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While those of us with a sense of film history bemoan the current generation's obsession with remaking everything in sight, a far more disturbing trend has taken hold for films made well before we were born.
Deadline Hollywood reported Wednesday that a new Library of Congress survey of American films made during the silent era reveals that 70 percent of such features have been lost to time or neglect.
In a just-released report entitled The Survivial Of American Silent Films: 1912-1929, film historians lay out the grim fate of 10,919 feature-length silent movies made in the U.S. during that 17-year span.
Sadly, a mere 14 percent of them exist in their original 35mm format -- but five percent of those titles remain incomplete, with another 11 percent available in foreign versions or a lower-quality version.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington called the survey results an “alarming and irretrievable loss to our nation’s cultural record," while filmmaker Martin Scorsese referred to the report as “invaluable because the artistry of silent film is essential to our culture."
Among the lost titles are Lon Chaney's 1927 London After Midnight and ironically, the original 1926 version of The Great Gatsby, which was recently turned into a lavish remake from director Baz Luhrmann. Only five of silent film star Will Rogers' 16 features are still around, and time has been equally unkind to four Clara Bow films made in 1928.
The Library of Congress maintains a searchable online database of more than 3,000 films that have survived the ravages of time, a full 26 percent of which were found lurking in other countries.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter