A collection of news and information pertaining to silent era films.
Copyright © 1999-2017 by Carl Bennett and the Silent Era Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Help Identify These Unknown Films 2
Without the resources of a major film archive, it can be tough to identify a recently-recovered untitled film. Especially when so little information about the film can be gleaned from the surviving footage.
With so many films from the silent era presumed lost, when any vintage nitrate film is recovered it can be the cause for some excitement. But that excitement soon dissipates if the film cannot be identified.
A Silent Era reader writes about two film prints, one incomplete, “I live in Holland, and have watched the films at a Dutch silent film [archive]. . . . I assumed they were Dutch because of a mislabelled title. But as it turned out they originally had had English[-language intertitles].
Now, the information I have is only about the plot and I know nothing about the actors involved. The place where I viewed the movies was not [digitally equipped] so I could not produce stills or anything.
One was a complete three-act comedy, translated back into English it must be called something like “Elephant’s Nightmare.” It features a lions and elephants in a show, where the main character apparently rescues a child from the lion. That child was also wanted by the tax collector because the mother didn’t pay. (?) In another scene, the elephant comes after someone and crashes through walls into a bathroom where a black is washing a jew (I think — not very correct). English writing is sometimes visible in this picture.
Two other [reels] belonged to the middle of another film, which therefore must have lasted at least four [reels].
It was a drama about an (theatre) actress called Mara West, who in Rome falls in love with a man, Phillippe, they have a child, but he is a poor actor while she is a great success, and that threatens to part them. Apparently it is a slightly catholic film, as there was a remark about the inspiration of the pope.
I fully realise this sort of scanty plot summary is a poor tool for identifying silent movies.”
The films need to be identified so that they might be properly preserved. The Dutch archive he visited has limited resources and cannot financially take responsibility for much more than Dutch productions.
UPDATE: Both of these films have been identified, An Elephant’s Nightmare (1920) and Mara West (1921), and prints of both have been acquired by an American film collector.