The Library of Congress has a casting call out for scholars, archivists and film enthusiasts to participate in a cinematic treasure hunt by registering for its free “Mostly Lost” workshop at the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia, Thursday, June 15 through Saturday, June 17. The quest of the film detectives is to find clues that will lead to the identification of unidentified, under-identified or misidentified silent and early sound films.
The sixth in an ongoing series, “Mostly Lost” will bring together a cadre of experts who will work together to find out 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 at 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 EYE Filmmuseum, George Eastman Museum and Cinémathèque Française.
Of the possible 142 titles screened at the workshop in 2016, 32 films—23 percent—were identified during the event. Through further research conducted in collaboration with the Association of Moving Image Archivists Nitrate Committee’s Flickr page after the workshop, an additional 22 titles have been identified.
The evening screenings are free and 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 loc.gov/avconservation/theater/
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 (loc.gov/avconservation/
). The Packard Campus is home to more than 7 million collection items.
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Thursday, June 15
8:30 a.m. Tour of the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation
10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. (for those not on the tour)
Barnstorming Brinton: The Business of Early Moving Pictures. Presented by Mike Zahs. From the time he showed his first films in 1895 until he left the road in 1908, W. Frank Brinton was one of the most prolific showmen in the central United States. Brinton introduced moving pictures to rural audiences in his home state of Iowa, north to Minnesota and south to Texas. His legacy continues today because of the survival of over five hours of film and over 8,000 artifacts from his estate. Historian Michael Zahs examines the heyday of the Brinton Entertaining Company from 1904-1908, a time when Brinton was one of the most highly respected and highly paid entertainers in the Midwest. Presenting exhaustive evidence and original datebooks, receipts, newspaper accounts and catalogs from Pathé, Edison and Star Films, Zahs creates a lively portrait of life on the road for a true pioneer of the moving picture.
12:30 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. Screenings of unidentified films from archives around the world as well as these presentations:
Where Did Our Films Go? The Destruction of Some American Silent Features. Presented by David Pierce. It is well-known that most silent feature films no longer survive. In this presentation, David Pierce will review three tragic events—the Fox film vault fire at Little Ferry, New Jersey, in the summer of 1937 (which affected multiple studio collections), the destruction of the silent-era Universal Pictures library in the late 1940s, and a film fire, never previously disclosed, that destroyed dozens of silent features of the 1920s. The presentation will include rare home-movie footage, original photographs, vault inventories and destruction records.
Biograph Days: The American Mutoscope & Biograph Company and the Paper Print Collection. Presented by Paul Spehr. One of the treasures in the Library’s Paper Print Collection is the archive of the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company films. Although the company is best known for the films of D. W. Griffith, it actually played a key role in American cinema before his arrival. American Mutoscope released films in a large format, called 68 mm today. The films were not sold and could only be shown on the company’s projectors. The company provided a package consisting of a projector, projectionist and a changing program of films, usually 15 to 18 short films, which were typically accompanied by the house orchestra and sound effects. A 1902 lawsuit changed this and the company began selling its films on 35 mm, submitting a selection of its leading productions as paper prints for copyright. During that period, the most popular films were news and actuality films and the company had a close relationship with newspapers.
Silent Films in St. Augustine, Florida. Presented by Thomas Graham.In the days when New York City was the hub of the film industry, St. Augustine—America’s oldest settlement—was just 32 hours away by rail. During the winter, the location offered sunshine, balmy atmosphere, semi-tropical verdure and antique Spanish buildings. More than 120 films were made, at least partly, in St. Augustine. Theda Bara rose to fame with “A Fool There Was,” and a host of others, including Tom Mix, Rudolph Valentino, Ethel Barrymore and Oliver Hardy, performed in exotic settings.
7:30 p.m. Newly restored silent films of “Now We’re In The Air” (1927) and “Corporal Kate” (1926) will be screened from 35 mm prints at the Packard Campus. Andrew Simpson will provide musical accompaniment. The event is free and open to the public.
“Almost Found: NOW WE'RE IN THE AIR” (1927). Presented by Robert Byrne. Louise Brooks appeared in 14 American films during the silent era. Five of these features are currently thought to be entirely lost, while two others survive only as fragments or incomplete copies. Following a tip from Kevin Brownlow, Robert Byrne learned of a fragmentary nitrate print of the hitherto considered lost “Now We’re in the Air” (1927) stored in the vaults of Národní filmový archiv in Prague. In this presentation, he will present a brief description of the project to restore and preserve what remains, followed by a screening of the entire 22-minute restoration.
“CORPORAL KATE” (1926).“Corporal Kate” is frequently cited as one of the first war films to feature the female angle; this screening marks the premiere of the newly preserved DeMille Pictures Corp. feature. Two manicurists are in Europe when World War I breaks out. The two women decide to enlist and struggle not only with the brutalities of war but also with their love for the same man. Directed by Paul Slone, the film stars Vera Reynolds, Julia Faye and Kenneth Thompson.
Friday, June 16
9 a.m. - 5:15 p.m. Screenings of unidentified films from archives around the world as well as these presentations:
Silent comedy’s most forgotten star? The lost Italian-American laughter of Cassio. Presented by Robert J. Kiss.
Between 1926 and 1929, the 'famous Italian-American film comedian Cassio’ starred in his own series of Brooklyn-lensed two-reel shorts, as well as in a comedy feature co-starring Natacha Rambova. As Cassio’s publicity noted, his credentials were exemplary: he was Valentino’s first cousin, a nobleman in his own right, and was called Italy’s Charlie Chaplin. However, Cassio’s movies remain entirely absent from all standard databases and reference works, with the title of his 1928 feature, “Who Am I?,” proving strangely prophetic from the standpoint of film history. Kiss sheds light on a body of overlooked comedies shot on the East Coast in the 1920s by recently arrived Europeans, in which mountains of authentic Italian spaghetti and stacks of American slapstick custard pies collide head-on, both figuratively and literally.
The Lost Origins of Silent Horror Icons. Presented by Kelly Robinson. The loss of a great number of silent films has been particularly devastating for the horror genre. Early films featuring well-known horror characters—werewolves, mummies, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, for example—are missing. In several cases, the debut of these creatures of silent film is lost. Through stills, advertisements, and other ephemera, this presentation will unearth and illuminate these long-forgotten parts of horror history.
7:30 p.m. Horror icon silent-film screenings presented by Kelly Robinson of “The Devil” (1915), “The Were Tiger” (1925) and “The Stolen Play” (1917) will be screened, with accompaniment by Philip Carli. The event at the Packard Campus is free and open to the public.
"THE DEVIL" (1915). Artist Harry Lang is commissioned by a wealthy gentleman to paint a portrait of his wife, Isabella—who just happens to be Lang's former lover. Wishing to quell gossip, Isabella connives to marry off a friend to the artist. With his knowledge of their secrets holding them in his thrall, the Devil uses his supernatural powers and trickery to play puppet-master to the love rectangle. Directed by Reginald Barker and produced by Thomas H. Ince, the film stars Edward Connelly, Bessie Barriscale and Arthur Maude.
"THE WERE TIGER" (1925). The daughter of a mine owner has harrowing adventures in her struggle to reach her father through the jungles of the Malay Peninsula. Her travel is impeded by armed men and a mysterious beast, which the natives describe as a man-eating tiger that preys on children and can also transform into a human. The film stars Hedda Nova, Frank J. Glendon, George Carrossella and Jules Cowles.
"THE STOLEN PLAY" (1917). A blind playwright is engaged to his assistant and the two are close to completion of a new play. The play is so dark and morbid that the two are on the brink of breakdowns. Admiring the playwright’s previous work, a greedy agent will stop at nothing to secure the play for himself. Directed by Harry Harvey, the film stars Ruth Roland, Edward J. Brady and William Conklin.
Saturday, June 17
9 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. Screenings of unidentified films from archives around the world as well as these presentations:
No Accounting For Taste: Silent Film Accompaniment Today. Presented by Laurel Howard. Public screenings of silent film today are usually accompanied by live music, just as they were during the Silent Era, but not necessarily with the same music or even in the same style. Accompaniments range anywhere from historical re-creations to experimental electronic scores. Are there rules about what can and cannot be done? The wide spectrum of opinion on this subject is explored through interviews and case studies.
William Fox and the Fox Film Corporation: Highlights and Lowlights. Presented by Merrill T. McCord. After giving a brief summary of the life of William Fox (1879-1952) and the history of the Fox Film Corporation (1915-1935), an array of little-known facts will be related about William Fox, his studios, productions and the people around him. Some are sad, some amusing and some unbelievable.
7:30 p.m. Silent film screening of “Fox Film Corporation’s 23rd Annual Convention, Hollywood, CA” (1926) and “Rogues and Romance” (1920) with Ben Model providing musical accompaniment. The event at the Packard Campus is free and open to the public.
"FOX FILM CORPORATION’S 23RD ANNUAL CONVENTION, HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA" (1926). Presented by Merrill T. McCord. Informal shots of well-known attendees enroute to the event, being greeted, having fun, and departing.
"ROGUES AND ROMANCE" (1920). A lighthearted story of a young American woman and her father while vacationing in Spain. She falls in love with a Spanish rebel whose gang has plans to kidnap the governor. When her American fiancé arrives for a visit she is torn between the two men. Filmed in Europe, the film stars Harry Semels, June Caprice, Marguerite Courtot and George B. Seitz, who also directed.
Immediately following the screening is a closing-night reception at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for registered workshop attendees only.