List of lost films

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Lon Chaney appeared in numerous films that are now lost. This still is from The Miracle Man (1919), a famous and sought-after lost film.
At one time a popular player at Fox, all of Valeska Suratt's Fox films are lost.

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

1890s[edit]

Year Film Director Cast Notes Ref
1896 Arrivée d'un train gare de Vincennes Georges Méliès A French short documentary. [12]
L'Arroseur (a.k.a. Watering the Flowers) Georges Méliès A short comedy. [13]
Barque sortant du port de Trouville Georges Méliès [14]
Bateau-mouche sur la Seine Georges Méliès [15]
Bébé et fillettes Georges Méliès A short documentary. [16]
Les Blanchisseuses Georges Méliès A short documentary. [17]
Bois de Boulogne (Porte de Madrid) Georges Méliès A short documentary. [18]
Bois de Boulogne (Touring Club) Georges Méliès A short documentary. [19]
Boulevard des Italiens Georges Méliès A short documentary. [20]
Campement de bohémiens (The Bohemian Encampment) Georges Méliès A short documentary. [21]
Les chevaux de bois Georges Méliès [22]
Le chiffonnier Georges Méliès

[23]

Couronnement de la rosière Georges Méliès [24]
Déchargement de bateaux Georges Méliès [25]
Jardinier brûlant des herbes Georges Méliès [26]
Jetée et Plage de Trouville (first and second parts) Georges Méliès [27][28]
Jour de marché à Trouville Georges Méliès [29]
Gestoorde hengelaar M.H. Laddé The first Dutch fictional film. [30]
Spelende kinderen M.H. Laddé [31]
Zwemplaats voor Jongelingen te Amsterdam M.H. Laddé [32]

1900s[edit]

Year Film Director Cast Notes Ref
1900 Solser en Hesse M.H. Laddé The first film with this title, featuring the Dutch comedians Lion Solser and Piet Hesse. [33]
1903 Hiawatha, the Messiah of the Ojibway Joe Rosenthal Believed to be the first Canadian fiction film. [34]
1906 Solser en Hesse M.H. Laddé The second film with this title, featuring the Dutch comedians Lion Solser and Piet Hesse. [35]
1907 Salaviinanpolttajat Louis 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]
1908 The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays Francis Boggs, Otis Turner L. Frank Baum First 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.[citation needed] [37]
1908 The Music Master Wallace McCutcheon, Sr. D. W. Griffith Most of D. W. Griffith's early appearances as an actor in Biograph films have been preserved, minus this title. [38]
1908 La Tosca André Calmettes Sarah Bernhardt The 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[edit]

1920s[edit]

Sound films[edit]

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

1920s[edit]

Year Film Director Cast Notes Ref
1928 Alias Jimmy Valentine Jack Conway William Haines, Lionel Barrymore This 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 Devils F.W. Murnau Janet Gaynor Fox 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 Trouble Harry Langdon Harry Langdon Langdon'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 Towners Bryan Foy Doris Kenyon, Richard Bennett Warner Bros.' third all-talking feature. [45]
The Melody of Love Arch Heath Walter Pidgeon, Mildred Harris All-talkie. Universal's first sound feature. [45]
On Trial Archie Mayo Pauline Frederick, Lois Wilson, Bert Lytell Warner Bros.' fourth all-talking feature. [45]
Tenderloin Michael Curtiz Dolores Costello, Conrad Nagel Second feature film to have synchronized dialogue sequences. Part-talkie. [45]
Women They Talk About Lloyd Bacon Irene Rich A part-talkie released by Warner Bros. [45]
1929 The Argyle Case Howard Bretherton Thomas Meighan, H. B. Warner, Lila Lee, Gladys Brockwell Silent veteran Brockwell died in a traffic accident shortly after making this film. [46]
The Aviator Roy Del Ruth Edward Everett Horton, Patsy Ruth Miller [47]
The Awful Truth Marshall Neilan Ina Claire [48]
Blaze o' Glory George Crone Eddie Dowling, Betty Compson
College Love Nat Ross George J. Lewis, Eddie Phillips [45]
Dark Streets Frank Lloyd Jack Mulhall, Lila Lee Jack Mulhall's character is the first attempt at dual role double exposure photography in a talking film.[49]
Evidence John G. Adolfi Pauline Frederick, Conway Tearle [50]
Fancy Baggage John G. Adolfi Audrey Ferris, Myrna Loy A part-talkie from Warner Bros.
Footlights and Fools William A. Seiter Colleen Moore Part-Technicolor. [45]
The Forward Pass Edward F. Cline Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Loretta Young [45]
Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 David Butler John Breeden, Lola Lane Multicolor sequences. [51]
Frozen Justice Allan Dwan Lenore Ulric [52]
The Gamblers Michael Curtiz H. B. Warner, Lois Wilson
Hearts in Exile Michael Curtiz Dolores Costello, Grant Withers
Honky Tonk Lloyd Bacon Sophie Tucker, Lila Lee This was Tucker's film debut. The complete soundtrack survives. [45]
The Hottentot Roy Del Ruth Edward Everett Horton, Patsy Ruth Miller
Is Everybody Happy? Archie Mayo Ted Lewis, Ann Pennington [45]
Jealousy Jean de Limur Jeanne Eagels, Fredric March [53]
Love, Live and Laugh William K. Howard George Jessel, Lila Lee [45]
The Love Racket William A. Seiter Dorothy Mackaill, Sidney Blackmer
Lucky in Love Kenneth S. Webb Morton Downey, Betty Lawford All-talking [45]
Madonna of Avenue A Michael Curtiz Dolores Costello, Grant Withers [54]
Melody Lane Robert F. Hill Eddie Leonard, Josephine Dunn Universal's first fully talking musical. [45]
A Most Immoral Lady John Griffith Wray Walter Pidgeon, Leatrice Joy Eight sound discs survive at UCLA. Visual elements appear not to have survived. [55]
The Painted Angel Millard Webb Billie Dove, Edmund Lowe [45]
Paris Clarence G. Badger Irene Bordoni, Jack Buchanan Technicolor sequences. [45]
Queen of the Night Clubs Bryan Foy Texas Guinan, Lila Lee [45]
Red Hot Rhythm Leo McCarey Alan Hale, Kathryn Crawford Multicolor sequences. [45]
The Sacred Flame Archie Mayo Pauline Frederick, Conrad Nagel [56]
Skin Deep Ray Enright Monte Blue, Betty Compson
Smiling Irish Eyes William A. Seiter Colleen Moore Part-Technicolor. [45]
A Song of Kentucky Lewis Seiler Lois Moran, Joseph Wagstaff [45]
South Sea Rose Allan Dwan Lenore Ulric, Charles Bickford [57]
Speakeasy Benjamin Stoloff Paul Page, Lola Lane [58]
Stark Mad Lloyd Bacon Louise Fazenda, H. B. Warner Released in both silent and all-talking version. Both are lost. [59]
The Time, the Place and the Girl Howard Bretherton Grant Withers, Betty Compson

1930s[edit]

Year Film Director Cast Notes Ref
1930 An Elastic Affair Alfred Hitchcock Short film made by Hitchcock for an awards ceremony at the London Palladium in January 1930. [60]
The Big Party John G. Blystone Sue Carol, Dixie Lee [45]
Isle of Escape Howard Bretherton Monte Blue, Myrna Loy A 40-second fragment is all that survives.
Cock o' the Walk Walter Lang Arturo S. Mom, Frances Guihan
Bride of the Regiment John Francis Dillon Vivienne Segal, Walter Pidgeon All-Technicolor musical drama, only the soundtrack survives on Vitaphone discs. [45]
Cameo Kirby Irving Cummings J. Harold Murray, Norma Terris [45]
The Cave of the Silken Web II Dan Duyu Yin Mingzhu Silent. 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 Lovers John G. Adolfi Marion Nixon, Jack Whiting Musical comedy [45]
Fellers Austin Fay, Arthur Higgins Arthur Tauchert, Les Coney An Australian comedy. [61]
Kismet John Francis Dillon Otis Skinner, Loretta Young A lavish costume drama in the early widescreen process known as Vitascope. The complete soundtrack exists on Vitaphone discs. [62]
Let's Go Places Frank R. Strayer Frank Richardson, Dixie Lee [45]
Lilies of the Field Alexander Korda Corinne Griffith, Ralph Forbes [45]
Lord Richard in the Pantry Walter Forde Richard Cooper, Dorothy Seacombe Included on the British Film Institute's "75 Most Wanted" list of lost British feature films. [63]
One Mad Kiss Marcel Silver José Mojica, Antonio Moreno [45]
No, No, Nanette Clarence G. Badger Bernice Claire, Alexander Gray Part-Technicolor musical comedy. The soundtrack discs and the trailer survive. [45][64]
Song of the Flame Alan Crosland Bernice Claire, Noah Beery All-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]
1931 Alam Ara Ardeshir Irani Master Vithal, Zubeida, Jilloo, Sushila, Prithviraj Kapoor The first Indian sound film. [65]
Charlie Chan Carries On Warner Oland, Hamilton MacFadden An alternate Spanish-language version, featuring a different cast, exists. [66]
Deadlock George King Stewart Rome, Marjorie Hume, Warwick Ward On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list. [67]
Hobson's Choice Thomas Bentley James Harcourt, Viola Lyel, Frank Pettingell On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films. [68]
Kalidas H. M. Reddy T. P. Rajalakshmi, P. G. Venkatesan, L. V. Prasad First sound film in Tamil cinema, as well as in South Indian cinema [69][70]
Peludópolis Quirino Cristiani Argentine production; the world's first animated feature film with sound, using a primitive sound-on-disc system. [71]
Two Crowded Hours Michael Powell John Longden, Jane Welsh, Jerry Verno Powell's directorial debut. [72]
1932 Charlie Chan's Chance John G. Blystone Warner Oland Sixth film of the Charlie Chan series and third with Warner Oland. [73]
Men of Tomorrow Zoltan Korda, Leontine Sagan Maurice Braddell, Joan Gardner Robert Donat's film debut. On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films. [74]
The Missing Rembrandt Arthur Wontner Second film in the Sherlock Holmes series. [75][76]
Tonendes ABC László Moholy-Nagy Experimental film; the negative was scratched by hand. Seen by Norman McLaren in the 1930s. [77]
1933 Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka Kenzō Masaoka First sound anime. [78]
Convention City Archie Mayo Joan Blondell
Dick Powell
Adolphe Menjou
Mary Astor
A pre-Code film produced by First NationalWarner Bros. [45]
Night in the City Fei Mu Ruan Lingyu
Jin Yan
Fei Mu's debut.
Two Minutes Silence Paulette McDonagh Frank Bradley, Campbell Copelin, Marie Lorraine Australia's first anti-war movie. [61]
Wasei Kingu Kongu Torajiro Saito Isamu Yamaguchi Japanese short film based on King Kong. [79]
1934 Jail Birds of Paradise Al Boasberg Dorothy Appleby, Moe Howard, Curly Howard The only lost Three Stooges film. [80]
Murder at Monte Carlo Errol Flynn Flynn's debut film in the UK. [81]
Ragazzo Ivo Perilli Costantino Frasca, Isa Pola, Osvaldo Valenti Screening 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 Case Wilfrid Hyde-White A Philo Vance film. [84]
1935 The Magic Shoes Peter Finch Completed, but never released. [61]
Obeah! F. Herrick Herrick Jean Brooks, Phillips Lord Released in February 1935. [85]
1936 The Oregon Trail John Wayne Lost film, but in 2013 stills were found. [86]
The Adventures of Pinocchio Raoul Verdini, Umberto Spano It 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]
1937 Terang Boelan Albert Balink Rd. Mochtar, Roekiah Romance film from the Dutch East Indies; the colony's biggest commercial success. [88]
1938 Buzzy Boop at the Concert Dave Fleischer Mae Questel A lost cartoon which stars Buzzy Boop, the cousin of Betty Boop.
King Kong Appears in Edo Sōya Kumagai Eizaburo Matsumoto Likely lost during World War II. [89]
Nad Niemnem Wanda Jakubowska and Karol Szolowski The 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.
1939 The Good Old Days Roy William Neill Max Miller, Hal Walters, Kathleen Gibson On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films. [90]
Secreto de confesión It was lost during the bombing of Manila during World War II.

1940s[edit]

Year Film Director Cast Notes Ref
1940 Harta Berdarah R Hu, Rd Ariffien Zonder, Soelastri Indonesian action film. Screened until at least July 1944. [91]
Kedok Ketawa Jo An Djan Fatimah, Basoeki Resobowo, Oedjang Union Films' first production. Screened until at least August 1944. [91]
1941 Asmara Moerni Rd Ariffien Adnan Kapau Gani, Djoewariah, S. Joesoef Indonesian romance film. Screened until at least November 1945. [91]
Bajar dengan Djiwa R Hu A Bakar, Djoewariah, O Parma, Oedjang, RS Fatimah, Soelastri, Zonder Indonesian drama film. Screened until at least October 1943. [91]
Soeara Berbisa R Hu Raden Soekarno, Ratna Djoewita, Oedjang, Soehaena Screened 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 Satria Rd Ariffien Djoewariah, Ratna Djoewita, Hidajat, Z. Algadrie, Moesa [91]
1942 Brother Martin: Servant of Jesus Spencer Williams
15.000 Dibujos Carlos Trupp, Jorge Escudero Chilean 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 Mendoeng Boen Kim Nam Raden Soekarno, Oedjang, Boen Sofiati, Soehaena Union Films' final production before the studio closed ahead of the impending Japanese occupation. [91]
1943 Squadron Leader X Lance Comfort Eric Portman, Ann Dvorak On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films. [93]
1944 Red Sky at Morning Hartney Arthur Peter Finch, John Alden [61]
1945 Flight from Folly Herbert Mason Patricia Kirkwood, Hugh Sinclair Screen debut of stage star Kirkwood. On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films. [94]
For You Alone Geoffrey Faithfull Lesley Brook, Dinah Sheridan, Jimmy Hanley On 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]
1948 The Betrayal Oscar Micheaux The director's final production. [96]

1960s[edit]

Year Film Director Cast Notes Ref
1960 Linda Don Sharp Carol White, Alan Rothwell On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films. [97]
1961 Cranks at Work Ken Russell English. Russell's short 35mm film about the choreographer John Cranko. [98]
1963 Andy Warhol Films: Jack Smith Filming Normal Love Andy Warhol Jack Smith This 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 Performance Robert Tronson David Kernan,
Frederick Jaeger,
Delphi Lawrence
On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films. [100]
1967 Batman Fights Dracula Leody M. Diaz Jing Abalos, Dante Rivero A Filipino parody made without the permission of DC Comics, which owns the copyright for the character of Batman. [101]
Israel: A Right to Live John Schlesinger Director 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.
1968 Las Noches del Hombre Lobo René Govar Paul Naschy The 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[edit]

Year Film Director Cast Notes Ref
1972 Nobody Ordered Love Robert Hartford-Davis Ingrid Pitt, Tony Selby All known prints believed destroyed upon the director's death at his request. On the BFI 75 Most Wanted list of lost films. [103]
1973 Prem Parbat Ved Rahi Satish Kaul, Hema Malini According to the film's director, the print of the film has long since degraded to the point of being unusable. [104]
1974 Him Ed D. Louie Tava Pornographic film about the life of Jesus Christ, previously believed to be a hoax. [105]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c 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.
  5. ^ "Why". Deutsche Kinemathek. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  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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  14. ^ "Barque sortant du port de Trouville". silentera.com. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  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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  21. ^ "Campement de bohémiens". silentera.com. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  22. ^ "Les chevaux de bois". silentera.com. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  23. ^ "Le chiffonier (sic)". silentera.com. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
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  26. ^ "Jardinier brûlant des herbes". silentera.com. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
  27. ^ "Jetée et Plage de Trouville (1st part)". silentera.com. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
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  34. ^ "Hiawatha, The Messiah of the Ojibway". Canadian Film Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  35. ^ "Solser en Hesse, 1906". EYE Film Institute Netherlands. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  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[edit]

External links[edit]