Silent films have always been of great interest to me. I remember the first silent films I ever saw were on the local public television station out of Urbana, Illinois. They were Lon Chaney's "Phantom of the Opera" (1925) and Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last" (1923). I was about 13 years old at the time, and it was around 1979.
These films left a lasting impression on me that caused me to seek out other silent films and research the lives of silent film era stars, particularly the ones that were little known; obscure or long since forgotten.
I have had many conversations with people regarding silent films, and I must say that most people have a tendency to believe the common stereotype associated with silent film. It is the generally accepted belief of persons not associated with silent film that all silent films are slow paced; overly acted and badly acted melodramas from an ancient, long forgotten time.
In my opinion, the only truth in the common stereotype is that they are from a long ago era in history when the world was a much more innocent place than it is today. I have convinced several persons to give silent film a chance by watching a good example of the genre, such as F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" (1921) or G.W. Pabst's "Pandora's Box" (1928). Upon viewing a good silent film such as these examples, they have found them to be quite intriguing and entertaining which makes them seek out other silent films thus destroying the common stereotype about silent film.
When I met my husband in 1987, one of the many things we found we had in common was a shared love of silent films. Since our marriage in 1990, we have amassed quite an impressive collection of films, about a third of which are silent.
A few months ago, I purchased a couple of books from Tim Lussier about silent films. We struck up a correspondence via email, and he asked me if I would be willing to write an article for his website "Silents Are Golden" because of my knowledge of silent film. I told him that I would be more than happy to do this, and the next step was to decide which topic I would write about.
He originally asked me to review a silent film that I had seen, and because I was having difficulty picking out just one, I asked if I could write the article about something else pertaining to silent film. He agreed, and I suggested doing an article on "Lost Silent Films that Might Exist in Worldwide Archives." I started my search by going to the Library of Congress' website. They have a feature called "Ask A Librarian." This feature is free, and they usually answer your email inquiry in 48 hours if not sooner. In most cases, if they cannot help you, they can direct you to another source.
They have been extremely helpful in their information to me. They started by giving me the link of Worldwide Film Archives that will take you directly to each of the archive websites.
I started my research by asking about several different film actors and actresses as well as film titles, but ultimately I concentrated my research on two obscure silent era actresses by the names of Annette Kellerman (a/k/a Annette Kellermann) and Valda Valkyrien (a/k/a Valkyrien).
The only known films that are currently available with Ms. Kellerman and Ms. Valkyrien are "Venus of the South Seas" (1925) and "Shattered Dreams" ("Bolshevism on Trial") (1919), both of which could be purchased through Grapevine Video which closed its doors in November, 2003, due to Jack Hardy's retirement.
It is believed that Ms. Kellerman had a cameo role in "The Great Stone Face" (1968) as well as "Fatty At Coney Island" (1918). "Fatty At Coney Island" (1918) is also available for purchase.
My research of the various archives resulted in finding the following films by these particular actresses:
Valda Valkyrien: (photo at left)
"Dodsspring Til Hest Fra Cirkuskuplen" (1912) Danish Film Institute (DFI) (according to Thomas Christensen of the DFI, this title is to be released in mid 2004 on DVD)
"Heldige De Friere" (1912) Museum of Modern Art
"Silas Marner" (1916) Library of Congress & Sonneborn Collection
"Youth" (1915) British Film Institute (BFI)
Annette Kellerman: (photo below)
"Jepthah's Daughter" (1909) British Film Institute (BFI) and National Film & Television Archive (NVFTA)
"Siren of the Sea" (1911) Danish Film Institute (DFI)
"Neptune's Daughter" (1914) Screensound Australia and Gosfilmofond of Russia
"The Art of Diving" (1920) Screensound Australia
"Annette Kellerman Performing Water Ballet" (1925) Screensound Australia
Other films of interest I located in my research are as follows:
"The Goose Woman" (1925) Jack Pickford - Library of Congress
"Even Break" (1917) Olive Thomas Library of Congress
"Fate's Turning" (1911) Lottie Pickford - Library of Congress
"Beatrice Fairfax" (1916) Olive Thomas - Library of Congress
"Rags" (1915) Mary Pickford - Library of Congress
"Cinderella" (1914) Mary Pickford - Library of Congress
"Less Than The Dust" (1916) Mary Pickford - Library of Congress
"The Indian Runner's Romance" (1911) Mary Pickford - Library of Congress
"The Village Schoolmaster" (1910) Mary Pickford - Library of Congress
"Madame Butterfly" (1915) Mary Pickford - Library of Congress
"Fanchon The Cricket" (1915) Mary Pickford; Jack Pickford; Lottie Pickford British Film Institute (BFI) (this is reputed to have the only footage of Fred Astaire dancing with his sister Adele)
"The Little Clown" (1921) Mary Miles Minter - Library of Congress
"Cleopatra" (1928) Dorothy Revier; Robert Ellis George Eastman House
"Camille" (1921) Alla Nazimova; Rudoph Valentino George Eastman House (this has been televised on TCM)
"Romeo and Juliet" (1908) Florence Lawrence; Paul Panzer George Eastman House and Library of Congress
"Camille" (1915) Clara Kimball Young Gosfilmofond of Russia
"A Kiss For Cinderella" (1926) Betty Bronson George Eastman House; Cinematheque Royale; Museum of Modern Art; UCLA
"Under Two Flags" (1912) William Garwood Library of Congress
"The Gentle Intruder" (1917) Mary Miles Minter FilmMuseum NL
"Onze Filmsterren" (1919) Mary Miles Minter FilmMuseum NL
"The Sealed Room" (1909) Mary Pickford - FilmMuseum NL
"The Country Doctor" (1909) - Mary Pickford - FilmMuseum NL
"The Lonely Villa" (1909) Mary Pickford FilmMuseum NL
"The Two Brothers" (1910) Mary Pickford FilmMuseum NL
"Friends" (1912) Mary Pickford FilmMuseum NL
"Peggy Leads The Way" (1917) Mary Miles Minter FilmMuseum NL (sent the print they held to the AFI American Film Institute in 1991)
"When Bearcat Went Dry" (1919) Lon Chaney Sr. FilmMuseum NL
"The Wicked Darling" (1919) Lon Chaney Sr. FilmMuseum NL
The films I have located in these various archives are, for the most part, extremely rare, and many are presumed lost. Some of them are complete while others are partial films. The particular archive that holds the film can advise which ones are complete.
The culmination of my search resulted in locating a partial copy of Annette Kellerman's first feature film, "Neptune's Daughter" (1914). This was the first collaboration between Ms. Kellerman and Herbert Brenon and has long been considered a lost film, so for me to locate it was quite exciting. The footage is currently held in two archives, Screensound Australia and Gosfilmofond of Russia.
The responses and assistance I have been given by Bronwyn Dowdall of Screensound Australia were invaluable. I would not have been able to obtain a copy of this film without the help of this archive. They are to be commended for their replies to my endless email inquiries. This is extremely remarkable in light of the events surrounding Screensound Australia in the past couple of weeks. This archive was in danger of drastic cutbacks and layoffs, but thanks to public outcry denouncing these actions, these plans have been shelved for the time being. In order to show support for this archive and its dedicated staff, please go to the Screensound Australia website at www.screensound.gov.au or go to the Save Screensound Campaign at www.cpsu.org.au.
The footage of Ms. Kellerman in "Neptune's Daughter" (1914) is quite interesting. The surviving footage I received runs about 20 minutes in length and shows what a great film this was when it was originally released in 1914. The attention to details; lavish sets and swimming scenes all are proof of the film's quality.
I have finally confirmed that Gosfilmofond of Russia holds one reel (about 150 feet) of this film and not "A Daughter of the Gods" (1916), as previously believed. This was Ms. Kellerman's second feature film and second collaboration with Herbert Brenon. The only footage I was able to locate for this elusive film was through the Cinema Museum of London. At one time this archive held a few feet of this film, but it was not enough for preservation efforts and is presumed lost.
I am trying to obtain a copy of this footage held by Gosfilmofond of Russia to see if it completes the footage I have already received from Screensound Australia.
This was a very rewarding experience for me locating the lost footage of these films. I have sent many updates to Internet Movie Database regarding corrections and additions to the filmographies of both Ms. Kellerman and Ms. Valkyrien.
The discovery of Ms. Kellerman's 1911 short film entitled "Siren of the Sea" (1911), costarring Maurice Costello, which I located in the Danish Film Institute (DFI), is important because it was not listed as a known title with Internet Movie Database or American Film Institute (AFI) until I discovered it in this archive.
The discovery of "Fanchon The Cricket" (1915) starring the Pickford family, in the British Film Institute (BFI) archive, was also very exciting because this has always been considered a long lost Pickford film. This information has been turned over to Timeline Films because BFI will not release films to individuals. Upon research of my information, Timeline informed me that they would be seeking a copy of this film from the BFI archive for release in the future.
The same is true of the discovery of "Onze Filmsterren" (1919) starring Mary Miles Minter and "Heldige De Friere" (1912) starring Valda Valkyrien because these titles were not listed on Internet Movie Database until I located them in the FilmMuseum NL and Museum of Modern Art archives.
As a general rule, titles produced before 1923 can be purchased from US archives that will work with individuals, such as the Library of Congress, because they are exempt from copyright restrictions.
The overseas archives that may allow purchase of materials include: Gosfilmofond of Russia; Screensound Australia; FilmMuseum NL; The National Film Archive of Iceland and the Danish Film Institute (DFI).
Some archives won't release titles and they must be viewed on the archive's premises. These include The George Eastman House (GEH), Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and the British Film Institute (BFI). The overseas archives have individual policies regarding copyright materials and vary between the individual archives.
This project would not have been possible without the use of the internet. The internet has been a vital tool in locating films in these various archives.
There are many people who have been absolutely wonderful in their help and assistance in answering my email inquiries. It is impossible for me to name everyone that helped with this project, but I will try and include everyone that was instrumental in this search. If I have forgotten anyone or neglected to mention anyone, I do apologize.
The list of persons that have been instrumental in my location of these films is as follows. I wish to acknowledge them for their contribution in making this project a success.
Bronwyn Dowdall of Screensound Australia
Josie Walters-Johnston Library of Congress
Rosemary Hanes Library of Congress
Christel Schmidt Library of Congress
Ian Collie Hilton Cordell
Michael Cordell Hilton Cordell
Angela Adriano Hilton Cordell
Emily Gibson Allen & Unwin
Barbara Firth Allen & Unwin
Thomas Christensen Danish Film Institute (DFI)
Mikael Braae Danish Film Institute (DFI)
Thorarinn Gudnason The National Film Archive of Iceland (Kvikmyndasfn Islands)
Valerij Bossenko Gosfilmofond of Russia
Elaine Burrows British Film Institute (BFI)
Anne Morra Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
Steven Higgins Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
Alexander Melekh TEKNOVIDEO
Caroline Yeager - George Eastman House
Ronny Temme FilmMuseum NL
Martin CinemaMuseum of London
Ned Thanhouser Thanhouser Films
Jack Hardy Grapevine Video
Tim Lussier Silents Are Golden
John Flynn Timeline Films
Hugh Munro Neely Timeline Films
I hope to purchase "Silas Marner" (1916) from the Library of Congress; the one reel of "Neptune's Daughter" (1914) from Gosfilmofond of Russia and "Siren of the Sea" (1911) from the Danish Film Institute (DFI).
I have forwarded the information for "Fanchon the Cricket" (1915) to Timeline Films so they can obtain the copy from the British Film Institute (BFI) since they cannot sell to individuals. I have also forwarded the Jack Pickford, Lottie Pickford, Olive Thomas and other Mary Pickford releases to Timeline Films for possible future release. All Thanhouser productions, including "Silas Marner" and "Under Two Flags" have been forwarded to Ned Thanhouser for possible future release, as well.
My goal is to make these films available for viewing and purchase by the average silent film fan, which is what I consider myself to be. This way, all silent film fans will be able to easily access these films without having to travel to an archive to see them. Being an average silent film fan myself, I live in a very small town not close to any of these archives, which makes viewing them in person extremely difficult. I am of the hope that because of the advancement of the internet, which makes access to archival information easily obtainable, and the introduction of DVD, this goal will be an eventual reality.
Copyright 2004 by Mary Ann Cade. All Rights Reserved.
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