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Collecting The History Of Silent Film

Collecting The History Of Silent Film

Ever since I first heard of and then interviewed Mary Ann Cade, I’ve been awestruck. It’s not just that her collection of film memorabilia is incredible (It is — can you even imagine owning the bracelet, belt, and chain that Theda Bara wore in Cleopatra?!) but her utter devotion and dedication to the discovery and preservation of honest-to-goodness silent film footage which amazes and impresses me. I mean this woman actually has found silent film footage previously considered lost. So when she contacted me, asking if I wanted an update on her collecting activities, you know I said, “Yes!”

kellerman-photo-from-october-1909-issue-of-burr-mcintosh-monthlyThe first bit of Cade’s news is regarding some of that previously mentioned presumed-lost silent film footage: Six minutes of Annette Kellerman (also billed as Annette Kellermann, “The Perfect Woman”) in the big budget silent film Neptune’s Daughter (1914).

While researching for a seminar on Annette Kellerman for Australia’s Powerhouse Museum, Einar Docker found Cade’s article on lost film at Silents Are Golden. During conversation about using Cade’s research in his presentation, Docker, the museum, and Australia’s Screensound archive were blown away to discover that the six minutes of film existed let alone that Cade knew where it was and that it could be viewed.

The six minutes of thought-to-be-lost film premiered again — over a century later — on November 4, 2009, at the Powerhouse Museum along with the 19 minutes of known Neptune’s Daughter film. (You can see a clip at the Powerhouse Museum link.)

Along with crediting Cade, Docker will be sending her a copy of the museum event on DVD and he was able to get her a copy of Kellerman’s short, Jephthah’s Daughter (1909) from the BFI archive.

You may not think getting a copy of a film isn’t very exciting, but this isn’t like buying or renting a DVD. This is a whole other animal indeed.

We’re talking about films which have not been commercially re-released, many of them have not been seen by the general public in nearly a century. They reside in film archives, like the BFI or Gosfilmofond of Russia. If you live in a community that doesn’t have silent film screenings, or only has screenings of the more popular silent films (films made more popular because enough people have seen then in the past 100 years to be fans and request them), you have to travel to an archive to see them. (If you think today’s movie theater prices are high, add in international travel, hotel lodgings, meals and suddenly you’re all too happy to buy ticket — and the over-priced popcorn.) Of course, you can try to purchase copies of old films… The prices vary considerably from archive to archive, with some charging minimal amounts for films while others may charge over $1000 for a copy of a film.

So for folks like Mary, who take being a film fan to a whole other level, receiving copies of such rarely viewed old films is a dream come true.

Here’s what Mary herself has to say about her passion and dedication to collecting and preserving silent films:

My feeling is that these films are the only legacy that many of these artists have as their testament to show they were a part of history, part of this planet, and that they made a contribution or a difference in some way while they were here.

It is not fair to the artist when they are held hostage in some archive and should be made available to the public for viewing. Some of these films that are held hostage in archives have been in that state for almost a century, which I think is criminal. It’s like someone who has a precious gemstone or car. What good is it if you can’t show it off to others? What good does it do to hide it away from everyone else? I think this is selfish and serves no real purpose whatsoever.

This is why Mary puts so much effort into tracking down old and even lost silent films. Which brings us to part two of her collecting news…

Through her international network of silent film collectors and archivists, Cade was also able to obtain copies of the following films:

  • Et drama paa Havet (A Drama on the Ocean or Dodsangstens maskespil) (1912) starring Valda Valkyrien
  • Den Staerkeste (Vanquished) (1912) Valda Valkyrien
  • Diana (1916) starring Valda Valkyrien
  • A Dream or Two Ago (1916) starring Mary Miles Minter
  • Silas Marner (1916) starring Valda Valkyrien
  • The Innocence of Lizette (1916) starring Mary Miles Minter
  • Out Yonder (1919) starring Olive Thomas

Jeesh, I have trouble finding just one movie from the 1980s that I want at Blockbuster. No wonder this is one collector who impresses me.

I’d like to think that the only thing holding me back from being as great a collector as she is that my interests are too varied — that if I wouldn’t be so easily distracted and fascinated by every little thing I find, I too could focus and do work as important as she does…

But until that day, Mary Ann Cade remains not only an idol of mine, but a collecting superhero. (I wonder what her cape looks like?)

And this isn’t even all her news! Come back soon for more on Mary Ann Cade’s silent film collecting and movie collectibles.

Photo Credits: Annette Kellermann photo from the October 1909 issue of Burr McIntosh Monthly, courtesy of Cliff Aliperti.

Reproduction Neptune’s Daughter film poster, via MovieGoods.com.

Mary Miles Minter photo on St. Louis Globe – Democrat Water Color Company Premiums (1916), also from Cliff Aliperti.

7 Comments to “Collecting The History Of Silent Film”

  1. [...] of Cade and silent film), I couldn’t just let Mary Ann Cade go that easily after delivering her recent silent film news — I had to ask her about her extraordinary collecting efforts regarding another silent film [...]

  2. [...] searching for Valkyrien’s 1916 presumed to be lost silent film The Hidden Valley, Mary Ann Cade came across some unknown film fragments through a link listed at [...]

  3. [...] Collecting The History Of Silent Film Katalogi, serwisy [...]

  4. [...] Incredible silent film news at Inherited Values: finding lost Annette Kellerman film footage! (Other silent film finds [...]

  5. [...] / explaining Annette Kellerman’s life to be installed at the pool. Because I’m rather well connected to Kellerman on the Internet, Bannikoff was hoping I’d be able to assist him finding decent quality images to include in [...]

  6. [...] the collector and silent film), I couldn’t just let Mary Ann Cade go that easily after delivering her recent silent film news — I had to ask her about one of her favorite silent film stars, Annette Kellerman (also billed as [...]

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