It’s a good day for everyone interested in film preservation and nitrate film with the news that the The George Eastman Museum has received a donation of 20 reels of rare 35mm nitrate and diacetate film prints.
The donation is from historian John Goodman of Scottsbluff, Neb. and includes a tinted reel of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush” (1925). That tint to the film (seen above in the main image) is considered a mystery by Peter Bagrov, curator in charge of the Moving Image Department at the George Eastman Museum.
“Chaplin himself was not fond of tinting, and all of the known release prints of this film are in black and white,” Bagrov explained in a statement. “Even though the print is incomplete, this beautifully tinted reel is a great discovery and adds a new dimension to our understanding of how films were presented during the silent era.”
In addition to “The Gold Rush,” the 12 identified titles among the donated material also include the 1929 silent Western “The Law of the Mounted” directed by J. P. McGowan, and “Si ve vulesse bene” (“I wish you well”), a 1922 Italian film directed by Emanuele Rotondo.
While “Si ve vulesse bene” is preserved in black and white at the Cineteca Nazionale in Rome, Italy, it is believed that the print donated to George Eastman Museum is “likely to be the only tinted nitrate print of this title in the world,” Bagrov said.
Several other prints are yet to be identified, including a travelogue shot in eastern Wyoming in the mid-1920s.
“Each print tells its own story,” said Bagrov. “Found in Nebraska, these films traveled a long way to entertain audiences, and now they have found their permanent home. With any luck, one or two might be programmed in the museum’s Nitrate Picture Show film festival, but our highest priority is to guarantee long-term storage for them and eventually to get them preserved.”
The George Eastman Museum is at 900 East Ave., Rochester, N.Y. It is open at limited capacity and programming. For details, visit eastman.org