We've Lost Pretty Much Three-Quarters of Our Silent Film Library

December 4, 2013


For those wondering why Netflix seems so crowded with the new-fangled talkies, a research study by the Library of Congress may have the answer for why: turns out we've lost or ruined most of our silent film collection.

As relayed by Variety, the report claims that only 14% of silent films released by major studios remain in their original format, with another 11% kicking around in foreign versions or on lesser film formats. That means we've only got about 2,700 of the over ten-thousand silent films ever made. There was probably like a Sherlock Jr. 2: Projected Shadows out there totally amped up the action and added multiple heavies, and now we will never see that.

But as for those films that we can still see, thanks to this study, now we know where they are. Accompanying the report was an inventory that lists all the film that have survived and plots where they're located. As official Librarian of Congress James H. Billington explained, "This information will make it possible to develop a nationally coordinated plan to repatriate those 'lost' American movies and ensure that they are preserved before higher losses occur." Also, should Nicolas Cage need to steal any of these prints to examine a treasure map written on the film leader, now he'll know where to begin his adventure.

Naturally, film preservation and hologram advocate Martin Scorsese was pretty enthusiastic about the report, calling it "invaluable because the artistry of silent film is essential to our culture." Hopefully, the Library of Congress's efforts will help to make sure that culture is preserved, so another generation of filmmakers can be influenced by it. We can't have everything being inspired by The Matrix.

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