May 18, 2016 Library Leads the Hunt for "Mostly Lost" Films

Fifth Annual Silent-Film Identification Workshop

Press Contact: Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456
Public Contact: Rachel Parker, (202) 707-0934

The Library of Congress is once again providing a unique opportunity for film scholars and archivists to play cinematic detective by participating in its free “Mostly Lost” workshop. The case is solving riddles and finding clues to the identity of unidentified, under-identified or misidentified silent and early sound films. The scene is the state-of-the-art theater at the Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virginia, and the date is Thursday, June 16, through Saturday, June 18.

The fifth in an ongoing series, “Mostly Lost” will tap the collective knowledge of the participants to obtain as much information as possible about the unknown or little-known films. During the screenings, attendees are encouraged to talk in the theater, calling out names of actors, locations, car models, production companies or anything else they recognize about each film.

All genres of films will be shown, including comedies, dramas and actuality films. Philip Carli, Ben Model and Andrew Simpson will provide live musical accompaniment during the workshop and the evening presentations of newly preserved silent films.

The workshop will feature unidentified films from the Library’s collections as well as from other archives, including the Royal Film Archive of Belgium, George Eastman Museum, Lobster Film Archive and the Museum of Modern Art.

Of the possible 125 titles screened at the workshop in 2015, 33 films—26 percent—were identified during the event. Through further research conducted after the workshop, an additional 25 titles have been identified in conjunction with the Association of Moving Image Archivists Nitrate Committee’s Flickr page.

Daytime events are open only to registered workshop participants. Register for the workshop at our Eventbrite site External for this event. The deadline for registration is Wednesday, June 1. For more information, email [email protected].

The evening screenings on June 16 and June 17 at the Packard Campus are free, but the June 18 screening at the State Theatre in Culpeper has a $10 admission charge. All evening screenings are open to the general public. In case of inclement weather, call the theater reservation line no more than three hours before showtime to verify status. For further information on the theater and film schedule, visit this site.

The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation is a state-of-the-art facility funded as a gift to the nation by the Packard Humanities Institute. The Packard Campus is the site where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of motion pictures, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings. The Packard Campus is home to more than 7 million collection items. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at loc.gov.

Workshop Schedule

Thursday, June 16

8:30 a.m. Tour of the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation

12:30 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. Screenings of unidentified films from archives around the world as well as these presentations:

Pokes & Jabbs: The Before, During and After of The Vim Films Corporation – Presented by Rob Stone
During the heyday of silent films, companies sprang up quickly and then disappeared even faster. One such company was Vim, which started in 1915 under one banner and ended in 1918 under yet another. Vim’s comedies were very popular for a brief period and hold up well even today. Its star comedians were Bobby Burns and Walter Stull as Pokes & Jabbs, but other comedians, such as Oliver Hardy and Myers & Theby, also made films for the company. This session will trace the origins, operations and demise of the various companies associated with Vim and provide a case study of the “here today, gone tomorrow” transient nature of much of the silent film business.

Identifying Stills: What Clues Can Be Found When There Are No Codes? – Presented by Bob Birchard
Often all that survives of a lost film are still photographs. Printed legends, “snipes” and studio code numbers are extremely helpful in the identification of many vintage stills. However, how do you go about putting a name to a face and a title to an image when there are seemingly no identifying characteristics to be found? Image size, photographic paper characteristics, clues within the image and cryptic markings may offer suggestions. With concrete examples of photo detective work, this presentation can help build skills in identifying images and increasing your knowledge of early films.

Angela Murray Gibson: Lost and Found, and Lost Again -- Presented by Charles “Buckey” Grimm
The brief career of Angela Murray Gibson was comprised of many firsts—from running her own studio in North Dakota to her work as one of the few camerawomen of the silent era. The rediscovery of three of her films in the mid-‘70s led to the production of a documentary about this silent-film pioneer.

7:30 p.m. Silent film double feature screening of“Whispering Shadows” (1926) and “That Model From Paris” (1926), accompanied by Andrew Simpson. Both original prints will be shown on a 28 mm projector at the Packard Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

“Whispering Shadows” (1921)
This unusual motion picture took six months to make and is based upon Walter Hackett’s play, “The Invisible Foe.” After attending a séance, a young couple deals with the question of whether the dead have the power to warn their loved ones of impending danger. Directed by Emile Chautard, the film stars Lucy Cotton, Charles A. Stevenson and Philip Merivale.

“That Model From Paris” (1926)
This rarely seen film is a sort of Cinderella story in which a plain girl is compelled to pose as a model from Paris who knows no English while working in a fashionable shop. Based upon “The Right to Live” by Gouverneur Morris, “That Model From Paris” was directed by Louis J. Gasnier and stars Bert Lytell, Marceline Day and Eileen Percy. Andrew Simpson will provide accompaniment for both films on the Walker theater organ.

Friday, June 17

9 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.Screenings of unidentified films from archives around the world as well as these presentations:

Loretta Young: Cinematographer – Presented by Jon Mirsalis
Legendary actress Loretta Young’s film career, spanning 1917-1989, is well documented although it is less known that one of her early hobbies was amateur cinematography. Spencer Tracy gave her a 16 mm movie camera in 1933 and she used it to document both her family life and to shoot footage on the sets of her films. She also experimented with novel film formats, including the long-forgotten lenticular color film process and the then-new Kodachrome. This presentation will include recently digitized footage from her collection, along with clips of audio recordings from a series of interviews done in the mid-1980s in which she talks about her early days in silent film, working with Ronald Colman and Herbert Brenon, and how Lon Chaney helped her enhance her bust.

Lies (!) told by film distributors in 1915 – Presented by Robert J. Kiss with a special appearance by Robert S. Birchard
New York-based distributor Kriterion Service and its successor Associated Service offered theaters a weekly program of “all-American” films from independent manufacturers around the nation. Promising a release schedule that was “regular as clockwork” and “dependable as a train timetable,” the company put out a staggering 291 movies between Jan. 8, 1915, and Jan. 3, 1916. The hyper-organized veneer, however, was held in place only by a clandestine scheme of “creative rebranding.” What is believed to be the truth about Kriterion/Associated Services’ releases is wrong, according to Robert J. Kiss. Employing a wealth of rare illustrative material, Kiss dismantles the mountain of untruths and demonstrates the considerable impact this has on accepted histories of local filmmaking in the U.S.

7:30 p.m. Silent film screening of“Husbands and Wives” (1920), accompanied by Philip Carli, at the Packard Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

“Husbands and Wives” (1920)
This is a cute motion picture about the conflict of the sexes. A Northern heiress marries a young Southerner who is proud of his heritage and his hard-work ethic. She loves beautiful gowns and excitement and has difficulty conforming to his idea of what a wife should be. Directed by Joseph Levering, the film stars Vivian Martin and Hugh Thompson. Philip Carli will provide live accompaniment on the Walker theater organ.

Two shorts—Laurel and Hardy’s “Battle of the Century” (1927) and Chapter six of “The King of the Kongo” (1929)—will be shown.

Saturday, June 18

9 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. Screenings of unidentified films from archives around the world as well as these presentations:

The Silent Film Project: Borrowing Small-Gauge Films From Private Collectors – Presented by Amy Jo Stanfill
The Silent Film Project is a new digitization project at the Library of Congress. The project is focused on collaborating with private collectors to borrow small-gauge silent films that do not otherwise exist. This presentation will look at the first year of the project, what films have been discovered and scanned, and the process of borrowing films from collectors. Clips of films digitized for the project will be shown. Some of the titles that have not yet been discovered but are part of this nationwide lost film search will also be discussed.

When the Cock Crows: A History of the Pathé Exchange – Presented by Richard Ward
This presentation will start with a quick overview of the Pathé Exchange’s history, beginning with its inauguration in the mid-1910s, through the absorption of its production arm into RKO in 1931, to tracing the tangents it took as a processing laboratory. The remainder of the presentation will focus on two intriguing technical areas: Pathécolor and Pathé’s home-movie releases in 28 mm, 16 mm and the ever-popular 9.5 mm. While Pathécolor is quite well known to serious film scholars, surprisingly the Pathé Exchange apparently continued to use it for color segments of the Pathé Review newsmagazine reel almost until the series’ demise in 1931.

7:30 p.m. Joint program by the Library and the State Theatre, silent film double feature of “Bride’s Play”(1922)and“Bell Boy 13” (1923), with musical accompaniment by Ben Model.

“Bride’s Play” (1922)
This is the first screening of the newly preserved Marion Davies film that Hearst released under his own production company. Aileen Barrett—an Irish lass of education and refinement and versed in the folktales of her native land—is a sweet, kind-natured girl, helpful to the poor and instructive and gentle to the young. Her father, John Barrett, dies while Aileen is still at school, leaving her a comfortable fortune. Her loveliness attracts both an earnest, rich wooer as well as a young Dublin poet. When the ancient custom of “The Bride’s Play” is revived at her wedding, Aileen must choose between the two men. Directed by George Terwilliger, the film star Marion Davies, Wyndham Standing and Jack O’Brien.

“Bell Boy 13” (1923)
Harry Elrod is a happy young man who looks forward to marrying his sweetheart and coming into his inheritance. His uncle attempts to match him with other, less-appealing marriage prospects and then disinherits Harry when he is not interested. Harry takes a job at a hotel as a bellhop, causing much chaos. Starring Douglas MacLean, Margaret Loomis and John Steppling, the film was directed by William Seiter. Both films will be accompanied by Ben Model.

The screening of the double feature at the State Theatre External in Culpeper, Virginia, is open to the public. There will be an admission charge of $10. Immediately following the screening is a closing-night reception for registered workshop attendees only, which will be held in the State’s Black Box Theatre.

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PR 16-092
2016-05-18
ISSN 0731-3527