The Library of Congress may be able to archive billions of tweets, but when it comes to preserving some of our nation’s earliest motion pictures, much of the battle has already been lost.
Just 14 percent of some 11,000 American silent films exist in an original and complete format; an additional 11 percent survive as foreign versions or in low-quality formats, according to a new study commissioned by the LOC’s National Film Preservation Board. Seventy percent of the works from the American silent-film era — defined as lasting from 1912 to 1929 and including such treasured flicks as The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Jazz Singer (1927) — are believed to be gone forever.
“The Library of Congress can now authoritatively report that the loss of American silent-era feature films constitutes an alarming and irretrievable loss to our nation’s cultural record,” James Billington, the librarian of Congress, wrote in the study’s foreword. “Even if we could preserve all the silent-era films known to exist today in the U.S. and in foreign film archives — something not yet accomplished — it is certain that we and future generations have already lost 75 percent of the creative record from [that] era.”
The irretrievable loss of movies is something hard to imagine in the age of YouTube and Netflix, when any electronic media produced and shared online leaves a virtually permanent footprint, assuming that the Internet doesn’t go anywhere. But while archivists always knew that poor-quality film stock, fires, and movie-studio neglect have forever deleted a significant portion of the early chapters of our cinematic heritage, the new data reveal the extent of the damage and catalogue the films that can still be rescued.
Many of the silents that are still in usable condition are stuck overseas, because many were sent to foreign countries for exhibitions — and stayed there because the cost of transporting the film rolls back proved too costly, said Steve Leggett, program coordinator for the National Film Preservation Board. “If the studios know Congress is interested, they might come in here with some money and some help to get their titles back from overseas,” Leggett said. “To do everything would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but with a much smaller amount of money, you can pick and choose a few titles to save.”
He pointed to a recent repatriation project that the National Film Preservation Foundation, funded by Congress to the tune of $530,000 annually, undertook in New Zealand to salvage films that had been decaying in archives for decades. The work led to the rediscovery of several silent titles, including The White Shadow (1924), which now boasts the earliest surviving Alfred Hitchcock credits.
What We're Following See More »
"A State Department audit has faulted Hillary Clinton and previous secretaries of state for poorly managing email and other computer information and slowly responding to new cybersecurity risks. ... It cites 'longstanding, systemic weaknesses' related to communications. These started before Clinton's appointment as secretary of state, but her failures were singled out as more serious."
Donald Trump "was on course to win more than three-quarters of the vote in Washington's primary" last night. Ted Cruz's defunct candidacy still pulled about 10 percent. "Cruz dropped out of the race on May 3, but won 40 of the state's 41 delegates up for grabs at last weekend's state GOP convention."
"What started as a calm protest outside Donald Trump’s rally Tuesday erupted into fiery violence as protesters jumped on police cars, smashed windows and fought with Trump supporters and police. Police faced such an angry crowd that they called in reinforcements from around the state, seeking to double their numbers to counter the protesters, whose numbers swelled beyond 600." Protesters threw rocks and bottles at police, who broke up several fights.
Concerned that she's become too divisive, "Democrats on Capitol Hill are discussing whether Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz should step down as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman before the party’s national convention in July. ... Wasserman Schultz has had an increasingly acrimonious relationship with the party’s other presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, and his supporters, who argue she has tilted the scales in Clinton’s favor." The money quote, from a Democratic senator who backs Clinton: “There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s head on." Meanwhile, Newsweek takes a look at why no one seems to like Wasserman Schultz.
"The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote Wednesday on a Republican bill that would block the District of Columbia from spending locally raised tax revenue without congressional approval, prompting President Obama to pledge to veto it. In issuing the veto threat on Tuesday, the Obama White House made one of the strongest statements to date in support of the District’s attempt to win financial independence from Congress."