I am proud to be part of this year’s blogathon “For the Love of Film (Noir),” an enterprise I missed out on when it was launched in 2010. Last year, film buffs just like you raised a sizable sum through grass-roots donations and helped to save three silent film shorts discovered at the New Zealand Archive. There's an equally worthy project on tap this year; details follow later in this posting.
It’s been several months since the chief of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in Moscow presented, with ceremonial flourish, digital copies of ten long-missing American silent films to Dr. James Billington at the Library of Congress.
Our national Librarian is a respected Russian scholar who has cultivated this relationship over many years’ time, and this is just the first installment in a massive repatriation project. Now archivists at the Library’s David Packard Campus in Culpepper, Virginia have released a brief excerpt of one of those first ten films, You’re Fired! (1919), starring Wallace Reid and directed by James Cruze. It is impossible to judge a movie from one scene, but the physical quality of the picture is excellent, and at the very least it will afford us an opportunity to enjoy a movie featuring one of the silent era’s most—
—popular stars. The video appears as part of the Washington Post’s online coverage of the Russian film exchange HERE .
It’s axiomatic that silent films require preservation, but most people don’t realize that even recent films are subject to deterioration. I will never forget George Lucas telling me that when he decided to reissue Star Wars theatrically, just twenty years after its initial release, he discovered—to his horror—that original splices in the negative were coming apart. That’s one of the reasons that filmmakers Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton decided to make a feature-length documentary about The National Film Registry, which now numbers more than 500 American films, ranging from home movies and newsreels to Hollywood blockbusters.
Their aim was to explore the depth and breadth of films on the Registry and illustrate the need to take care of our cinematic heritage. These Amazing Shadows recently debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was warmly received, winning rave reviews from The Hollywood Reporter and Vanity Fair.com, among others. (Full disclosure: I am one of the on-camera interviewees.) IFC plans to distribute the film through various channels but it’s available for downloading right now, through the end of this month, as part of the Sundance Selects program online. You can screen the trailer and order the feature HERE.
At the other end of the archival spectrum, those ingenious pranksters at The Onion have published a bogus news item that—who knows?—may gain serious traction with some movie lovers and librarians: The Onion.
Finally, there was little fanfare when 20th Century Fox included Cavalcade in its elaborate boxed DVD set commemorating the studio’s 75th Anniversary late last year…but in fact, this marks the first time the Best Picture Academy Award winner of 1933 has ever been available on disc. I’m told it will be issued as a separate disc sometime in the near future; stay tuned for further details. Now, if we can only get Paramount to wake up and release Wings, every Oscar winner will be present and accounted for on DVD.Finally, details about this year’s blogathon: the film to be rescued this year is Cy Endfield’s The Sound of Fury, also known as Try and Get Me! (1950), a lynch-mob drama written by Jo Pagano, starring Frank Lovejoy and Lloyd Bridges. It’s an “orphan” picture that’s in need of proper preservation, and the Film Noir Foundation is spearheading the project. Blogger Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Films, who has once again organized this mass fundraising project along with The Siren of Self-Styled Siren, explains, “A nitrate print of the film will be restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, using a reference print from Martin Scorsese’s personal collection to guide them and fill in any blanks. Paramount Pictures has agreed to help fund the restoration, but FNF is going to have to come up with significant funds to get the job done. That’s where we come in.”
This is the era of do-it-yourself, right? So pitch in, whatever you can reasonably afford, and send a contribution to the Film Noir Foundation HERE. You’ll have the satisfaction of playing an active role in extending the life of a worthy film and putting it back in circulation.