TCM Fest must-see: “Fragments” (1916-1929)


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So many films from the silent era have literally dissolved into dust, lost for the ages for several reasons, including nitrate decomposition. But not everyone is willing to let these cinematic masterpieces go gentle into that good night. The program ‘Fragments (1916-1929),’ screening Sunday morning at the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood, features a rare collection of scenes, reels and segments from lost silent films restored by the Academy Film Archive and the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

‘We are showing three fragments from each archive along with some background,’ says the Academy’s Mike Pogorzelski. ‘We are going to be closing the program with trailers for movies that will be never coming to a theater near you because the trailers are the only thing that survive from the film.’


Jere Guldin from UCLA will be showing fragments from two Clara Bow silents: ‘Red Hair’ and ‘Three Weekends.’ ‘They are wonderful because she is just so charming,’ Pogorzelski says. ‘They are both from 1928 and looks like they were her last two great silent comedies. The clips are cute and funny, but they are actually some of the saddest images in a theater because the rest of the films are presumably lost.’

Another offering from the archive is the middle reel of a 1916 film called ‘Chance Market,’ starring and directed by King Baggott. ‘We had flagged it in our collection and preserved particularly for this,’ says the Academy’s Joe Lindner. ‘It’s only a reel, it may be nearly a third of the film. He had a dual role in which he played both a rich man and a kind of a thief. For 1916, the acting is pretty interesting and makes you want to see how it turned out.’

Other fragments include 1922’s ‘The Village,’ an early film by John Ford; ‘Happiness Ahead,’ a 1928 comedy starring Colleen Moore; and the 1925 Roman Novarro romance, ‘A Lover’s Oath.’ The trailers include 1928’s ‘The Patriot,’ directed by Ernst Lubitsch, the only best picture Oscar nominee that no longer exists as a complete print.

-- Susan King