OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – If you’re interested in seeing Tom Mix in ‘Mile a Minute Romeo’ or Rin Tin Tin in ‘The Million Dollar Collar’, you’re out of luck.
These and lots of other silent era movies are gone now.
Archivists like Kera Newby and Samantha Schafer at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum couldn’t find them in their extensive collections or any other for that matter.
Newby states, “We don’t have any other proof these films ever existed other than these cards.”
What they do have are a few of the posters and what collectors call movie cards, old 11×14 inch promotional materials sent out to theater owners to tack up in their lobbies.
Schafer points out, “There are so many stories these cards have to tell. Obviously, we have the story of the movie, but you can see staple marks where these were attached to the wall.”
The really rare ones, more than a century old now, are prized items to people like Dwight Cleveland who’s spent nearly 50 years now finding and saving them.
“There are some conflicting statistics,” he says, “But somewhere around 85% of all silent films are lost.”
A big part of his own archives, including 10,000 movie cards, is getting a new kind of premiere this year.
Newby and Schafer sent many of them to Dartmouth College to be digitized as part of a huge compendium which includes thousands of surviving silent films, and many more movie cards, many of them representing films lost to history.
Cleveland says, “I love the saturated, hand tinted colors. I love the art deco graphics.”
The Dickinson Research Center beneath the Cowboy Museum is a treasure trove of old photos and other rare items preserved for study or later exhibit.
The old nitrate film, in many cases, didn’t last.
But their promotional materials for shows like ‘An Oklahoma Cowboy’, ‘Spook Ranch’, and ‘That Girl Oklahoma’ speak to us now better than the old movies ever did.
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