The Silent 75

Charles Puffy in Kick Me Again

There was big news over the weekend for fans of classic cinema. A huge trove of “lost” American silent shorts and features were recently found in the New Zealand Film Archive and 75 of these movies, chosen for, as Dave Kehr wrote in The New York Times, “their historical and cultural importance,” are in the process of being returned to the United States and will be preserved and made available through a partnership between the New Zealand Film Archive, the National Film Preservation Foundation, and the American film archive community.

There are some very exciting finds among the 75 films: There’s an episode from The Active Life of Dolly of the Dailies, a 1914 serial that was previously thought entirely lost, which means even a single chapter is a big find. There’s Billy and his Pal, a 1911 Western that is the earliest surviving film featuring actor-director Francis Ford, John Ford‘s brother; Birth of a Hat, a 1920 industrial short that demonstrates how the Stetson company made its hats; Maytime, a 1923 costume drama that featured Clara Bow in an early role; Upstream, a 1927 feature directed by the aforementioned John Ford, of whose silent pictures only 15% are extant, Kick Me Again, a 1925 short comedy featuring Hungarian silent star Charles Puffy.

We’ll stop there, but there are many more treasures among the 75, as can be seen at the National Film Preservation Foundation web site. And while you’re there, why not click the Support the NFPF link and show your appreciation with a contribution? They do invaluable work.

P.S. NPR’s got coverage of this story now. Give it a listen.