The announcement was made at the opening night of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and was witnessed by yours truly. It was greeted with great excitement.
“The company understands its responsibility and need to preserve our silent film legacy,” said Ron Meyer, vice chairman, NBCUniversal. “This early art of film making is the foundation on which Universal Pictures was built more than 100 years ago, and it’s important we honor our rich history.”
The silent film era is best known for instantly recognizable story lines, settings, costumes, and characters. Most early silent films were accompanied by a full-fledged orchestra, organist or pianist to provide musical background and to underscore the narrative on the screen. Some even included live actors or narrators. The major genre emphasis was on swashbucklers, historical extravaganzas, and melodramas, although all kinds of films were being produced throughout the decade.
According to a report released by the Library of Congress, 70 percent of the nation’s silent feature films have been completely lost. Universal’s restoration team will work with archives and collectors worldwide to secure copies of prints and additional elements needed to complete this restoration effort and augment the silent film titles currently in its library.
Universal Pictures silent film restoration initiative builds on the company’s ongoing restoration commitment. Since the program was first announced in 2012, nearly 30 titles have been restored and 25 more titles are expected to be restored by 2017. Fully restored titles to date include All Quiet on the Western Front, Dracula (1931), Dracula Spanish (1931), Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein [which almost starred Louise Brooks in the title role], Double Indemnity, The Sting, and other films.