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Terrific Chance for Film Buffs to See Rare Footage
Fragments: Surviving Pieces of Lost Films (2011)
**** (out of 4)
Michael Pogorzelshi of the Academy Film Archive and Mike Mashon from the Library of Congress explain some of the reasons why so many films are lost today and they also go into detail about what's being done to try and locate lost film and restore them before they're lost forever.
The footage starts off with a few seconds from 1917's CLEOPATRA, which featured sex symbol Theda Bara who we're told that only two of forty films made between 1914 and 1917 still exist. While the footage only lasts a few seconds it's easy to tell in that time that the actress wore very few clothes in the film. Up next is a special section on Vitaphone as we're told that they sent 35mm paper prints off for copyright purposes but instead of sending the entire film the studio would just send certain parts of the film, which is one reason why so many of their movies are now lost. We get scenes from WHAT ONE SMALL BOY CAN DO (1908), THE VIKING'S DAUGHTER (1908), TOO MUCH CHAMPAGNE (1908) and WAITING ON THE WAITER (1910). These clips are followed by a section devoted to Colleen Moore and Clara Bow, the two greatest flappers of the 1920s. We get around ten-minutes worth of footage from Moore's 1923 film FLAMING YOUTH. In one scene we see Moore in front of a mirror getting some make up on and in a more risky clip we see a pool party where one drunk lady jumps into some sprinklers and we can see through her shorts. The Bow footage starts with RED HAIR (1928), which features her only color footage, which was a real eye-opener to see. We also get a few brief sequences from THREE WEEKENDS (1928) and this footage is a brief dance scene.
The next section looks at three legendary actors and some of their missing work. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH earned Emil Jannings a Best Actor Oscar but it's also the only acting winner that is currently lost. Two fragments are shown here with the first taken from a documentary released in the 1930s so it features narration. The second fragment is the final couple minutes of the film. We certainly can't judge an entire film on five-minutes but man does the performance seem great. Even with just these few minutes Jannings is able to pull you into the story and one can only hope this eventually turns up complete. HE COMES UP SMILING (1918) is a Douglas Fairbanks picture directed by Allan Dwan. We get just under 10-minutes worth of footage and we get a couple exciting stunt sequences and of course there's plenty of Fairbanks smiling. Lon Chaney in THE MIRACLE MAN (1919) comes up next and I'm sure most will be familiar with this footage since it's been released by Kino and a few other companies. It too comes from a documentary and contains narration. We then take a look at director John Ford and his trailer to the lost STRONG BOY (1929), which looks pretty interesting. We also get the last reel of the director's 1922 film THE VILLAGE BLACKSMITH. This final reel takes place during a violent thunderstorm, which looks remarkably real and one can't help but feel some nice drama in the ten-minutes worth of footage. We also get an interview with Jere Guldin who found the reel and tells how he did so.
Baby Peggy then talks about her 1923 film THE DARLING OF NEW YORK and tells a rather harrowing story of the ending of the movie where she and actress Gladys Brockwell are trapped inside a burning building. Peggy talks about what went wrong with the stunt as well as talking about a couple other films made that year. We then get about a four-minute clip of this sequence, which looks quite good as a building crumbles as a fire forces a stunt of the women jumping out a window. Up next we get to look at clips from three comedy films. Up first is Charley Chase in ACCIDENTAL ACCIDENTS (1924) and we see about five-minutes worth of footage. The scene starts off with Chase trying to start his car when a rain storm starts and we see a few of his misadventures in it. Up next is THERE HE GOES (1924), which shows about eight-or-so minutes worth of footage including a few stunts including one where the actor gets dragged behind a horse and buggy. Finally, we get the 2-strip Technicolor footage from Laurel and Hardy's 1930 film THE ROGUE SONG. I love L&H and this footage, what there is of it, was downright hilarious. A wind storm blows the boys tent over so they decide to take shelter inside a dark cave not knowing that a bear just went in there. GOLD DIGGERS ON Broadway (1929) features just under ten-minutes worth of footage and all of it in 2-strip Technicolor. Musical fans will enjoy this footage as we get several dance numbers and songs. None of them seem complete but a couple run for a good length to where you get a pretty good idea of how big some of the numbers were.
The final section takes a look at more films whose footage is only available through a trailer. ON TRIAL (1928) an all-talkie from Warner starts things off with HAPPINESS AHEAD (1928) with Colleen Moore up next. The Moore film only has a few frames available so it's played twice. Then we get some footage from Ramon Novarro's 1925 film A LOVER'S OATH. We end things with more trailers to THE GREAT GATSBY (1926), Clara Bow's ROUGH HOUSE ROSIE (1927), THE American VENUS (1926), Gary Cooper's BEAU SABREUR (1928) and POLLY OF THE FOLLIES (1922).
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