The Survival of American Silent Feature Films: 1912-1929


  • About the Author
  • Acknowledgements
  • Forward
  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • The Silent Film Era Comes to an End
  • Overview of What Has Been Lost
  • Methodology, Definitions, and Scope of This Study
  • Findings
  • Additional Considerations
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
  • Appendix: FIAF Archives Reporting Holdings of American silent Feature films
  • Photo Credits

This report, commissioned for and sponsored by The National Film Preservation Board and the Library of Congress, presents the results of the first comprehensive survey of the survival of American silent feature films. The survey was designed to answer five questions: 1. How many silent feature films survive? 2. Who holds the surviving films? 3. How complete are the surviving films? 4. In what format does the most complete copy survive? 5. Where was the best surviving copy found? The report explains why so much material has been lost, where the surviving material has been located and why what survives was saved. It concludes with recommendations on how to ensure that all possible remaining copies of silent era films might be located and put under the management of professional film archives. The author has also created a database of location information on the archival film holdings identified in the course of his research.

This well researched report is of special interest to film archivists involved in silent film curation and preservation. It is also interesting for film historians researching the American silent film era. The story it tells demonstrates the difficulties film archives face in trying to locate and manage collections from this period and how important their role was in protecting what remains today. It also provides an example of a well designed advocacy tool, nicely illustrated with a mix of film content posters and statistical information.