One thing some people might not know (including myself before reading this), is that the United States was responsible for more films in the 20th century than any other country, but when it came to all of the silent movies made in the late 1800s to early 1900s, only 20% of them still exist.
The reason for this is a combination of things. On one end, a lot of films of the Silent Era were lost to lack of care and the natural deterioration that comes with time. On another end, American film studios owned all rights to their movies, and they handled international distribution their own way…even down to subtitling the pictures themselves. In doing this, they often changed the title to better suit the various foreign countries the movie was being released in. Combine all of these things together, and you have yourself a perfect storm of methods for losing cinematic artifacts to time.
A very exciting story for fans of cinema comes today, however, with word that Russia has found and identified ten films in their state archive. All ten movies are from the Silent Film Era, and include long-lost titles from renowned directors such as Cecile B. DeMille (The Greatest Show On Earth, The Ten Commandments) and Victor Fleming (Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz).
Head on over to the other side to check out a full list of the movies that were found.
After discovering the films and confirming what they were, the Russian state archive restored them all, made copies, and presented them to the U.S. Library of Congress, which houses the largest collection of cinema with over 200,000 films from all over the world.
It’s thought that a total of 200 films may exist in the same Russian archive, but only these ten have been identified and presented thus far. Until then, these newly discovered films are now in the process of being even further restored to their American format, with the proper subtitles. Eventually they’ll all see release in theaters and on home video.
NOTE: This list seems to be a bit off for some reason. The Arab was directed by DeMille and made in 1915 but this is the list that was reported, so there must be a reason for the varying information.
“¢ The Arab (Metro, 1924). Director: Rex Ingram. Cast: Ramon Novarro, Alice Terry.
“¢ Kick In (Famous Players, 1922). Director: George Fitzmaurice. Cast: Betty Compson, Bert Lytell, May McAvoy.
“¢ The Conquest of Canaan (Famous Players, 1921). Director: Roy William Neill. Cast: Thomas Meighan, Doris Kenyon.