US silent film treasures found in New Zealand

WELLINGTON (AFP) – A treasure trove of 75 long-lost US silent movies has been unearthed in New Zealand, including an early feature film by legendary Oscar-winning director John Ford, officials said Tuesday.

No copies of the films -- dating from as early as 1898 through to the 1920s -- remain in the United States.

The films will be returned to the US National Film Preservation Foundation for preservation after being unearthed in the New Zealand Film Archive, New Zealand Arts Minister Chris Finlayson said Tuesday.

The films will be preserved over the next three years for access through major American silent film archives and copies will be returned to New Zealand, Finlayson said.

US film historians first became aware of the existence of the films when Brian Meacham, a preservationist for the Los Angeles archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, visited the New Zealand archive while on holiday last year.

"It became clear they had some real treasures in their collection," Meacham told Radio New Zealand.

"It's beautiful to see these... have survived for 80 or 90 years -- it's incredible to see what great condition they're still in."

The most important find was a copy of Ford's full-length feature "Upstream" from 1927, a backstage romance between a Shakespearean actor and a target girl from a knife-throwing act.

The US foundation said only about 15 percent of silent era films by the four-time Academy Award-winning director were believed to have survived.

The New Zealand collection also included a trailer for Ford's lost 1929 feature "Strong Boy", starring Victor McLaglen.

Also in the collection are "Maytime", a 1923 feature with silent star Clara Bow and the first surviving film directed by and starring Mabel Normand.

The foundation said it was estimated that copies remained of less than 20 percent of all US films from the first four decades of the movie industry.

Meacham said places distant from the US such as New Zealand and Australia were a good source of otherwise lost silent movies.

"New Zealand, Australia and other places that are further afield from Hollywood were really the end of the line for a lot of films in the early days of distribution," he said.

"By the end of the road, it wasn't really financially worthwhile for the film producing companies to pay to have them sent back."

A ertesulesei szerint a kovetkezo filmek vannak a pakkban (tobbek kozott):

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.

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 (center). The actor-director introduced the movie business to his younger brother, John, who soon blossomed as director.

Birth of a Hat (Stetson Company, 1920), an industrial short illustrating how Stetson makes its hats.

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.

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 Howe’s 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.

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. Only 15 percent of the silent era films by the celebrated director are known to survive. This tale of backstage romance 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 (Keystone, 1914), the first surviving movie directed by and starring Mabel Normand.