08 September 2013

Finishing The Hat

Let’s face it: I’m a sucker for lost Hollywood.

I’ve been involved in researching lost Hollywood for most of my professional writing career. It always warms my heart to hear that more “lost” films have been found. (Like my entry here.)

Matt and I are currently making our way through a review copy of the most recent batch of “lost” films to be found: Lost and Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive which presents 11 films out of a group of 176 found a few years ago in New Zealand. It includes a cartoon, newsreels, film shorts and early work by directors John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and actor Mabel Normand.

Oddly, the feature that most piqued my interest is Birth of a Hat (pictured) thought to be from 1920. It’s a long commercial for the John B. Stetson Hat Company. It shows every step involved: from the beginning (the fur-bearing animal) to the end (the finished product). Like a 1920s version of How It’s Made, Birth of a Hat is compelling and fascinating -- not least of which reason because at the time it was produced everyone wore a hat. And now, not so much.

While hat making is fascinating on its own, the bigger picture is that, until recently, this film was not known to exist. NINETY-THREE YEARS LATER it is returned to us. This, and the other films and shorts contained on this DVD (more than three hours worth), provide a unique window into a very long lost world.

You can read more about these films and the preservation work behind them here.

You can pre-order your own copy here. (It'll be released on 24 September.)

Organizations responsible for the preservation and release of these films include: the New Zealand Film Archive, National Film Preservation Foundation, National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Academy Film Archive, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Save America’s Treasures, Turner Classic Movies, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Film Technology Company, Park Road Post Production, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Argyros Family Foundation.

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