Monday, February 15, 2010

My entry for the blogathon!

Film Preservation is something near and dear to my heart. I am even thinking of pursuing it as a career, but I'm not totally sure i'm cut out for it. Either way, I will support it for the rest of my life, because it literally pains me to see bad prints of films in wide circulation. The most recent one I can think of was Love Affair. There were huge scratches, dark spots, and brightness inconsistencies throughout the whole movie, and this was on TCM!

Right now the kid I am babysitting is watching Cars for about the billionth time. I too was an obsessive repeater: particularly Home Alone and The Addams Family. The advance of home video technology, and now DVDs, Blu-Rays and now digital copies ensure that no film will be lost again, even the terrible ones, because they are all distributed and archived in multiple formats. Many peoplewho see our work as less than urgent argue that "these were pretty bad films anyway, so who cares if they're lost?". Well if you don't mind, I'm going to go ahead and destroy all copies of From Justin to Kelly, since it wasn't very good anyway.

So what does a lost film like The Awful Truth (1929) and From Justin to Kelly have in common? They both paint an important picture in Hollywood history: one of how a single story can evolve in to several subsequent versions, and the other a commentary on pop-culture status. Who cares if The Awful Truth is terrible? I want to see it!

There are important lost films as well. Two early Hitchcock films are gone: one feature-length and one short. Fanny Foley Herself may not sound too intriguing, but it is a feature-length all-technicolor film from 1931! I'm sure you have all heard by now, but a more complete version of Metropolis was discovered a couple of years ago, and it was screened this weekend in Berlin. Expect a DVD in April.

This brings me to an important website that I just happened upon: Lost Films is an effort to catalogue and fin as many lost films as possible. They also post caps of unidentified films, in the hope that at least an actor can be identified. Please check it out and try to do some identification!

That's all for now, but expect me to come back this week to talk about preservation and the public domain, a growing problem.

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the independent, nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. They work directly with archives to rescue endangered films that will not survive without public support.

The NFPF will give away 4 DVD sets as thank-you gifts to blogathon donors chosen in a random drawing: Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900-1934 and Treasures IV: American Avant Garde Film, 1947-1986.

If this post has inspired you, please consider donating to the National Film Preservation Foundation in honor or memory of your favorite film director or star.


  1. Maggie, thanks for this personal post that really brings it home for the casual film fan who might wonder about some of the films that are being preserved. You're so right about our cultural heritage. I'm working on a post on civil defense film from the 1950s, really an ad for paint companies! There's so much of interest in it, but on the surface, you have to wonder why we should care. Looking forward to more from you this week!

  2. The state that Love Affair is in is just pitiful. It deserves better!

  3. Agreed with everything you said-- especially the part about it not mattering that a film is considered bad-- it'd bee nice to have the chance to watch it.

  4. Absolutely-after all, many people choose to write dissertations or do intense study on "bad" films (whatever that means). Last semester I wrote a 7-page paper on a film released in the US as "Dracula's Dog"!

  5. Wow that was extremely well written. *stands up and cheers*

  6. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and feelings on the subject. Someday someone may benefit from Seeing "From Justin to Kelly" as a historical artifact. Me, I'd rather have my eyes plucked out. Are you familiar with "Gus Visser and his Singing Duck"? Another movie most people probably thought should disappear.

  7. This is a question many preservationists shy away from, and we shouldn't. Of course we want to use scarce resources as wisely as possible, but as you point out, even a "bad" movie has things to tell us about history and culture. (Although Justin to Kelly, maybe not.) Then again, the judgment of time can be a funny thing. Yesterday's flop is tomorrow's rediscovered gem.

    And I so agree that the first Love Affair is one of the most romantic movies ever made, and it needs and deserves a loving restoration.