Last week, we chronicled through the Top 10 missing Oscar-nominated films (the films that keep my OVP-loving heart up at night knowing that I'm doomed to failure even if I manage to hit most of the pictures). Today, however, I decided to try a slightly different tack (one that includes a bit more of a list). Here we have lost films starring Oscar-nominated actors or directed by Oscar-nominated directors. While this list is far from complete, these stand out in my mind as some of the more important feature-length films that are hopefully still in someone's attic.
Note: While I couldn't include every missing feature-length film starring an Oscar nominee, I'm curious about which ones are on your "where is it?!?' list, so please share below in the comments!
Directed by future Oscar winner Michael Curtiz and starring Dolores Costello and Conrad Nagel, the film is in a weird place in history as it's the second Vitaphone feature, and reportedly featured the first feature where actors actually spoke their lines (though the dialogue was so hammy people actually laughed when it first came out). Considering its place in history, you'd think this would have hung on, but it's still considered lost.
11. Lilies of the Field (1924)
While it shares the name of an Oscar-winning film, it actually has no connection to the movie starring Sidney Poitier. Instead, it gets its AMPAS connection through leading lady Corinne Griffith, who would be one of the first women ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress (in The Divine Lady). The film sounds pretty messed up, and I'm curious to see how the sexual politics of the period play out, but like all of the other eleven films on this list, it's lost for now.
10. Red Sky at Morning (1944)
One of several missing films from the early career of future Oscar-winner Peter Finch, this one struck me as odd simply because of its late release date. While portions of films from the 1940's and 50's are missing (most famously A Star is Born), this entire movie (about a sailor who falls in love with the wife of a captain) is completely gone, which is unusual for a film with a now recognizable star.
By far the latest film on this list, and the only one that features a currently living Oscar nominee that I can find. Sir Ian McKellen, very early in his career, made the first big-screen adaptation of an Aleksei Abuzov play, that is now considered lost. Weirdly, it featured another actor who'd gained some fame the year previous (John Castle) for starring in an Oscar-winning film (The Lion in Winter) and was reusing Oscar-winning sets from the previous year's Best Picture winner Oliver!, so how this remains lost is also a mystery.
8. Men of Tomorrow (1932)
One of those films where you didn't know what you had until it was gone, the film actually stars Maurice Braddell and Joan Gardner, but it was the supporting cast that calls out a bit more ferociously, featuring Oscar-nominee Merle Oberon and future Oscar-winner Robert Donat in his film debut. The film apparently was a bit salacious and had to be trimmed for re-distribution (and was dubiously marketed in the United States in 1935 because Oberon and Donat were headliners at that point, even though they weren't the stars of the picture).
7. White Man (1924)
One of the earliest films on this list, White Man would be a largely forgotten film starring Kenneth Harlan and Alice Joyce were it not for a bit part (that of Joyce's brother) played by one of the biggest leading men in Hollywood history: Clark Gable. Yes, the future Oscar-winner made his film debut in a small role in this film, now largely lost (perhaps due to the fact that Gable wouldn't be a huge star for a bit longer after this).
A plethora of big name actors are featured in this film, including Joan Blondell, Adolphe Menjeu, Dick Powell, and Mary Astor, 75% of which were Oscar nominees (Menjeu even was a nominee already at that point). But what sets this film apart is that it is apparently quite scandalous, with a number of double entendres and Blondell's costume budget being smaller than Jack Warner wanted it to be. As a result, it's one of those movies that you want to see more out of shock value than anything else.
5. The Forward Pass (1929)
This would be worthy of inclusion simply based on the premise alone: how many movies in cinematic history have ever been made about football, and turned into a musical? Throw in Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and future Oscar-winner Loretta Young and the intrigue is factored up. But it's a cameo by a 22-year-old John Wayne (in one of only a couple of his films that are considered lost) that makes me truly curious-what was John Wayne like at 22?!?
4. The Callahans and the Murphys (1927)
Toward the top more for the director of the film, and what he was able to do with his leading lady in other films. George W. Hill, while never an Oscar nominee, managed to helm two major Oscar contenders early on in the Academy's history: The Big House, which was an early Best Picture nominee, and Min and Bill, which won Marie Dressler (who stars in Callahans and the Murphys) her only Oscar.
Another film with a man who'd later bring his leading lady an Oscar, but here we have even bigger names than Hill and Dressler: Claudette Colbert and Frank Capra. Seven years before both of them won Oscars for It Happened One Night, these two screen icons made a silent picture (Colbert's only one), which bombed and almost caused Colbert to quit the movies. Thankfully she didn't and went on to make decades of classics, but this one is sadly not one that can be discovered by new film audiences.
2. Hollywood (1923)
What gets a film you've never heard of into the Top 2? Well, it's that literally every major star of this era somehow managed to make it into the film! Yes, while the leads are a pair of unknowns (Hope Drown and Luke Cosgrave), you have everyone from Will Rogers to Douglas Fairbanks Sr. to Baby Peggy, as well as six-Oscar nominated/winning entertainers (Gloria Swanson, Betty Compson, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Mary Astor, and Cecil B. DeMille), all made more impressive as the Oscars hadn't even happened when this came out. Throw in one of the only screen appearances Fatty Arbuckle made after his arrest, and you have arguably the biggest curiosity on this list.
1. The Mountain Eagle (1927)
An easy choice for the list, as The Mountain Eagle is the only lost film of Alfred Hitchcock's extensive filmography. Hitch reportedly hated the film (and the production was apparently a nightmare) and was glad it was gone, but for the legions of his fans (myself included) it remains a film that we most hope is discovered in someone's attic. I mean, it's hard to really compare with finally getting the only missing feature-length film from Alfred Hitchcock.