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)
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!
HOLD EVERYTHING–how have I not mentioned this yet?! Recently it was announced that fragments of Theda Bara’s Salome (1918)–one of her most lamented lost films after Cleopatra—have been found! That’s right, there’s new footage of the legendary Theda Bara to enjoy, and from one of her lavish costume dramas, too!
Theda, early sex symbol and current silent era icon, appeared in around 40 films but only a few of them survive. Many of her biggest hits have vanished and are represented only by tantalizing stills of the actress in elaborate beaded costumes and fancy headdresses. And one of the most intriguing hits is the William Fox production Salome (1918). I won’t make you wait–here’s the footage below. The clips are brief and have Spanish intertitles, and they capture some wonderful Theda moments:
It was called spellbinding, striking, “one of the greatest of pictures.” It received ecstatic reviews by critics and transfixed audiences across the nation. It was the great drama The Miracle Man (1919), which not only ended up earning many times its modest budget, but made stars out of its three leads: Thomas Meighan, Betty Compson, and of course, the legendary Lon Chaney.
Naturally, like many other fascinating-sounding silents from the 1910s, The Miracle Man is lost. But in this case, fate has provided us with a rare silver lining. Thanks to compilation film The House That Shadows Built (1931), made in honor of Paramount studio’s 20th year, a couple minutes of footage have survived–including its most famous scene, where Chaney’s character pretends to experience a miraculous healing. Imagine if we had even one minute of London After Midnight! Continue reading →
It was one of the most culturally important films of the 1920s, the one that made Colleen Moore a star and made “flapper” part of every American’s vocabulary. Her delightful performance is arguably the highlight of the film…or so we can assume, because sadly only a fragment of the influential Flaming Youth (1923) still remains. But thank heavens for that fragment–not all lost films are as lucky.
And it did, my friends. Exhibitor’s Herald, Nov. 3, 1923.
Few things are more surreal than looking through a 100-year-old movie magazine only to see a title like this staring up at you! One of many, many, many lost films, In the Year 2014 (1914) was a split-reel comedy meant to be enjoyed for a day or two and then replaced by the next comedy.
Motography, Nov. 7 1914
Itwas also one of many, many, many Joker comedies from a time when little films were “ground out like sausages,” as the saying often went. Joker, the slapstick branch of the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, was created to compete with Keystone comedies. Its films are thought to have been slapdash and silly–“thought,” because unfortunately the majority of them are lost. The titles will fill you with longing: Love, Roses and Trousers, At the Bingville Booster’s Barbecue, The Mechanical Man, and one of my favorites, Lady Baffles and Detective Duck in the Great Egg Robbery.
And if the longing wasn’t bad enough, the stills always look like so much fun.
Ah, movies! We see them on T.V., play them on DVDs and watch them on Netflix and YouTube. We rave about them, argue about them and sprinkle our social media with photos and GIFs from them. Some of us, hopefully, even see movies in a theater.
You know, that place you have to drive to.
With movies practically coming out of our ears, it’s bizarre to hear that the vast majority of silent era films are lost. This doesn’t seem to make sense–how the heck can a film be “lost”? Why, it’s just kind of there, on the screen. It’s not is the same kind of object as a painting or a book…right? Continue reading →