List of lost films

For this list of lost films, a lost film is defined as one of which no part of a print is known to have survived. For films in which any portion of the footage remains (including trailers), see List of incomplete or partially lost films.

Reasons for loss

Films may go missing for a number of reasons. One major contributing factor is the common use of nitrate film until the early 1950s. This type of film is highly flammable, and there have been several devastating fires, such as the Universal Pictures fire in 1924, the 1937 Fox vault fire and the 1965 MGM vault fire.[1]

Black-and-white film prints judged to be otherwise worthless were sometimes incinerated to salvage the meager scrap value of the silver image particles in their emulsions.[2] Films have disappeared when production companies went bankrupt.[2] Occasionally, a studio would remake a film and destroy the earlier version.[2] Silent films in particular were once seen as having no further commercial value and were simply junked to clear out expensive storage space.[3]

Statistics on lost films

This is necessarily an incomplete list. Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation claims that "half of all American films made before 1950 and over 90% of films made before 1929 are lost forever."[4] Deutsche Kinemathek estimates that 80–90% of silent films are gone;[5] the film archive's own list contains over 3,500 lost films.

A study by the Library of Congress states that 75% of all silent films are now lost.[6] While others dispute whether the percentage is quite that high,[7] it is impractical to enumerate any but the more notable and those that can be sourced.

For example, roughly 200 out of over 500 Méliès' films and 350 out of over 1,000 of Alice Guy's films survive.

Notable lost films

Amongst the films commonly mourned among critics and film historians are early films by noted directors and films of unique cultural importance. The Mountain Eagle was the second film to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1926; the silent melodrama has been described by the British Film Institute as their "most wanted" lost film.[8] London After Midnight, directed by Tod Browning in 1927, was a silent-era vampire film that is seen as the 'holy grail' of lost films by collectors.[9] Hollywood, a silent comedy film directed by James Cruze, featured over 30 cameo appearances from major stars of the day, including Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Astor and Pola Negri, but no footage exists.[10] Films with all-African American casts produced by Ralph Cooper, including Bargain with Bullets starring Theresa Harris and While Thousands Cheer starring Kenny Washington, are also considered lost.[11]

Silent films

1890s

YearFilmDirectorCastNotesRef
1896Arrivée d'un train gare de VincennesGeorges MélièsA French short documentary.[12]
L'Arroseur (a.k.a. Watering the Flowers)Georges MélièsA short comedy.[13]
Barque sortant du port de TrouvilleGeorges Méliès[14]
Bateau-mouche sur la SeineGeorges Méliès[15]
Bébé et fillettesGeorges MélièsA short documentary.[16]
Les BlanchisseusesGeorges MélièsA short documentary.[17]
Bois de Boulogne (Porte de Madrid)Georges MélièsA short documentary.[18]
Bois de Boulogne (Touring Club)Georges MélièsA short documentary.[19]
Boulevard des ItaliensGeorges MélièsA short documentary.[20]
Campement de bohémiens (The Bohemian Encampment)Georges MélièsA short documentary.[21]
Les chevaux de boisGeorges Méliès[22]
Le chiffonnierGeorges Méliès

[23]

Couronnement de la rosièreGeorges Méliès[24]
Déchargement de bateauxGeorges Méliès[25]
Jardinier brûlant des herbesGeorges Méliès[26]
Jetée et Plage de Trouville (first and second parts)Georges Méliès[27][28]
Jour de marché à TrouvilleGeorges Méliès[29]
Gestoorde hengelaarM.H. LaddéThe first Dutch fictional film.[30]
Spelende kinderenM.H. Laddé[31]
Zwemplaats voor Jongelingen te AmsterdamM.H. Laddé[32]

1900s

YearFilmDirectorCastNotesRef
1900Solser en HesseM.H. LaddéThe first film with this title, featuring the Dutch comedians Lion Solser and Piet Hesse.[33]
1903Hiawatha, the Messiah of the OjibwayJoe RosenthalBelieved to be the first Canadian fiction film.[34]
1906Solser en HesseM.H. LaddéThe second film with this title, featuring the Dutch comedians Lion Solser and Piet Hesse.[35]
1907SalaviinanpolttajatLouis Sparre,
Teuvo Puro
Teppo Raikas,
Teuvo Puro,
Jussi Snellman,
Eero Kilpi,
Axel Rautio
The first Finnish fiction film. Some sources also consider it to be the first Russian fiction film, as Finland was a part of the Russian Empire until 1917.[36]
1908The Fairylogue and Radio-PlaysFrancis Boggs, Otis TurnerL. Frank BaumFirst adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and several of its sequels. Shown only in roadshow engagements as part of a live theater presentation, the print decomposed and was discarded.[37]
1908The Music Master Wallace McCutcheon, Sr.D. W. GriffithMost of D. W. Griffith's early appearances as an actor in Biograph films have been preserved, minus this title.[38]
1908La ToscaAndré CalmettesSarah BernhardtThe second film starring Bernhardt, the most famous stage actress of the 1880s-1900s. Based on the play by Victorien Sardou that was adapted into an opera by Giacomo Puccini.[39]

1910s

1920s

Sound films

From 1929 on, films are "all-talking" unless otherwise specified.

1920s

YearFilmDirectorCastNotesRef
1928Alias Jimmy ValentineJack ConwayWilliam Haines, Lionel BarrymoreThis part-talkie was MGM's first film with synchronized dialogue sequences. It was also released as a silent film, which is similarly lost.[40]
4 DevilsF.W. MurnauJanet GaynorFox Studios' print was reportedly borrowed by actress Mary Duncan, who played a supporting role in the film, but its whereabouts are now unknown.[41][42]
Heart TroubleHarry LangdonHarry LangdonLangdon's last silent feature received little promotion in the United States, with fewer than 100 prints struck. There were reported showings in Australia in 1931.[43][44]
The Home TownersBryan FoyDoris Kenyon, Richard BennettWarner Bros.' third all-talking feature.[45]
The Melody of LoveArch HeathWalter Pidgeon, Mildred HarrisAll-talkie. Universal's first sound feature.[45]
On TrialArchie MayoPauline Frederick, Lois Wilson, Bert LytellWarner Bros.' fourth all-talking feature.[45]
TenderloinMichael CurtizDolores Costello, Conrad NagelSecond feature film to have synchronized dialogue sequences. Part-talkie.[45]
Women They Talk AboutLloyd BaconIrene RichA part-talkie released by Warner Bros.[45]
1929The Argyle CaseHoward BrethertonThomas Meighan, H. B. Warner, Lila Lee, Gladys BrockwellSilent veteran Brockwell died in a traffic accident shortly after making this film.[46]
The AviatorRoy Del RuthEdward Everett Horton, Patsy Ruth Miller[47]
The Awful TruthMarshall NeilanIna Claire[48]
Blaze o' GloryGeorge CroneEddie Dowling, Betty Compson
College LoveNat RossGeorge J. Lewis, Eddie Phillips[45]
Dark StreetsFrank LloydJack Mulhall, Lila LeeJack Mulhall's character is the first attempt at dual role double exposure photography in a talking film.[49]
EvidenceJohn G. AdolfiPauline Frederick, Conway Tearle[50]
Fancy BaggageJohn G. AdolfiAudrey Ferris, Myrna LoyA part-talkie from Warner Bros.
Footlights and FoolsWilliam A. SeiterColleen MoorePart-Technicolor.[45]
The Forward PassEdward F. ClineDouglas Fairbanks Jr., Loretta Young[45]
Fox Movietone Follies of 1929David ButlerJohn Breeden, Lola LaneMulticolor sequences.[51]
Frozen JusticeAllan DwanLenore Ulric[52]
The GamblersMichael CurtizH. B. Warner, Lois Wilson
Hearts in ExileMichael CurtizDolores Costello, Grant Withers
Honky TonkLloyd BaconSophie Tucker, Lila LeeThis was Tucker's film debut. The complete soundtrack survives.[45]
The HottentotRoy Del RuthEdward Everett Horton, Patsy Ruth Miller
Is Everybody Happy?Archie MayoTed Lewis, Ann Pennington[45]
JealousyJean de LimurJeanne Eagels, Fredric March[53]
Love, Live and LaughWilliam K. HowardGeorge Jessel, Lila Lee[45]
The Love RacketWilliam A. SeiterDorothy Mackaill, Sidney Blackmer
Lucky in LoveKenneth S. WebbMorton Downey, Betty LawfordAll-talking[45]
Madonna of Avenue AMichael CurtizDolores Costello, Grant Withers[54]
Melody LaneRobert F. HillEddie Leonard, Josephine DunnUniversal's first fully talking musical.[45]
A Most Immoral LadyJohn Griffith WrayWalter Pidgeon, Leatrice JoyEight sound discs survive at UCLA. Visual elements appear not to have survived.[55]
The Painted AngelMillard WebbBillie Dove, Edmund Lowe[45]
ParisClarence G. BadgerIrene Bordoni, Jack BuchananTechnicolor sequences.[45]
Queen of the Night ClubsBryan FoyTexas Guinan, Lila Lee[45]
Red Hot RhythmLeo McCareyAlan Hale, Kathryn CrawfordMulticolor sequences.[45]
The Sacred FlameArchie MayoPauline Frederick, Conrad Nagel[56]
Skin DeepRay EnrightMonte Blue, Betty Compson
Smiling Irish EyesWilliam A. SeiterColleen MoorePart-Technicolor.[45]
A Song of KentuckyLewis SeilerLois Moran, Joseph Wagstaff[45]
South Sea RoseAllan DwanLenore Ulric, Charles Bickford[57]
SpeakeasyBenjamin StoloffPaul Page, Lola Lane[58]
Stark MadLloyd BaconLouise Fazenda, H. B. WarnerReleased in both silent and all-talking version. Both are lost.[59]
The Time, the Place and the GirlHoward BrethertonGrant Withers, Betty Compson

1930s

YearFilmDirectorCastNotesRef
1930An Elastic AffairAlfred HitchcockShort film made by Hitchcock for an awards ceremony at the London Palladium in January 1930.[60]
The Big PartyJohn G. BlystoneSue Carol, Dixie Lee[45]
Isle of EscapeHoward BrethertonMonte Blue, Myrna LoyA 40-second fragment is all that survives.
Cock o' the WalkWalter LangArturo S. Mom, Frances Guihan
Bride of the RegimentJohn Francis DillonVivienne Segal, Walter PidgeonAll-Technicolor musical drama, only the soundtrack survives on Vitaphone discs.[45]
Cameo KirbyIrving CummingsJ. Harold Murray, Norma Terris[45]
The Cave of the Silken Web IIDan DuyuYin MingzhuSilent. Chinese film. Original title: 续盘丝洞 (Xù pán xī dong). Sequel to the 1927 The Cave of the Silken Web (which itself had been thought to have been lost, but was rediscovered in 2013).
College LoversJohn G. AdolfiMarion Nixon, Jack WhitingMusical comedy[45]
FellersAustin Fay, Arthur HigginsArthur Tauchert, Les ConeyAn Australian comedy.[61]
KismetJohn Francis DillonOtis Skinner, Loretta YoungA lavish costume drama in the early widescreen process known as Vitascope. The complete soundtrack exists on Vitaphone discs.[62]
Let's Go PlacesFrank R. StrayerFrank Richardson, Dixie Lee[45]
Lilies of the FieldAlexander KordaCorinne Griffith, Ralph Forbes[45]
Lord Richard in the PantryWalter FordeRichard Cooper, Dorothy SeacombeIncluded on the British Film Institute's "75 Most Wanted" list of lost British feature films.[63]
One Mad KissMarcel SilverJosé Mojica, Antonio Moreno[45]
No, No, NanetteClarence G. BadgerBernice Claire, Alexander GrayPart-Technicolor musical comedy. The soundtrack discs and the trailer survive.[45][64]
Song of the FlameAlan CroslandBernice Claire, Noah BeeryAll-Technicolor musical drama, the first color film featuring widescreen, and Academy Award nominee for Best Sound. Sound discs for five of the nine reels exist.[45]
1931Alam AraArdeshir IraniMaster Vithal, Zubeida, Jilloo, Sushila, Prithviraj KapoorThe first Indian sound film.[65]
Charlie Chan Carries OnWarner Oland, Hamilton MacFaddenAn alternate Spanish-language version, featuring a different cast, exists.[66]
DeadlockGeorge KingStewart Rome, Marjorie Hume, Warwick WardOn the BFI 75 Most Wanted list.[67]
Hobson's ChoiceThomas BentleyJames Harcourt, Viola Lyel, Frank PettingellOn the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films.[68]
KalidasH. M. ReddyT. P. Rajalakshmi, P. G. Venkatesan, L. V. PrasadFirst sound film in Tamil cinema, as well as in South Indian cinema[69][70]
PeludópolisQuirino CristianiArgentine production; the world's first animated feature film with sound, using a primitive sound-on-disc system.[71]
Two Crowded HoursMichael PowellJohn Longden, Jane Welsh, Jerry VernoPowell's directorial debut.[72]
1932Charlie Chan's ChanceJohn G. BlystoneWarner OlandSixth film of the Charlie Chan series and third with Warner Oland.[73]
Men of TomorrowZoltan Korda, Leontine SaganMaurice Braddell, Joan GardnerRobert Donat's film debut. On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films.[74]
The Missing RembrandtArthur WontnerSecond film in the Sherlock Holmes series.[75][76]
Tonendes ABCLászló Moholy-NagyExperimental film; the negative was scratched by hand. Seen by Norman McLaren in the 1930s.[77]
1933Chikara to Onna no Yo no NakaKenzō MasaokaFirst sound anime.[78]
Convention CityArchie MayoJoan Blondell
Dick Powell
Adolphe Menjou
Mary Astor
A pre-Code film produced by First NationalWarner Bros.[45]
Night in the CityFei MuRuan Lingyu
Jin Yan
Fei Mu's debut.
Two Minutes SilencePaulette McDonaghFrank Bradley, Campbell Copelin, Marie LorraineAustralia's first anti-war movie.[61]
Wasei Kingu KonguTorajiro SaitoIsamu YamaguchiJapanese short film based on King Kong.[79]
1934Jail Birds of ParadiseAl BoasbergDorothy Appleby, Moe Howard, Curly HowardThe only lost Three Stooges film.[80]
Murder at Monte CarloErrol FlynnFlynn's debut film in the UK.[81]
RagazzoIvo PerilliCostantino Frasca, Isa Pola, Osvaldo ValentiScreening was banned by Fascist authorities before the premiere, and the film was subsequently stored at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. During the Germans' retreat in 1944, the center was looted and set on fire.[82][83]
The Scarab Murder CaseWilfrid Hyde-WhiteA Philo Vance film.[84]
1935The Magic ShoesPeter FinchCompleted, but never released.[61]
Obeah!F. Herrick HerrickJean Brooks, Phillips LordReleased in February 1935.[85]
1936The Oregon TrailJohn WayneLost film, but in 2013 stills were found.[86]
The Adventures of PinocchioRaoul Verdini, Umberto SpanoIt was intended to be the first animated feature film from Italy, but is now considered lost; only the original script and a couple of still frames are all that survive of the film[87]
1937Terang BoelanAlbert BalinkRd. Mochtar, RoekiahRomance film from the Dutch East Indies; the colony's biggest commercial success.[88]
1938Buzzy Boop at the ConcertDave FleischerMae QuestelA lost cartoon which stars Buzzy Boop, the cousin of Betty Boop.
King Kong Appears in EdoSōya KumagaiEizaburo MatsumotoLikely lost during World War II.[89]
Nad NiemnemWanda Jakubowska and Karol SzolowskiThe Nazi regime liked the artistic value of the movie, but could not allow the screening of a picture so firmly rooted in Polish history. It was dubbed and re-edited, changing it to pro-German propaganda. Stefan Dekierowski informed the Polish underground, and the remaining three copies (out of five total) were hidden in winter 1939; the movie is believed to be lost.
1939The Good Old DaysRoy William NeillMax Miller, Hal Walters, Kathleen GibsonOn the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films.[90]
Secreto de confesiónIt was lost during the bombing of Manila during World War II.

1940s

YearFilmDirectorCastNotesRef
1940Harta BerdarahR Hu, Rd AriffienZonder, SoelastriIndonesian action film. Screened until at least July 1944.[91]
Kedok KetawaJo An DjanFatimah, Basoeki Resobowo, OedjangUnion Films' first production. Screened until at least August 1944.[91]
1941Asmara MoerniRd AriffienAdnan Kapau Gani, Djoewariah, S. JoesoefIndonesian romance film. Screened until at least November 1945.[91]
Bajar dengan DjiwaR HuA Bakar, Djoewariah, O Parma, Oedjang, RS Fatimah, Soelastri, ZonderIndonesian drama film. Screened until at least October 1943.[91]
Soeara BerbisaR HuRaden Soekarno, Ratna Djoewita, Oedjang, SoehaenaScreened until at least February 1949, longer than any other Union Films production, and the only Union picture known to have been shown post-World War II.[91]
Wanita dan SatriaRd AriffienDjoewariah, Ratna Djoewita, Hidajat, Z. Algadrie, Moesa[91]
1942Brother Martin: Servant of JesusSpencer Williams
15.000 DibujosCarlos Trupp, Jorge EscuderoChilean movie. It appears that in 2001, 19 years after Trupp's death, his heirs have considered searching for missing footage and financing its restoration, but nothing else has materialized since. To date, only fragments survive.[92]
Mega MendoengBoen Kim NamRaden Soekarno, Oedjang, Boen Sofiati, SoehaenaUnion Films' final production before the studio closed ahead of the impending Japanese occupation.[91]
1943Squadron Leader XLance ComfortEric Portman, Ann DvorakOn the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films.[93]
1944Red Sky at MorningHartney ArthurPeter Finch, John Alden[61]
1945Flight from FollyHerbert MasonPatricia Kirkwood, Hugh SinclairScreen debut of stage star Kirkwood. On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films.[94]
For You AloneGeoffrey FaithfullLesley Brook, Dinah Sheridan, Jimmy HanleyOn the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films. On July 31, 2019, a 16mm safety print was uncovered by Ray Langstone at the UCLA Film and Television Archive using their online searchable database, being held as part of the Mel Torme Collection.[95]
1948The BetrayalOscar MicheauxThe director's final production.[96]

1960s

YearFilmDirectorCastNotesRef
1960LindaDon SharpCarol White, Alan RothwellOn the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films.[97]
1961Cranks at WorkKen RussellEnglish. Russell's short 35mm film about the choreographer John Cranko.[98]
1963Andy Warhol Films: Jack Smith Filming Normal LoveAndy WarholJack SmithThis home movie, which may have been Warhol's first film, was seized by the New York City police in March 1964 and has since disappeared.[99]
Farewell PerformanceRobert TronsonDavid Kernan,
Frederick Jaeger,
Delphi Lawrence
On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films.[100]
1967Batman Fights DraculaLeody M. DiazJing Abalos, Dante RiveroA Filipino parody made without the permission of DC Comics, which owns the copyright for the character of Batman.[101]
Israel: A Right to LiveJohn SchlesingerDirector Schlesinger shot this film for producer Harry Saltzman. Alan Rosenthal claims that "hours of film had been shot and edited, but nobody liked the result. Israel was too triumphant, too out of keeping with the changed mood. It had a few showings and then passed into oblivion." On the other hand, William J. Mann claims that Schlesinger never finished the documentary, "due to 'creative differences' with the BBC." Cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond claimed in 2011 that he has never been able to find a copy of the documentary.
1968Las Noches del Hombre LoboRené GovarPaul NaschyThe second in a series of films featuring the character of Count Waldemar Daninsky, it was never publicly screened or seen by anyone, Naschy included. It is suspected by some to be a hoax.[102]

1970s

YearFilmDirectorCastNotesRef
1972Nobody Ordered LoveRobert Hartford-DavisIngrid Pitt, Tony SelbyAll known prints believed destroyed upon the director's death at his request. On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films.[103]
1973Prem ParbatVed RahiSatish Kaul, Hema MaliniAccording to the film's director, the print of the film has long since degraded to the point of being unusable.[104]
1974HimEd D. LouieTavaPornographic film about the life of Jesus Christ, previously believed to be a hoax.[105]

See also

References

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  2. Jo Botting. "Lost Then Found". British Film Institute (screenonline.org.uk). Retrieved February 21, 2013.
  3. Robert A. Harris, public hearing statement to the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., February 1993.
  4. "Group's rescue of old films preserves glimpse into past". The Film Foundation/The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
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  6. Ohlheiser, Abby (December 4, 2013). "Most of America's Silent Films Are Lost Forever". The Wire. Retrieved November 4, 2014.
  7. Slide, Anthony (2000). Nitrate Won't Wait: History of Film Preservation in the United States. McFarland. p. 5. ISBN 978-0786408368. Retrieved March 25, 2013. It is often claimed that 75 percent of all American silent films are gone and 50 percent of all films made prior to 1950 are lost, but such figures, as archivists admit in private, were thought up on the spur of the moment, without statistical information to back them up.
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  10. "Six Great Lost Movies". BBC. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
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  13. "L'arroseur". silentera.com. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
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  15. "Bateau-mouche sur la Seine". silentera.com. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  16. "Bébé et fillettes". silentera.com. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  17. "Les blanchisseuses". silentera.com. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  18. "Bois de Boulogne". silentera.com. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
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  36. Uusitalo, Kari (1996). Suomen kansallisfilmografia, osa 1: 1907–1935 (The Finnish National Filmography, part 1: 1907-1935). Finnish National Audiovisual Archive, Suomen kansallinen audiovisuaalinen arkisto (Kava): Edita. ISBN 978-9513719012.
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Works cited

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