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Monday, June 07, 2010

Wow...this is cool
Posted by Jill | 6:14 AM
A few weeks ago we had a neighborhood garage sale, which resulted in somewhat anemic sales for just about everyone involved. It occurred to me that much of the kind of crap people put out at garage sales -- cheap toys, old cookware, old glassware and sichses -- can now be purchased just as cheaply at the local dollar store. There are still the earlybirds who come around looking for treasures. But as tchotchkes and cultural effluvia of the first half of the twentieth century no longer have a place in our cultural memory, items from that time languish at garage sales, a casualty of the reality that during the heyday of "Antiques Roadshow", more Americans began to be savvy about just what they had. The days when I could go into a flew market for an animal shelter and get there just in time to see someone donating a supermarket bag FULL of vintage Steiff animals and buy the whole bag for twenty-five bucks are over.

A family friend once gave me a huge box of really old sheet music dating from about 1905 to 1918. Some of the covers are beautiful. I sold what I could on Ebay after she died, most of it generating about $1-$5 each, and donated the proceeds to breast cancer research. I've kept a few of the nicest remaining pieces, sold a couple at our LAST garage sale, Freecycled a few stacks of it, and still have about three dozen pieces. No one wants this stuff. Even an original Cab Calloway recording of "Blues in the Night" on the Okeh label can be had on Ebay for five bucks now.

So I guess no one but silent movie buffs and cinephiles will be interested in the treasure trove of previously "lost" silent films that were just found in New Zealand, of all places:
A late silent feature directed by John Ford, a short comedy directed by Mabel Normand, a period drama starring Clara Bow and a group of early one-reel westerns are among a trove of long-lost American films recently found in the New Zealand Film Archive.

Among the discoveries are several films that underline the major contribution made by women to early cinema. “The Girl Stage Driver” (1914) belongs to a large subgenre that Mr. Abel has identified as “cowboy girl” pictures; “The Woman Hater” (1910) is an early vehicle for the serial queen Pearl White; and “Won in a Cupboard” (1914) is the earliest surviving film directed by Normand, the leading female star of Mack Sennett’s Keystone comedies. The Clara Bow film “Maytime” (1923), presents the most famous flapper of the 1920s in an unusual costume role.

Getting the films, which were printed on the unstable, highly inflammable nitrate stock used until the early 1950s, to the United States hasn’t been easy. “There’s no Federal Express for nitrate out of New Zealand,” said Annette Melville, the director of the foundation. “We’re having to ship in U.N.-approved steel barrels, a little bit at a time. So far we’ve got about one third of the films, and preservation work has already begun on four titles.”

As the films arrive, they are placed in cold storage to slow further degeneration. “We’re triaging the films,” Ms. Melville said, “so we can get to the worst case ones first. About a quarter of the films are in advanced nitrate decay, and the rest have good image quality, though they are badly shrunken.”

As funds permit, the repatriated films will be distributed among the five major nitrate preservation facilities in the United States — the Library of Congress, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House, the U.C.L.A. Film & Television Archive and the Museum of Modern Art — where the painstaking work of reclaiming images from material slowly turning to muck will be performed.

Sony, the corporation that currently owns the Columbia library, has assumed the costs for “Mary of the Movies,” a 1923 comedy that is now the earliest Columbia feature known to survive. And 20th Century Fox, a descendant of the studio that made “Upstream,” has taken responsibility for preservation of that title. If all goes well, the restored “Upstream” will be receive its repremiere at the Academy in September.

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Blogger Isaac said...
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