FRAGMENT OF LOST FILM DISCOVERED IN NEW ENGLAND,
Northeast Historic Film (NHF), northern New England's preeminent film and video archives, recently located a portion of the 1930 musical THE ROGUE SONG, probably known best today as a lost Laurel and Hardy film. In a coast-to-coast collaboration, the fragile reel of nitrate cellulose film has been preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, NHF and Warner Bros., the film's copyright holder.
The 500 ft. of film contains a ballet sequence from MGM's first all talking, all Technicolor motion picture. One of the few remaining examples of early two-color Technicolor and sound on film, a clip from the preserved fragment will be included in a tribute to Technicolor airing on Turner Classic Movies in December.
"Collaboration with the regional and national archives is very important for us," said Richard P. May, Vice President of Film Preservation at Warner Bros. "We'll help support them, pay for some of the preservation work, and at the same time we get commercial use of the material that the audience eventually gets to see."
NHF Executive Director David Weiss said, "Film enthusiasts have been looking for THE ROGUE SONG for a long time. When we acquire a work such as THE ROGUE SONG, which doesn't fit our regional collecting mission, we try to find an appropriate home for it, and the UCLA Archive is one of the best because they undertake their preservation projects with great care."
THE ROGUE SONG was directed by stage and screen star Lionel Barrymore as a showcase for popular opera singer Lawrence Tibbett. It was released in January 1930 in two versions - sound on film and sound on disc - to accommodate theaters that were still being adapted for talkies. While the fragment contains no scenes of Laurel and Hardy, nor of star baritone Tibbett, it is cinematically significant for its use of early Technicolor and sound processes, as well as for the talent involved in creating the preserved scene. Dmitri Tiomkin, among the most versatile and best known film composers, wrote the music for the ballet sequence as one of his earliest screen efforts. The ballet was choreographed by Albertina Rasch, a well respected ballerina, dance instructor and Broadway dance director credited with integrating ballet into musical theater and film. When MGM hired Madame Rasch in 1930 to lend her expertise to the new genre of musicals, the studio offered her husband - Tiomkin - a contract to score five films.
Northeast Historic Film was founded in 1986 to collect, preserve, and make accessible film and video of interest to the people of northern New England - including amateur footage, independent works, and television newsfilm. The archives has the largest collection of home movies in North America, documenting shipbuilding, fisheries, family life, farming, urban renewal and the changing landscape. The independent, nonprofit archives is located in a 1916 theater in Bucksport, Maine, and is known for presenting film with live music, reaching new audiences with titles such as EVANGELINE, which interprets Acadian heritage in a 1929 Hollywood production; THE SAILOR'S SACRIFICE, a 1909 fiction film; and WAY DOWN EAST, D.W. Griffith's expression of a 19th century rural drama.
Film historian Alan Kattelle, a member of the NHF Advisory Board and a previous benefactor, gave the fragment -- which was in excellent physical condition -- to Northeast Historic Film with a collection of 28mm and 35mm nitrate films. "Alan helps us serve on the front lines of regional film preservation and has helped save rare works such as the 1909 Edison SPRING LOG DRIVING IN MAINE," Weiss said.
The UCLA Film and Television Archive holds 220,000 films and television programs, and 27 million feet of newsreel footage. It has preserved more than 500 films and more than 100 television programs. Films preserved are presented locally to the public at the University's James Bridges Theater, may be viewed by students and researchers on campus, and are made available to other archives, museums and film festivals for theatrical screenings. Recent feature film preservation projects include THE BIG SLEEP (1945 pre-release version), GILDA (1946), LOUISIANA STORY (1948) and JOAN OF ARC (1948). The ROGUE SONG fragment will be screened in a yet-to-be-scheduled program at James Bridges Theater, probably in the spring.
UCLA Archive Curator Eddie Richmond said, "We are pleased to have preserved this rarity and having added a new piece to the puzzle of a once completely lost motion picture. We hope someday more footage will be found to help fill in the puzzle and bring 'The Rogue Song' back to life for audiences to enjoy."