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Helen of Four Gates (1920) to get screening after 80-year hiatus!


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*Helen of Four Gates (1920) to get screening after 80-year hiatus!*

 

 

*After global search for last remaining negative, Cecil Hepworth's 1921 classic to be shown in Yorkshire town where it premiered*

 

 

 

Martin Wainwright

guardian.co.uk

Monday 31 May 2010

 

 

*Helen of Four Gates to get screening after 80-year hiatusAfter global search for last remaining negative, Cecil Hepworth's 1921 classic to be shown in Yorkshire town where it premiered*

 

 

*A classic British film which helped the birth of the Hollywood star-and-blockbuster system is to be screened again in the UK after an international search for the last remaining negative.*

 

 

Packed with 19th-century northern melodrama, from broody moors to cobbles, the 90-minute silent epic Helen of Four Gates was last shown in this country in the 1920s.

 

 

Based on a novel by a Yorkshire mill girl, who took the literary world by storm at the end of the first world war, the film had punters queuing at cinemas when it was released in 1921. Critics acknowledged the power of the much-clogged and be-shawled cast, and especially the landscape of Hebden Bridge in the Pennines where the pioneer director Cecil Hepworth did much of the filming.

 

 

But in spite of the accolades ? which included a showing at the launch of Glasgow's Grosvenor Picture complete with organist and symphony orchestra ? the reels suffered the fate of almost all Hepworth's work when his business collapsed. Starting in 1896 with a shed in his garden at Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, he expanded into studios which took over the whole street, but over-reached and went bankrupt in 1924.

 

 

"Most of his stock was melted down for the film's silver nitrate content," said Nick Wilding, a film-maker based in Heptonstall, overlooking the Hebden Bridge Picture House, where Helen of Four Gates is to have its 21st century debut next week. "There are other, shorter relics of his work, including a very early version of Alice in Wonderland made in 1904. But that's only ten minutes long. Helen is the real thing, a full-length feature film."

 

 

The new print organised by Wilding after more than five years' of global research, fund-raising and copyright negotiation, will also be shown in August as part at the British Film Institute's Long Live Film festival celebrating 75 years of their archive. It will then be lodged in the BFI's archive and kept available for future screenings, to avoid another 80-year viewing hiatus.

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