How do I find a copy of a movie from 1919?
December 9, 2007 11:26 AM   Subscribe

After months of research, we've finally discovered the film that was shown the night my theatre opened in 1919. The question is, how would I go about finding out if there are existing prints of this movie available?

We'd love to have a showing of this film for our 90th anniversary, but I'm having zero luck tracking the film down online. Any pointers?
posted by Newbornstranger to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The movie was made by Goldwyn Pictures, which was absorbed into MGM. MGM maintains its own reel archive, so your best bet would be to ask the MGM licensing team.
posted by headspace at 12:12 PM on December 9, 2007

Also in case it helps, these people have a copy(pdf). As they're a museum, there's always a chance that they've digitised it or are planning to digitise it, so perhaps worth asking them if they've made any usable copies or can otherwise help you.
posted by Flitcraft at 12:33 PM on December 9, 2007

Ah scratch that - it look like they just have lobby cards.
posted by Flitcraft at 12:35 PM on December 9, 2007

I'd try and avoid the licensing team, if they have a print it's probably been archived and left to rot. And if they do let you use it they'll want your first born for it. It's got to be out of copyright by now anyway.

Film academics are your best bet, there's probably a copy kicking around somewhere. Email whoever created the wiki article for the director, Clarence G Badger. Or talk to the people at archives like the George Eastman house, even if they don't have it, they're an amazing resource. Check if it's ever been shown on Turner Classics or other classic film channels. See if there's ever been a screening honoring his body of work, maybe in his hometown of San Francisco? You work at a rep theater, yes? hmm wonder which one. You probably have a lot more resources through your theater than most people.

I wouldn't focus so much on finding a film print, just a copy of any sort. Depending on your projection capabilities, just get a VHS or DVD copy and transfer it to digibeta for exhibition - film festivals do this all the time when a print doesn't arrive on time, and as I'm sure you know, barely anyone ever notices/cares except the director, if they're in attendance. Getting a working print of a film that's 90 years old is going to be tricky. A print's nice but highly unlikely, don't you think?
posted by SassHat at 12:39 PM on December 9, 2007

I hate to say this, but there's a fairly good chance the film was destroyed, as many/most of the silent films were. Films were viewed as ephemeral entertainment, rather than as art worth preserving.

Googling it brings up only IMDB information and information that could easily be gleaned from it (lists of works an actor has been in, for instance). I've seen similar results when searching for films that (as it turned out) had been destroyed in one of the intentional celluloid fires.
posted by InnocentBystander at 12:57 PM on December 9, 2007

A print's nice but highly unlikely, don't you think?

Plus you'd be responsible for anything that happened to it.
posted by yerfatma at 12:58 PM on December 9, 2007

The movie was made by Goldwyn Pictures, which was absorbed into MGM. MGM maintains its own reel archive, so your best bet would be to ask the MGM licensing team.

Actually, the MGM film archive was sold in 1986 to Ted Turner. The film in question is listed on the Turner Classic Movies database, but it says no information is available with regard to an original print.
posted by beagle at 1:20 PM on December 9, 2007

As SassHat says, archivists will be a great resource for you. It is certainly possible, though I don't know how likely, that an archives other than the studio's is in possession of a copy. Many, many archival repositories do not have listings of their full holdings online, so the fact that Googling doesn't bring up any listings does not necessarily mean that none exist.

The Association of Moving Image Archivists has a listserv that is open to the public. I see that similar requests have been posted to the list in the past, so that might be a good starting point for you.
posted by Siobhan at 1:23 PM on December 9, 2007

Jim Beaver, who wrote the plot summary on IMDB, might have a copy. Unfortunately, it's a email address so it might no longer be valid.
posted by Pants! at 2:25 PM on December 9, 2007

Jim Beaver is a film historian but also an actor. I don't know how recent it is, but it seems you can e-mail him from this page. Otherwise, I'd try to find out who his agent and see if you can contact him through them. If you can't find it online, you can probably get his agent's name by calling SAG or something.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:31 PM on December 9, 2007

Here in one link, contact info for Jim Beaver (still used the prodigy email as of 2006) and Clarence Badger's granddaughter.
posted by Awkward Philip at 9:47 PM on December 9, 2007

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