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December 2004, Week 2


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Mark Langer <[log in to unmask]>
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Fri, 10 Dec 2004 13:07:11 -0500
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Claiming that this find was made in Alaska has provoked a response from this Canadian.  You are thinking about the Dawson City find made in 1978.  Dawson City is in the Yukon, not Alaska.   Now that I've gotten my puny outraged "harrumphing" out of the way,  Dawson was the end of the line for film distribution in North America, and
because of the expense of shipping by then worn prints back, they were put into storage in a local bank through the teens and early twenties, and then transferred to a local athletic association.  In 1929, when a swimming pool behind Diamond Tooth Gertie's was being converted into a skating rink, the 500 reels of films from 1910 to
1925 were used as fill.  There they remained until excavated a few years back.  They were brought to the National Archives in Ottawa for restoration.  Many of them were in poor condition due to water leaching down from the skating rink, but the lower levels of film were preserved in the permafrost.

Evidently there was quite a bit of unique material -- much of it things like British Canadian Pathe News of particular interest to Canadians, but also films made elsewhere, such as the only surviving parts of POLLY OF THE CIRCUS(1917) with Mae Marsh, which was Goldwyn's first independent film, BLISS(1917) with Harold Lloyd and WILDFIRE
with Lilian Russell.  All the material is at the Public Archives of Canada.  The American material, comprising of about 190 reels, is available for viewing at the Library of Congress in Washington.  An article about the find, "There's Film in Them Thar Hills" is in American Film (July/Aug 1979).

Mark Langer

Scott Hutchins wrote:

> I keep hearing about a stash of films from the teens that were preserved in a swimming pool in Alaska, since the studios considered the expense of return from Alaska too much to bother with for outdated films.  Is this true, or is this a film conoisseur's urban legend, like the uncut version of _Greed_ existing in a dump somewhere?
> Scott
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