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10 Famous Lost Films

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There’s a long list of classic (or at least, significant) movies that might never be seen again: major films starring some of the most popular stars of the silent cinema; Saved from the Titanic (1912), the first drama about the sinking of the Titanic, starring real-life survivor Dorothy Gibson; The Life of General Villa (1914), a legendary Hollywood film starring the Mexican revolutionary as himself; most segments of the classic film serial The Perils of Pauline (1914), starring Pearl White; Alfred Hitchcock's second feature, The Mountain Eagle (1926); and the first movie versions of The Great Gatsby (1926) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1928). Like up to 80% of movies from the first 30 years of cinema, they are now “lost” films.

Film buffs are thrilled, of course, when a lost film resurfaces. A recent discovery was 30 minutes of lost footage from the great German science-fiction epic Metropolis (1927), which had somehow materialized in Buenos Aires. Even after 80 years, these movies can show up in the most unlikely places. So if you see any of the following, hidden in a warehouse or under the floorboards, please let someone know…

1. The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)

Running over an hour, this Australian film was the world’s first feature film. Directed by Melbourne entrepreneur Charles Tait, it told of the exploits of Ned Kelly, the nation’s most famous outlaw (or “bushranger”), and toured England as “the longest film ever made.” A popular and critical success in its time, it led to a fashion in bushranger movies—until they were banned by various Australian states for making the criminals look good. Sadly, Kelly Gang vanished, along with most of Australia’s film industry, in the first half of the 20th century. Nine minutes of footage were discovered under a bed in a deserted house in 1979, and for years, that was all that existed.

As the centenary approached, however, Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive contacted archives around the world, asking if they might have something to add. The British Film Institute had another incomplete film labeled “Kelly Gang,” but nobody knew what this was. With some detective work, an archivist noticed that one of the scenes was in a photo on the original Kelly Gang promotional poster. The footage was promptly included on a special DVD release. Most of the film, however, still seems to be gone for good.

2. A Daughter of the Gods (1916)

Another film with an Australian connection, this Hollywood movie starred Aussie swimmer and movie star Annette Kellerman (who is mostly forgotten by film buffs today, except as the heroine played by Esther Williams in the 1952 film Million Dollar Mermaid). It won notoriety for Kellerman’s nude scene (the first by a major film star), which she never lived down.

3. Cleopatra (1917)


The publicity photos from this movie, featuring the alluring Theda Bara in the title role, are so famous that you’d think it still existed. It doesn’t. In fact, almost every movie starring Bara, Hollywood’s first major exotic sex symbol (actually a Cincinnati gal named Theodosia Goodman), is now lost. Fox (now 20th Century Fox), which is now much more diligent about preserving their films, was less careful in the early years.

4. Hollywood (1923)

One of the first Hollywood dramas about Hollywood, this film was adored by the critics of the time… but still somehow went missing. It was a comedy about a girl who goes to Hollywood with dreams of becoming a star, only to find herself unemployed as her loved ones accidentally get movie roles. Like The Player (1992), it attracted cameos from dozens of top Hollywood stars playing themselves—from Charlie Chaplin to Gloria Swanson, and even Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, recently disgraced by a scandal, as an unemployed actor. Director James Cruze was left to find total unknowns to play the leads. Hope Drown, a 20-year-old from Illinois, played he heroine. Though she was very pretty, and (according to critics) gave an excellent performance, she never made another movie. Perhaps she took the film’s cautionary message to heart.

5. Greed – The Directors’ Cut (1924)

Greed, directed by edgy genius Erich von Stroheim, is known as one of the masterpieces of silent film. As there were no DVDs back then, however, we will never have a chance to see the most extreme Director’s Cut in history. While many director’s cuts are considerably lengthier than the release prints, this film was shown only once in its complete, nine-hour version, before MGM Studios ordered it to be edited to a more manageable 100 minutes, described by von Stroheim as “a mutilation of my sincere work.”

We will never know whether the full version was the greatest film ever made, or a load of long, self-indulgent tedium (which, according to at least one early review, is a fair description). Once the editing was complete, the remaining negative was melted down for its silver nitrate. It’s hard to put a film back together from that.

6. Humorisk (or Humor Risk) (1920s)

This was the Marx Brothers’ first film, and their only silent movie, in which (from the few reports that exist) they played quite different characters to the ones we all know. Groucho Marx was so disillusioned with Humorisk that, after one screening, he purchased the film, destroying all prints and negatives. The brothers would not make another movie until the all-talking, all-singing, all-dancing The Cocoanuts (1929), based on their popular stage show.

7. London After Midnight (1927)

This detective/horror movie featured the great Lon Chaney in two roles: both the detective and the chief suspect. Chaney’s mastery of character acting and disguise (he applied his own make-up) gave him the sobriquet “Man of a Thousand Faces.” Thanks to surviving studio photos, his chilling performance as a smiling vampire in this film is still a famous image. But though many of his performances survive, some of his most well-regarded films (including The Miracle Man and The Tower of Lies) are missing. The last known copy of London after Midnight was destroyed in a fire in an MGM vault in 1967. In 2008, a horror movie aficionado known as “Sid Terror” caused a lot of excitement by claiming to have spotted another copy, which (he insisted) had since been misplaced somewhere in the UCLA Film Archives. So far, he has not provided any proof.

8. My Man (1928)

Hollywood’s second musical (after the legendary The Jazz Singer), this starred the great Ziegfeld Follies singer-comedienne Fanny Brice (best known to anyone under 90 as the heroine of the biopic Funny Girl, played by Barbra Streisand). Many early Hollywood musicals have also gone missing, including Honky Tonk (1929), one of only three films to star the great Sophie Tucker (only the soundtrack survives); and the epic Rogue Song (1930), with Laurel and Hardy.

9. Convention City (1933)

Though studios were more careful to preserve their films once they started talking, there were a few notable (and notorious) exceptions. Convention City, about the hijinks at a salesman’s convention, was so risqué for its time that Warner Bros’ studio boss Harry Warner ordered every copy to be destroyed in 1943 to get on the good side of the Production Code (especially the powerful chief censor, Will Hays). We know, however, that it was a comedy with an amazing cast (Joan Blondell, Adolphe Menjou, Dick Powell and Mary Astor among them) and a series of witty one-liners laced with pure, unadulterated smut. There are many rumors that this film is in the hands of a private collector, but that seems unlikely.

10. Catch My Soul (1974)

Most lost films are from the early years of cinema, but there are some intriguing exceptions. The “indie” film Catch My Soul was the only feature film directed by the late Patrick McGoohan, the suave Irish-American actor and visionary behind the classic TV series The Prisoner. Filmed in New Mexico, it was rock-opera based on Shakespeare’s Othello. Folk singer Richie Havens, the opening act at Woodstock, played Othello. It opened in New York to low audiences and poor reviews. Vincent Canby in The New York Times said it was “pricelessly funny though seldom meaning to be,” though he added that the songs were pretty good: “Forget the movie and get the soundtrack album.”

According to McGoohan, one of the producers “found God” and recut the movie, adding 15 minutes of religious material. Appalled by the final product, McGoohan tried unsuccessfully to remove his name from the credits. Though it was on the 16mm stocklist the next year, retitled Santa Fe Satan, it now appears only on lost film lists. But come on! McGoohan? Richie Havens? Hippie-style Shakespeare? Unintentional hilarity? Cool soundtrack? Early-70s rock opera? Someone needs to find this!

Today is October 10, 2010—10.10.10! To celebrate, we've got all our writers working on 10 lists, which we'll be posting throughout the day and night. To see all the lists we've published so far, click here.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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