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A ‘Triumph’ on the lost-film trail

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Times Staff Writer

Does anybody have the last two reels of the 1917 Lon Chaney drama “Triumph”?

The Academy Film Archive is desperately looking for the last 20 minutes of the film that “the Man of a Thousand Faces” made before he became famous for his haunting performances in such films as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”

In the meantime, the archive has tracked down the first three reels of this long-lost melodrama and it will screen the segments Thursday as part of its occasional series “Lost and Found.” Joining “Triumph” on the bill is the 1927 adventure “Blood Ship,” one of Columbia’s first box office hits, which had long been missing.

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Academy programmer Randy Haberkamp says “Triumph” allows audiences a rare opportunity to see Chaney “really developing his style and his whole craft,” especially since so many of the films he made in the teens have vanished. “This is one of his films in which pieces survive where he is playing a more normal character. He was just an actor then, not a mythic figure.”

Academy archivist Mike Pogorzelski says a collector brought the first three reels of “Triumph” into the archive about four years ago. “He is a big Lon Chaney fan, and he had been looking for the last two missing reels for a long time. He was keeping the nitrate [print] in his home, which he knew wasn’t good.” His only condition was that he got a print of the academy’s restoration.

The film, says Pogorzelski, was in fairly good shape, but “the bulk of Chaney’s appearance is in the missing reels. He is definitely in there, but his big moments in the film are missing.”

So Jim Hahn, who preserved the film, will use the original script and photographs of the missing reels to give the audience a sense of the film’s ending.

The end of “Blood Ship,” which stars Richard Arlen and Hobart Bosworth, had also disappeared, and the first six reels, says Pogorzelski, hadn’t been available in the U.S. for years. In 1997, when Columbia was gearing up for its 75th anniversary, the studio was making a documentary on its history and wanted to include a clip of “Blood Ship,” says Pogorzelski. It was then that Grover Crisp, vice president of asset management and film restoration at Sony, which bought Columbia in 1989, realized there were no elements in the vault.

“Grover came to the academy and asked if we had anything or knew where anything was,” Pogorzelski recalls. After searching the international archives, he found a 35mm nitrate print at the British Film Institute. But it was missing its final reel. “So we brought over the reels that they did have and we preserved them,” he says.

Columbia made its clip from the preserved material, but since it wasn’t complete, the academy archive didn’t show it in public. Three years later, a 16mm print of the entire film showed up in a collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, which gave the academy access.

“It is missing the final credit roll, but the end is all there,” Pogorzelski says. “We blew it up to 35mm and rolled it into the other reels from the BFI.”

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susan.king@latimes.com

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‘Lost and Found’

Where: Linwood Dunn Theater, 1313 Vine St., Hollywood

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Price: $3 to $5

Contact: (310) 247-3600 or go to www.oscars.org


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