Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Oscar-Connected Lost Films, Part 1

As it is 31 Days of Oscar, the only true holiday that happens in February in my humbled opinion, it is time to note a few of the films that are missing in the world of cinema.  As (quite often) presumably lost films are found in the attics of the children and grandchildren of studio heads, long-ago cinematographers and producers and directors, I figured I'd put together a list of twenty standout films that either are missing and are Oscar-nominated, or are connected to an Oscar-nominated star or director.  This list isn't complete, but more focused on twenty films that stand out to me as missing because of their Oscar connections-share some more in the comments!

Note: For the sake of the article I stuck to feature-length films, though I'm aware there are some short films that have been nominated for Oscar and are missing.  If you find those, we'll be just as excited-I promise!

Second Note: I'm not counting films that might be partially lost (A Star is Born, The Dove, and Sorrell and Son come to mind).  If I'm missing a feature-length film that was nominated for an Oscar that is considered lost, please let me know and I shall amend this article.

10. The Magic Flame (1927)

A weird entry on the list, as it's not exactly clear if this is just partially lost or completely lost.  Nominated for Best Cinematography at the first Academy Awards, the film stars future Oscar-winner Ronald Colman as a clown.  It's unclear whether the George Eastman House actually has a copy of this (or a partial copy of this) or not based on what I've found online.  Any representative from the organization want to clear things up?

9. The Devil Dancer (1927)

This one seems to be confirmed to be lost, so I put it one higher.  George Barnes was nominated for Best Cinematography for a number of films at the first Oscars, two of which are considered lost, including this one which starred Clive Brook and Anna May Wong.

8. The Awakening (1928)

Not related in any way to the novel by Kate Chopin, The Awakening is one of those 1929-30 nominees that's not "actually a nominee" so it's hard to tell how it stands here, but considering AMPAS Database lists it, I am keeping it on the list.  The film was directed by Victor Fleming, who eleven years later would have his Oscar glory realized, directing both The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.

6 (tie). The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1930) and Song of the Flame (1930)

I'm grouping these together as they were both nominated the same year for Best Sound Recording, and both lost.  Sergeant Grischa starred Oscar nominee Betty Compson and Jean Hersholt, the latter of which got a statue named after him by AMPAS, while Song of the Flame was the first color film ever to feature a widescreen sequence.

5. The Private Life of Helen of Troy (1927)

The Private Life of Helen of Troy was nominated for Best Title Writing (the first and only time that was a category), and also was the first time that someone (in this case, Gerald Duffy), was nominated posthumously.  I put this slightly higher than the Sound nominees as I really want to see what set apart this film's Title Writing.

4. 4 Devils (1928)

In terms of seeing an actual quality picture and not just crossing a line off of a list, the movie I most want to see of this run-up is 4 Devils, and that's thanks to the magic brought about by its director and star in a film from the previous year.  4 Devils features Janet Gaynor and is helmed by FW Murnau, both of whom made Oscar magic the year prior for the masterpiece Sunrise.  The film was cited for its Cinematography by AMPAS.

3. The Rogue Song (1930)
Again, my penchant for the Oscar Viewing Project comes around, though this one makes it higher as it's one of only three films (that I'm aware of-correct me in the comments if I'm wrong) that feature Oscar-nominated performances that are considered lost.  In this case, it's Lawrence Tibbett's Best Actor performance in a film that also features Laurel & Hardy in a series of comic guest bits.

1 & 2. The Way of All Flesh (1927) and The Patriot (1928)
I couldn't pick between these two films, both of which star controversial actor Emil Jannings (also a Nazi sympathizer, he purportedly waved his Oscar to Allied troops to prove his association with Hollywood).  Jannings won his Oscar in part for The Way of All Flesh, making it the only Oscar-winning performance in a lost film.  The Patriot, on the other hand, is the only Best Picture nominee to be lost, and it also features Lewis Stone in an Oscar-nominated performance.  In fact, of the five films that Jannings made in Hollywood before his thick accent ended his career in the Sound Era, only The Last Command (the other film for which Jannings won his Best Actor Oscar) remains.

There you have it-the ten lost feature-length films of Oscar's past.  Did I miss any others?  If not, which would you most like to see?  And anyone who is related to a film producer or studio head, get to thy attic and start searching!

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