News / Arts & Entertainment

Library of Congress: Much of American Silent Film Heritage Lost

This undated handout image provided by the Library of Congress shows a motion picture lobby card for D.W. Griffith's
This undated handout image provided by the Library of Congress shows a motion picture lobby card for D.W. Griffith's "Broken Blossoms" (1919), showing sailors standing over two bodies, lying on the dirt street in Chinatown.
Reuters
Nearly three-quarters of America's feature-length silent films have been lost, and the legacy that put Hollywood at the forefront of the movie industry from 1912 to 1929 is endangered, the Library of Congress said Wednesday.

The first comprehensive study of American feature-length films of the silent era unveiled by the Library of Congress paints a distressing picture. Seventy percent of silent feature-length films have been lost.

Classics films such as 1926's The Great Gatsby, the 1917 version of Cleopatra and actor Lon Chaney's 1927 London After Midnight are among movies considered lost in their complete form.

“The Library of Congress can now authoritatively report that the loss of American silent-era feature films constitutes an alarming and irretrievable loss to our nation's cultural record,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

About 11,000 silent feature films of American origin were released from 1912 through 1929. Only 14 percent, or about 1,575 titles, exist in their original 35 mm format.

Five percent of the films that did survive are incomplete and 11 percent of those that are complete are in lower-quality 28 mm or 16 mm format or in foreign versions, according to the study.

“We have lost most of the creative record from the era that brought American movies to the pinnacle of world cinematic achievement in the 20th century,” Billington said in a statement.

Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese, an advocate of film preservation, said the findings are invaluable. His film Hugo was inspired by pioneering film-maker Georges Melies who directed hundreds of movies in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

“The research presented in this report serves as a road map to finding silent films we once thought were gone forever and encourages creative partnerships between the archives and the film industry to save silent cinema,” Scorsese said in a statement.

In 1990 Scorsese established The Film Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving motion picture history. It has helped to save more than 560 films, according to its website.

The study, “The Survival of American Silent Feature Films: 1912-1929” - commissioned by the National Film Preservation Board - also showed that of the more than 3,300 films that survived in any format 26 percent were found in other countries, and 24 percent have already been repatriated.

The Czech Republic has the most American silent films found outside the United States. The report credits overseas archivists with preserving many U.S. silent films.

The author of the study, historian-archivist David Pierce, also compiled an inventory to help bring American silent films back to the country.

The report recommended that a nationally-coordinated program be developed to repatriate silent films from foreign archives, as well as a campaign to document unidentified titles.

It also encourages studios and rights-holders to acquire archival master film elements on unique titles.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”