Raymond Rohauer

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Raymond Rohauer (1924,[1] Buffalo, New York – November 10, 1987) was an American film collector and distributor.

Early life and career[edit]

Rohauer moved to California in 1942[2] and was educated at Los Angeles City College.[3] Rohauer made a five-reel 16mm experimental film Whirlpool (1947) which was not successful. He subsequently became active in film exhibition at the Coronet Theatre from 1950,[2] which was, according to William K. Everson, a "bizarre combination of art house, film society and exploitation cinema".[4]

in 1954, Rohauer met Buster Keaton and his wife, Eleanor; the couple would develop a business partnership with him to rerelease Keaton's films.[5] The Coronet Theatre art house in Los Angeles, with which Rohauer was involved, was showing The General which "Buster hadn't seen ... in years and he wanted me to see it," Eleanor Keaton said in 1987. "Raymond recognized Buster and their friendship started."[6] Rohauer in that same article recalls, "I was in the projection room. l got a ring that Buster Keaton was in the lobby. I go down and there he is with Eleanor. The next day I met with him at his home. I didn't realize we were going to join forces. But I realized he had this I-don't-care attitude about his stuff. He said, 'It's valueless. I don't own the rights.'"[6] Keaton had prints of the features The Three Ages, Sherlock, Jr., Steamboat Bill, Jr., College (missing one reel) and the shorts "The Boat" and "My Wife's Relations", which Keaton and Rohauer had transferred to safety stock from deteriorating nitrate film stock. Other prints of Keaton's films had been found in the home of the actor James Mason[7] who had bought the property from Keaton, and passed them on to Rohauer.

He was known for claiming rights to films under dubious pretexts and pursued court battles over The Birth of a Nation, eventually found to be in the public domain, and other classics.[1] Often he would re-edit films in order to be able to claim copyright on them and charge a licensing fee.[8]

Later career[edit]

During the 1960s, Rohauer returned to America's East Coast and became the film curator of the Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art in New York City,[3] although the gallery's existence was relatively brief.[9] In some cases he acquired the rights to stories from the estates of deceased writers, so gaining a hold over The Sheik (1921), produced by Paramount and starring Rudolph Valentino. Alternatively he found instances where living writers no longer held the rights to their work, an example being the J.B. Priestley novel Benighted, which was the basis for The Old Dark House (1932), James Whale's Universal horror film that had been thought lost.[9] According to William K. Everson, he would claim to overseas contacts that he had won libel suits which he had, in fact, lost[9] or accept bookings for silent films that no longer existed.[10]

Rohauer was involved in the preservation of out-takes from the films of Charlie Chaplin which were saved after the filmmaker was forced to leave the United States in 1952. This material formed the basis of the Unknown Chaplin series in 1983.[11] Such was Rohauer's reputation in this field that Kevin Brownlow, the co-producer of this series and the earlier Hollywood (1980), had not previously allowed his production staff to use Rohauer's resources.[11] Brownlow considered him a "pirate",[12] while William K. Everson preferred "freebooter" as it implies the "certain cavalier charm that Rohauer possessed".[13]


The 700 titles amassed by Rohauer became part of the Cohen Film Collection, and as of 2013 are in the process of being restored for new screenings and release on DVD.[14]


  1. ^ a b Anthony Slide Nitrate Won't Wait, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1992 [2000], p.48-50
  2. ^ a b Anthony Slide America Racist: The Life amnd Films of Thomas Dixon, University Press of Kentucky, 2004, p203
  3. ^ a b >"Archivist Raymond Rohauer; Kept Films by Keaton, Others", Los Angeles Times, 20 November 1987
  4. ^ William K. Everson "Raymond Rohauer: King of the Film Freebooters", Grand Street; Summer 1994, 13:1, p.188-96, 190
  5. ^ Yarrow, Andrew L. (November 19, 1987). "Raymond Rohauer, Archivist of Classics From Silent Film Era". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b Lovece, Frank (June 1987). "Where's Buster? Despite Renewed Interest, Only a Handful of Buster Keaton's Classic Comedies Are on Tape". Video. Archived from the original on August 31, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  7. ^ O'Connor, John J. (18 November 1987). work = The New York Times "TV Reviews; 'Buster Keaton: Hard Act to Follow'". 
  8. ^ Caroline Frick Saving Cinema:The Politics of Preservation, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, p.156
  9. ^ a b c Everson, p.192
  10. ^ Everson, p.195
  11. ^ a b Kevin Brownlow "Vault Farce", in Roger Smither (ed.) This Film is Dangerous, Brussels: FIAF, 2002, pp.536-40
  12. ^ Darragh O’Donoghue "The Little Tramp in the Big House: The 2010 Killruddery Film Festival", Sense of Cinema, #56, October 2010
  13. ^ Everson, p.189
  14. ^ King, Susan (February 14, 2013). "Famous cache of vintage films headed to homes and screens". Los Angeles Times.