Tuesday, June 8, 2010
That's Clara Bow at top left. Really.
Maytime is a 1923 costume-drama starring my favourite ginger-kid, and I boldly predict that it's terrible. Thanks to the good people of New Zealand, I'll one day know for sure.
I bet you've already heard about the Kiwi's big find of U.S. silent films, now heading home, slowly, for painstaking restoration. This is a big story, covered by portals as esteemed than the New York Times and Variety, and rightfully so--we're not talking about pitiful fragments of a few movies, or obscure works of interest only to scholars, this time. No, we're talking about seventy-five freakin' films, including a silent directed by John Ford, the aforementioned Bow pic, a western with a George Melies production credit, and the now-earliest surviving film directed by comedienne Mabel Normand. Normand, like Bow, was a gigantically talented woman whose career was crushed by scandal and who, if alive today, would be unstoppable.
The details are well-covered in the links above. From the Times article:
The films came to light early in 2009, when Brian Meacham, a preservationist for the Los Angeles archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, dropped in on colleagues at the New Zealand Film Archive in Wellington during a vacation.
“The conversation inevitably turned to what films we held in our collection,” recalled Steve Russell, the New Zealand archive’s manager of corporate services. “Brian was not surprisingly excited to learn the Film Archive held a number of non-New Zealand titles, primarily early nitrate films, including a substantial number of American films. We offered to compile a list of the U.S. material, and it was a short step to here.”
Restoration efforts will be performed "as funds permit," but private money will speed things up for at least a few of these films. Clean-up of Ford's Upstream is being bankrolled by 20th Century Fox, descendant of the company that produced it, and the film will apparently redebut this fall.
First, they find more Metropolis. Now this. It's a good time to be a silent movie fan.
For more on Clara Bow, see my blog entry on It (1927).
Mabel Normand co-starred in many of Fatty Arbuckle's films, including the very strange He Did and He Didn't (1916).