Lost Silent Films Wish List

The topic of lost films is alluring because it leaves us questioning. At the most basic, we wonder why these works were lost, contemplating what about them prevented their preservation. Admittedly, it is often the case that the reason they were lost is simply because they weren’t perceived as very good movies at the time. But there are some lost films that would be fascinating to have a chance to view, if only for the satisfaction of curiosity. Here are five lost silent films I wish I could see.

“Humor Risk” (1921)

This was the first Marx Brothers short, created even before they had developed their trademark personalities. It’s interesting because for this film, they decided to go with Harpo (known traditionally for his clown- and pantomime-influenced portrayals) as a hero detective who gets the girl in the end while Groucho and Chico played villain and sidekick with Zeppo as a nightclub owner.

It is rumored that the film was either accidentally thrown away or destroyed by an unsatisfied Groucho. Regardless, it would still be fun to see such an early example of their work.

“Human Wreckage” (1923)

Dorothy Davenport, widow of actor Wallace Reid, who died because of morphine addiction, created this very early anti-drug film. It is said to have depicted the dangers of drug use and was shown to people all over the country. Although there were censorship laws against drug portrayals in film, Davenport was able to get around them because of the movie’s anti-drug message.

It would be interesting to see for two reasons. One, Dorothy Davenport was a rare female producer. And, two, it would be a good example of drug portrayals very early on.

“Dracula’s Death” (1921)

This Hungarian silent picture featured the first film appearance of Count Dracula. In this movie, a woman experiences terrifying visions after visiting an insane asylum wherein an inmate claims to be Dracula. Eventually, the woman is unable to distinguish reality from her nightmares.

Aside from my interest in dream portrayals in movies, what we know of the plot sounds fascinating. I wonder if it could possibly have been better than “Nosferatu.”

“The Mountain Eagle” (1927)

An Alfred Hitchcock-directed lost silent, this film features a father (Pettigrew) who lusts after his son’s lover, causing him to be rejected by the both of them. His son runs away, and the woman winds up marrying Pettigrew’s enemy, John. This upsets Pettigrew further. He attempts to get his revenge through legal prosecution, claiming John murdered his son and the woman is a harlot. It is the only lost full-length Hitchcock-directed picture.

“A Woman of the Sea” (1926)

This was the only film produced by Charlie Chaplin where he didn’t direct or star. After the film’s completion, Chaplin would not approve it for release; would never allow it to be screened; and, as rumor has it, would ultimately burn the only existing negatives. Could it really have been THAT bad? I guess we’ll never know.

More from this Contributor:

‘The Artist’ and Other Films About the Silent Era
Silent Film Adaptations of ‘A Christmas Carol’
Great Foreign Films for Christmas

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