos to having both Jack and Charles on it too. I’d like to see more of their work myself, especially Charles’s. As you probably remember, I love anything set in rural America and he was the king of that.

  8. All of my top spots would go to the Artcraft comedies of Dorothy Gish, including Flying Pat and the only film in which Lillian directed Dorothy, Remodeling Her Husband (both 1920, I think).

  9. I love this list because it feels very real to me. Bobby Harron is a great actor that i recently discovered, so i would definitely watch some of these movies. There are so many people who seem obsessed with “London after midnight” and “Four devils” that i sometimes wonder if they really care that much about those movies or are just claiming it for joining the official majority. Those two films are indifferent to me. Of course, i’d watch those movies if any copies came out, but i’m not particularly interested in them. I’d rather a copy of Otto Rippert’s “Homunculus” be found, it would be a dream come true for me. And all the lost films by ❤ Conrad Veidt and Lars Hanson! ❤

    • Oooo Homunculus, that would be cool. I feel like bits of it survive, but Im not positive. Yes, more of Connie and Lars FTW!

      Yeah I’m not sure about the knee jerk reaction to London After Midnight. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see it too (the imagery alone would probably be worth it) but something like The Miracle Man would probably have more artistic value.

      • I feel like Chaney’s make-up is the main factor in people wanting to rediscover LAM. It is pretty cool and I love Tod Browning’s movies enough to where the film’s rediscovery would make my heart glad, but the reconstruction and the film’s 1935 remake both boast a rather unimpressive story. Then again, Browning’s movies are more about atmosphere and oddball characters rather than plot anyway…

  10. A great list! You ask of No. 2, “How did we ever lose this one?” I would ask the same thing with most, if not all of these films, especially with the major Griffith films. How on earth is it that not a *single* copy is known of Nos. 2-5??

    And you and I agree on A Country Hero for the number one spot here. 😀

  11. Feature film: Murnau’s 4 DEVILS. Short subjects: the missing 1927-1928 Charley Chase comedies produced by Hal Roach, as well as Lloyd Hamilton’s early 1920’s solo films and any Bowers Comedies. As far as animation goes, Émile Cohl films (“The Newlyweds” series) come to mind, and no doubt some entries from the Fleischer Studio’s “Out Of The Inkwell” and “Inkwell Imps” cartoons are lost films.

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