Kiwi preservationists unearth "time capsule" of long-lost US silent films


(Image: Clara Bow (left) and Ethel Shannon in 1923's "Maytime," directed by Louis J. Gasnier / courtesy National Film Preservation Foundation

Some 75 American movies previously believed to have been lost forever, including a 1927 John Ford film, another by an early female director, and others dating back as far as 1898, have been uncovered in New Zealand. The New Zealand Film Archive and the National Film Preservation Foundation will work to preserve the films over the next few years in partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, George Eastman House, Library of Congress, Museum of Modern Art and UCLA Film and Television Archive. Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox are also helping to restore titles from their libraries. Snip from Variety story:

The NFPF called the collection "a time capsule of American film production in the 1910s and 1920s" and said that about 70% of the nitrate prints were complete. The pics were found in a remote storage vault held by the New Zealand Film Archive.

The Ford pic is "Upstream," described as a backstage romance between an aspiring actor and a girl from a knife-throwing act. It was released in early 1927 by Fox. According to the NFPF, only about 15% of the helmer's silent films are believed to have survived. Also uncovered in the collection is a trailer for another lost Ford feature, 1929's "Strong Boy" starring Victor McLaglen.

Other titles in the collection include the 1923 Clara Bow feature "Maytime"; "Won in a Closet," directed by and starring Mabel Normand; plus numerous Westerns, shorts, docus and newsreels. There's even an industrial film about the making of Stetson hats.

Here's a related story in the New York Times.

(Thanks, Andrea James!)