So Long, Farewell To 2022: The Silent Community Year In Review

A Happy New Year’s Eve to all my readers! Along with popping champagne and eating crab legs that were on sale at your local grocery store, it’s time for the annual tradition of reviewing silent film-related news from the past year.

Preferably while wearing the bees’ knees of party outfits.

As always, while I try to make this a pretty detailed list, keep in that it’s not exhaustive. Feel free to leave a comment with any 2022-related silent film news you’d like to share (and any obvious stories I missed!). 2022 items only, please. Let’s get to it!

DISCOVERIES AND RESTORATIONS

In April Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc. and the National Library of Norway announced the discovery of the five-reel feature The Net (1916) in Norway, starring Ethel Jewett. Jewett plays a mysterious woman who is rescued from the sea by a fisherman–and who apparently bears a curse. The tinted and toned print is now available on DVD at the Thanhouser site.

In July the Festival il Cinema Ritrovato showed a 4k restoration of Les Miserables (1913), directed by Albert Capellani. Filmed in four parts, it was the first lengthy film adaptation of the famed Victor Hugo novel and much of it was filmed in and around Paris.

In October the folks behind Silent Movie Day announced that a lost Harold Lloyd film was found! It was a 28mm print of the short Luke’s Double (1916), which was given to Lloyd himself by the George Eastman House in the 1960s. The print was misplaced over the years before being found by Robert Simonton, who, along with Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne, made sure it was brought to UCLA’s Film & Television Archive.

In November preservationist Josh Cattermole brought his newly-restored feature film The Gold Diggers (1923), starring Hope Hampton, Wyndham Standing and Louise Fazenda, to the Kennington Bioscope film festival in London for its first screening in decades. Formerly thought to be a lost film, The Gold Diggers was discovered by Cattermole last year and he’s worked diligently to get it restored. It was the first film in the well-known “Gold Diggers” series that was popular in the ’30s.

RESTING IN PEACE

On August 19 Mildred Kornman passed away at the age of 97. Born in 1925, Kornman first appeared in films as a baby in The Thundering Fleas (1926). She became a regular in the “Our Gang” series from 1926-28, and worked uncredited in a dozen features in the 1930s. In the ’40s she became a fashion model who appeared on the covers of Vogue and Bazaar. She eventually took up photography, and in later years she made frequent appearances at classic movie conventions.

Director Gerald Potterton passed away on August 23 at the age of 91. A London native who emigrated to Canada in the 1950s to work on animation, he directed Buster Keaton in The Railrodder (1965), one of the great comedian’s last films. Potterton worked on the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (1968), created the cult classic Heavy Metal (1981), received several Oscar nominations, and has been the focus of several retrospectives, among other achievements and honors.

NEW DVD/BLU-RAY RELEASES

Undercrank Productions worked with the Library of Congress to hold several of their successful crowdfunding projects, for which we are always grateful. Their 2022 projects were the Marion Davies film Beverly of Graustark (1926) and the set Lon Chaney: Before the Thousand Faces–Vol. 2 , which includes five dramas spanning the years 1914-17. They also released Zander the Great (1925), another Davies film that was the result of a successful 2021 Kickstarter by historian Ed Lorusso. Word on the street is their upcoming releases include a Raymond Griffith set and a set of Frank Borzage features.

Grapevine Video‘s 2022 releases included the obscure religious film Jesus the Christ (1923), A Girl in Every Port (1928) with Louise Brooks, the light comedy Are Parents People? (1925) starring Betty Bronson (I’ve been wanting to add this to my collection!) and World War I drama What Price Glory? (1926).

Flicker Alley released the French historical drama Casanova (1927) (which, IIRC, may have been meant for Valentino before his untimely death).

Eureka Video released a limited edition box set of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) in 4K. The set includes a 100 page book of contemporary articles and writing on the film, rare images, audio commentaries, video essays and a 52-minute documentary “Caligari: The Birth of Horror in the First World War.” They also released a Blu-ray of Buster Keaton’s The Saphead (1920), including commentaries, interviews with Keaton, and other extras.

Kino Lorber is now offering Blu-rays of the adventure film The Indian Tomb (1921) and the Ernst Lubitsch feature Three Women (1924). They also released the set Cinema’s First Nasty Women, a collection of nearly 100 European and American silents starring a number of talented actresses. An excellent set of rarities, although I’m leery about the political title.

NEW BOOKS

With the release of Buster Keaton: A Filmmaker’s Life by James Curtis, Buster Keaton fans were finally treated to a scrupulously-researched and definitive new biography on the great comedian. It is absolutely the new gold standard for future Keaton books and celebrity biographies in general.

Fans were also treated to Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century by Dana Stevens, which covers his life and films in the context of early 20th century history and culture. A noteworthy companion to more straightforward Keaton biographies.

Ink-Stained Hollywood: The Triumph of American Cinema’s Trade Press by Eric Hoyt (the director behind the indispensible Media History Digital Library site) pulls from countless early 20th century trade papers to show the film industry’s competitive use of the press for publicity. Incredibly detailed and obviously the result of a great deal of work.

Film archivist Rob Stone published his book Pokes & Jabbs: The Before, During and After of the Vim Films Corporation, the first for the new publisher Split Reel LLC, which aims to focus on silent-related books about overlooked areas of film history. A lengthy, detailed look at all of the many films made by the obscure Pokes and Jabbs comedy team and the history behind the studios they worked for.

Ruan Lingyu: Her Life and Career by Patrick Galvan is now available from Cinemodyssey Press. Lingyu got her start in films in 1927 and by the 1930s was one of China’s most beloved stars. Her tragic life was all too brief, but her story makes for compelling reading.

Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies by Lara Gabrielle was published in September and has been selling briskly. Gabrielle’s careful, detailed research shows Davies as the intelligent, witty personality she truly was. It places her career in its proper historical context and also corrects the many misconceptions that have swirled around her relationship with William Randolph Hearst.

Historian Steve Massa recently published Lame Brains and Lunatics 2: More Good, Bad and Forgotten of Silent Comedy, an even bigger tome than the original Lame Brains. It’s packed with info on a multitude of silent comedians from Larry Semon to Edward Everett Horton (yes, he was once a silent film comedian!) to the many trained animals used by various studios. Silent comedy lovers will find it another treasure trove of information from the prolific historian.

NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY AND NFPF UPDATE

Every year the Library of Congress adds 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant films to its National Film Registry, to be preserved for future generations. A few silents usually make the cut, but this year there was only one: Mardi Gras Carnival (1898). Well then. By the way, you can nominate films to be preserved in 2023 by going to this link–you can nominate up to 50 films!

Since the above news is awkwardly brief, let’s flesh out this section by including the National Film Preservation Foundation‘s news on the silent films that received preservation grants in 2022. The lucky films are:

The Clutch of Circumstance (1918), a Corinne Griffith melodrama,
David E. Finley Collection, Part III (1928-1935), home movies by the first director of the National Gallery of Art,
Hiram Percy Maxim Collection (1920s-30s), home movies by the founder of the Amateur Cinema League,
Spang’s First Century (1926), a feature about the Pittsburgh pipe manufacturer Spang Chalfant & Co.,
An Equal Chance (1920), about medical workers’ difficulties during the 1918 flu epidemic,
and Trailin’ (1921), a Western mystery starring Tom Mix.

OTHER NEWS

The U.S. Mint announced that Anna May Wong would be featured on the U.S. quarter as part of their 2022 American Women Quarters Program. The first Chinese-American movie star is now the first film star to be depicted on U.S. currency.

Silent-ology once again celebrated National Silent Movie Day (September 29) by teaming up with In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood to host a one-day blogathon. It was another success and could quite possibly be a new annual tradition!

In October Smithsonian Magazine shared the news that Chicago-based collector Dwight Cleveland teamed up with Dartmouth College to scan his collection of over 10,000 silent film lobby cards. These include lobby cards for films like Elinor Glyn’s Three Weeks (1924).

Also in October, the Library of Congress announced that Thomas Edison’s The Blacksmith Shop has been confirmed to be the first U.S. film ever copyrighted. Scholar Claudy Op den Kamp, during her work as a Kluge Fellow, researched the film and was able to confirm when it was copyrighted.

In December the Nitrateville message board, a popular site for silent film enthusiasts, historians, and preservationists, turned 15 years old. While I don’t have an account there (I’m sparing with my social media accounts) I do enjoy lurking occasionally. It’s an excellent font of information that’s hard to find anywhere else. It’s always a godsend for creating these “year in review” posts, too. Happy Birthday, Nitrateville!

Also in December, it was announced that the Colonial Theater in Augusta, Maine will be hosting a new silent film festival, tentatively scheduled for June 16-17 of 2023.

If you need an oddball bit of news, fashion house Viktor & Rolf’s spring 2022 show featured a Nosferatu-themed collection, with models sporting Victorian-ish clothing with curiously high shoulders and extra long fingernails. Could this collection have been particularly inspired by Nosferatu‘s 100th anniversary?

That’ll do! Thanks for reading, and have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

12 thoughts on “So Long, Farewell To 2022: The Silent Community Year In Review

  1. I got myself the Casanova release as a self-Christmas gift and thoroughly enjoyed it. Had no idea Valentino might have been considered for the lead– Ivan Mosjoukine has such a distinctive, quirky star presence that’s not much like Valentino at all. It’s weird to think of anyone else in the part.

  2. Two more I would add are the new restoration (to almost its full length) of Tod Browning’s THE UNKNOWN and the rediscovery of Marshall Neilan’s thought-lost 1920 film GO AND GET IT.

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