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why is there not any prints of "london after midnight"


oldmoviedork
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I saw a doc on Chaney, probably on TCM a few years back, and a man who had seen it new was interviewed. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, that it was laughably bad. Chaney looked more like Groucho Marx than Jack the RIpper, or whatever he was supposed to be. Apparently, nobody cared enough about it to preserve it.

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It is one of the many, many silent films believed lost to history. It wasn't that no one cared to preserve it. It's that the majority of people never thought films would have any lasting value. Add the fact that nitrate decompses into goo and many films negatives were melted down for their silver content during WW2 and you have a recipe for lost films.

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Liz is right. The studios felt that silents had no commercial value anymore and thought it was better to make a few bucks recycling the silver in the film stock than paying a lot more to keep storing them. Of course, back then television was only in its experimental stages and nobody ever dreamed of home video or DVD. It's a sad fact that 80% of all silents and 50% of all films made prior to 1950 are gone.

 

Of course, you never know, someday a print of a lost film like "London After Midnight" could turn up in a private collection or in a hidden corner of some archive, but I wouldn't hold may breath.

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For the record, the last known print of LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT had appeared on MGM studio inventory lists as late as 1955, and was destroyed in a fire in MGM studio vault #7 in 1967. Soon after, the studio mounted a worldwide search for any existing prints of LAM, but nothing has turned up since, and I doubt anything will.

 

Still, I'm willing to be surprised . . .

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Thanks for the info. I didn't realize that there was still a print of "London After Midnight" that late. MGM saved a lot more films than many of the studios. They donated quite a few to the film archive at the George Eastman House in Rochester NY. Of course, they are rarely seen outside of their own screenings at the museum. At any rate, I was talking about silents in general, not a specific film.

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But doesn't the fact that a mere single print was laying around for over 25 years indicate that no one cared? There are still some silents around, and I submit they are still around because they were valued in their time and intentionally preserved.

 

Granted some greats were lost, for various reasons, but I can't help but think, especially after seeing the still shot of Chaney's make-up, that the old gentleman in the doc was absoultely right. LAM stunk, nobody cared, and they let it rot in the vault. Until it burned. And I'd love to know what value the insurer of MGM's vault placed on that particular piece of cinema come settlement time, compared to the other films that were lost. (And what others were lost, I wonder?)

 

I heard a music professor talking about "Amadeus" and he said that Mozart's music lives on because musicians valued him, and continue to, so they keep playing him, and studying him, while Salieri was considered mediocre. Everyone has heard Mozart, whether they know it or not. Hum a few bars of Salieri, if you can.

 

We have other Chaney silents, because Chaney was valued then and now. As was Keaton, Lloyd, Bow, Gish, Pickford. et al. If LAM had been among Chaney's top tier films, we'd have it, I'm sure.

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Actually, there is a "print" of London After Midnight. The subtitles were still

available, and there were so many stills left from the movie, that someone made

a movie with the all the stills put together, with the subtitles. I thought it was very

good, under the circimstances. You can follow the story. You just can't see the

characters moving and breathing. It's available on DVD in The Lon Chaney

Collection.

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LuckyDan, I think you're right. It does simply boils down to the fact that nobody cared. If films were on the shelf for twenty or thirty years without anyone ever booking them the studios felt they were worthless and weren't worth the cost of keeping them. It wasn't until the growth of television that they started to realize there was a demand for "old" movies and a great deal of money to be made. By then, in many cases it was too late.

 

Today, thanks to DVDs and in a big way TCM, many more people have become interested in silents and early talkies, so I'm sure the studios are regretting their poor stewardship of Hollywood's past history.

 

Interestingly too, there are indeed many great films still alive in archives, but there just isn't the money to restore them. The best example is the largest collection of film in the country is at The Library of Congress. I don't know if it still works this way, but it use to be that when a film was copyrighted the producer had to deposit a print of it in the LoC. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? Sadly, even though it has a very dedicated and concerned staff, the government barely provides enough money to maintain films in the collection let alone restore them. No doubt many of those have turned to dust too.

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We have other Chaney silents, because Chaney was valued then and now. As was Keaton, Lloyd, Bow, Gish, Pickford. et al>>

 

The silent comedians films weren't valued back in the day. When James and Pamela Mason moved into Keaton's villa in Beverly Hills, one day Mason was rummaging around the old storage shed and found Keaton's collection of his films.

 

Buster had moved, forgotten about the films and Mason called him up to see what Keaton wanted done with them. Luckily Mason realized that the films had value otherwise they might have been thrown in the trash.

 

The silent comedians came back in vogue in the 1960s with the release of Roger Youngson's "When Comedy was King" a compliation of some of the best and funniest bits of silent comedy.

 

Film societies and revival houses helped keep the flame going. Many of the exisiting silent films were in the public domain and were shown on television in the wee hours of the morning.

 

In the late 1960s, MGM had its famous auction that included everything from payroll records to cueing sheets, sheet music with Arthur Freed's notations and films.

Everything that didn't make it into the hands of private collectors was dumped in the landfill that is now part of the 5 Freeway heading north to Valencia.

 

A few years prior to the auction, MGM kept some of its older studio employees on the payroll making dupes of all their films (and throw out the negatives because why keep all those elements when storage costs are expensive and your studio is in such deep financial crisis they are selling off the back lot) but many of these dupes were very poorly done and have not aged well but in some cases are all that remains for a number of films.

 

In the early 1970s the fashions of the 1920s and 1930s came back into vogue and that heralded the trend towards looking at the movies from those decades.

 

But it wasn't until the advent of VHS and DVDs that studios realized that their vaults had commercial value.

 

Motion Pictures never had the cache of art or music. For far too long, it was seen as disposable and its appeal was/is for the masses. There are people who refuse to believe that motion pictures are an art form and deserve to be preserved just as Beethoven, Van Gogh and all the other great artists.

 

Because of that thinking, a great deal of our own American art form has been lost to history.

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Izcutter,

 

Actually, there was a modest revival of interest the Silent film, starting in the late 40's, into the 1950's, and 60's. James Agee's famous LIFE magazine article in '49, "COMEDY'S GREATEST ERA" was among the key element's to set the ball rolling again.

 

Youngson's first big feature length compilation was THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY, released I believe in 1956, or '57? This was before the sequel you mentioned. COMEDY WAS KING. After that came DAYS OF THRILLS AND LAUGHTER, in the early '60's. All of these were apparently quite successful?

Youngson, was not alone however, another key figure in the movement, was a man named Paul Killiam, who financed restorations of numerous classics in the early and Mid 60's, to much acclaim. A whole new generation of patrons, emerged largely through these two men?s dedicated efforts.

 

While I have never seen the original Youngson compilation, I have seen all of the others that Youngson put together. Including the rarely seen LAURAL AND HARDY'S, LAUGHING 20's (1965), and THE FURTHER PERILS OF LAURAL AND HARDY (1967?). Both of these Ironically, I just acquired on DVD in Pal format last week! They offer up a healthy dose of not just Stan and Ollie, but Charley Chase, and other Hal Roach lot comedians of the 20's as well!

 

I am still trying to locate a collector who has a good copy of Youngson's final compilation FOUR CLOWNS, from 1970? I don't believe that it has ever been released on commercial DVD? I hope that I'm wrong! This was among my initial introductions to Silent film comedy as a boy back in the late 70's. For that reason it has considerable sentimental value to me! My 16 year old tape off the old AMC, bit the dust, when I recently attempted to transfer it to DVD-R! So if anyone could help me find another quality copy, I would greatly appreciate it!

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Gagman,

 

Thanks for the correction on the years of the Youngson compliations. I saw them when I was a youngster and can't ever seem to remember the release dates correctly.

 

The Youngson films and those by Paul Killiam were quite succesful and helped launch many a tribute to those silent comics that were still living. Perhaps that's how so many of them came to be in Sam Arkoff's American International movies???

 

I don't recall seeing "Four Clowns" on DVD but you might try some of the smaller companies that specialize in silent films if the big guys don't have it.

 

Message was edited by:

lzcutter because I can't always spell properly

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Izcutter,

 

After further review, I guess that Robert Youngson's THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY was first released in 1955. COMEDY WAS KING IN, followed in 1957, or '58. I do not know about for sure about DAYS OF THRILLS and LAUGHTER? In addition, I am not to certain what came next either? There was likely another compilation between DAY'S OF THRILLS AND LAUGHTER, and LAURAL AND HARDY's LAUGHING 20's, I would think?

 

Someone arguing on another board, insisted just the other day that L& H's Roaring 20's has not been offered on DVD, and is tied up in a legal battle at present? Well, how is than that I have a copy? It is most certainly not a bootleg! However, it was clearly made from the 90's laser disc release, and though still pretty good quality, could have benefitted some from re-mastering. For those looking for this picture it was released on DVD, by a company called Orbit in Great Britain. Thus the release is Pal, and not NTSC format. It appears that it hasn't been issued by anyone here in the states as of yet?

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I just typed a long response, clicked "post" and got "requested resource could not be found."

 

I'll take it as sign from above and just retype the final sentence, which was thanks for the posts, LZ and gagman. I learned a lot.

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LuckyDan,

 

I sometimes get that error message too. I just use the go back key on my browser to click back to my message and hit post message again.

 

Usually posts the message with no problem the second time.

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