Friday, October 20, 2017

The Campaign of the Nitrate Film Interest Group to Identify Untitled Silent Films

Fred Ardath
The Nitrate Film Interest Group, part of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, has set up photo albums on Flickr to allow scholars and film enthusiasts to scrutinize frame scans from film prints that archivists have been unable to identify.  The prints fell into anonymity because the frames at the head of a reel, which included the opening title and credits, were long ago damaged through repeated efforts to thread the reel into various film projectors.  Also, the fact that the footage was more openly exposed to fingers and climate made it more likely to deteriorate.  The frame scans have been viewed by dozens of experts, who have been able to apply their great collective knowledge to figuring out titles. 

The frame scans (which can be found here) are a treasure trove for me.  The films come from several archive sources, including Library of Congress, EYE Filmmuseum, George Eastman Museum and Cinémathèque Française.  It is fun to visit the site and get a glimpse of a rare George Ovey comedy.

Or I can get a look at Sid Smith in action.

A balloon man, which was once a  fixture in haunted house comedies, gives Monty Banks a fright in this scene from Spooks & Spirits (1923).

I wrote about this film, Homer Joins the Force (1920), in my book "Eighteen Comedians of Silent Film." 

The film's star, Fred Ardath, had a long career on vaudeville and Broadway stages, but he never had the good fortune to achieve success in films.

Ardath in 1948 Broadway revival of "Show Boat."

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