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New Zealand-American Partnership
to Save and Make Available ‘Lost’
American Silent Films

John Ford’s ‘Lost’ Feature Upstream (1927) Among the Discoveries

San Francisco, CA (7 June 2010) — The New Zealand Film Archive and the National Film Preservation Foundation announced today a partnership to preserve and make available an astonishing collection of 75 American motion pictures that no longer survive in the United States — and 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. Only about 15 percent 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 theatrical 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 coeditor 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.”

    Mabel Normand in Won in a Closet (1914).
    Frame enlargement: courtesy The New Zealand Film Archive /
    National Film Preservation Foundation.
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 (1914), 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 percent 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 and 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 website.

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 percent. 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.”

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the nonprofit charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Since starting operations in 1997, the NFPF has helped save more than 1,650 films at archives, libraries, and museums across 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

The New Zealand Film Archive / Nga Kaitiaki O Nga Taonga Whitiahua, an independent trust established in 1981, preserves and protects hundreds of thousands of moving images documenting New Zealand, from its first movies to contemporary television and cutting edge avant-garde. The NZFA runs an active screening program at its headquarters in Wellington and sites throughout New Zealand.

 

Please support the preservation of these films. Consider donating to the National Film Preservation Foundation.

 

Among the 75 American features and short films to be preserved under the New Zealand Film Archive/NFPF project are:

The Active Life of Dolly of the DailiesEpisode 5, “The Chinese Fan” (Edison, 1914). In this episode of the famous serial, ace woman reporter Dolly Desmond, played by Mary Fuller, rescues the editor’s daughter from kidnappers and gets the scoop. In the early 1910s, on-going serial narratives starring intrepid heroines lured female moviegoers back to the theater week after week.

Albert Spaulding Playing Leibesleid, Cavatina, by Raff (Vitaphone Corporation, 1929). This early sound-on-disc film features the American violinist and composer.

American Co-Op Weekly (1917?), a newsreel featuring stories related to World War I.

Andy’s Stump Speech (Samuel Van Ronkel Productions, 1924), a two-reel comedy featuring former Keystone Kop Joe Murphy as Andy Gump.

An Animated Grouch Chaser (Edison, 1915), a combination live action and animated comedy by Raoul Barré.

A Bashful Bigamist (Vanity Comedies, 1921), a one-reel Billy Bletcher comedy, in which a wife plots to keep her husband at home.

The Better Man (Vitagraph, 1912), a western in which a Mexican-American outlaw proves himself the better man. This film will be preserved through funds raised in February 2010 by the “For the Love of Film” blogathon.

The Big Show (Miller Brothers Productions, 1926), the only surviving fiction film made by the famous Oklahoma-based Wild West Show managed by the Miller Brothers.  The film showcases performances by many of the troupe’s performers as well as its owner, Joseph Miller.

Billy and His Pal (Méliès, 1911), a western filmed in San Antonio, Texas, and the earliest surviving film featuring Francis Ford. The actor-director introduced the movie business to his younger brother, John Ford, who soon blossomed as a director.

    Clara Bow and Ethel Shannon in Maytime (1923).
    Frame enlargement: courtesy The New Zealand Film Archive /
    National Film Preservation Foundation.
Birth of a Hat (Stetson Company, 1920), an industrial short illustrating how Stetson makes its hats.

Brilliantino the Bullfighter (Monty Banks Productions, 1922), a two-reel comedy starring Monty Banks as a weakling who transforms himself into a celebrated matador to win his fickle sweetheart.

A Broken Doll (Allan Dwan Productions, 1921), a western feature directed by Allan Dwan, starring Monte Blue as a cowboy devoted to a ranch owner’s disabled daughter. The New Zealand footage is expected to complete an incomplete print held by the Library of Congress.

By Might of His Right (Vitagraph, 1915), a Sidney Drew comedy in which an overtaked host hatches a plot to rid his household of an obnoxious guest.

Captain Jinks, the Cobbler (Vitagraph, 1916), a comedy short where Jinks pretends to enlist in order to avoid his wife.

Defying Destiny (Rellimeo, 1923), one of the few Rellimeo productions, a feature-length drama in which Monte Blue is a wronged man who changes his appearance through plastic surgery and returns home to reclaim his good name and win his sweetheart.

The Diver (Kalem, 1916), a documentary showing how to set underwater explosives.

Fordson Tractors (Ford Motor Co., 1918), an industrial film promoting the all-purpose tractor introduced by Henry Ford & Son in 1917.

The Girl Stage Driver (Éclair-Universal, 1914), an early western filmed in Tucson, Arizona. American-made westerns were in demand by movie audiences around the globe and helped establish the United States as the major film-exporting nation by the late 1910s.

Happy-Go-Luckies (1923), a Paul Terry cartoon.

Idle Wives (Universal, 1916), the first reel of a Lois Weber feature in which a film inspires three sets of moviegoers to remake their lives. Another reel from this now-incomplete feature survives at the Library of Congress, which will receive the repatriated material.

International News Reel (ca. 1926), a newsreel including five stories from the United States and abroad. By the late 1910s, newsreels became a regular part of the movie program. Because the footage was usually cut up and reused, very few newsreels from the silent era survive in complete form.

Kick Me Again (Universal/Bluebird, 1925), a short comedy with Hungarian silent star Charles Puffy. As America became the center of world film production in the 1920s, European actors, such as Puffy, came to Hollywood to build their careers.

Little Brother (Thanhouser, 1913), one of two one-reelers from New York’s Thanhouser Film Corporation repatriated through the project.

Lyman H. Howe’s Famous Ride on a Runaway Train (Lyman H. Howe Films, 1921), a thrill-packed short entertainment that was accompanied by sound discs, copies of which survive at the Library of Congress.

Mary of the Movies (Columbia, 1923), a Hollywood comedy about a young woman seeking stardom in the movies. This first surviving film from Columbia Pictures exists in an incomplete copy.

Maytime (B.P. Schulberg Productions, 1923), a feature with Clara Bow in an early role. Nitrate deterioration has reached the point where ‘blooms’ are starting to eat away at the emulsion. Unless the film is copied immediately, the images in these frames will be completely lost.

Midnight Madness (DeMille Pictures, 1928), a comedy starring Clive Brook as a millionaire who decides to teach his golddigging fiancè a lesson.

Oils Well! (1923), a Monty Banks two-reel comedy made for The Federated Film Exchange of America, Incorporated.

Run ’em Ragged (Rolin, 1920), a short featuring slapstick comedian Snub Pollard.

The Sergeant (Selig Polyscope, 1910), a western filmed in Yosemite when the park was managed by the U.S. Army. This film will be preserved through funds raised in February 2010 by the “For the Love of Film” blogathon.

Trailer for Strong Boy (Fox, 1929), a ‘lost’ feature directed by John Ford and starring Victor McLaglen as a courageous baggage handler who thwarts a holdup.  No other moving images from this film survive.

Upstream (Fox, 1927), feature directed by John Ford found at the New Zealand Film Archive. Fewer than 15 percent of the silent era films by the celebrated director are known to survive. This backstage romantic comedy tale stars Nancy Nash and Earle Foxe.

Why Husbands Flirt (Christie, 1918), one of the nine short comedies that will be preserved through this project. Like westerns, early American comedies were popular around the world.

The Woman Hater (Power Picture Plays, 1910), a one-reel comedy starring serial queen Pearl White.

Won in a Closet [Won in a Cupboard] (Keystone, 1914), the first surviving movie directed by and starring Mabel Normand.

 
Follow-up : NFPF Receives Save America’s Treasures Grant to Preserve ‘Lost’ American Silent Films Discovered in New Zealand
 
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