Films held in private collection

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Spiny Norman

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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 9:13 am

Mike Gebert wrote:Okay, let's everybody take it down a few notches.

The problem, Norman, is that I think you imagine a state of affairs in which Obscure Film X is highly sought after and sneaky collector snatches it out from under the nose of someone more likely to share it with you, a well-funded institution which would make it available to everyone.

Except maybe in a few cases— like Detlaff and Frankenstein— something more like the opposite is the reality. Collector finds the thing no one wants. Often collectors work with institutions and studios to make things available— there's the example right now where the Vitaphone Project is working with Warners right now to preserve the earliest Three Stooges film, which a collector turned out to have in Australia and alerted them to. But that's the Stooges, bigger than Garbo. Most things are obscure for good reason, and nobody wants them, there is no deep-pocketed Santa for most of them, not even Hef.

So the collector isn't the last obstacle in front of their being shared— he's more likely to be the first line of defense against it vanishing forever. He cares because he's the only one who cares. And that's without getting into the problem of studios which have been known to seize things collectors had even when the collector has the only one, and so on.

You want to see the rare things collectors have? Do you go to any of the conventions? Cinefest is coming right up and there's no end of things there that some collector has saved and some archive has put money into fixing up. Then there's Cinevent and Cinesation and Cinecon and Pordenone and so on. Not only can you see the saved things, you can talk to the people involved in it, you can even fund the restoration of this or that. There's no hidden cabal, it's right there happy to chat with you— and share with you.

No, I don't. I know all of those things, and like I already wrote I don't have any beef with collectors, except when they are arrogant and presumptuous. The examples that you give are the opposite too: At those fests the films are for the public the way they were meant to be. But this system that you've just described can be a pain if you are for example looking for 1 particular film.
I agree that lack of funds is the issue, not surprisingly. (No, I haven't funded anything, but I have seen to it that the nitrate I found one day got a good home.)
But I also think there may be a small number of people who simply get off on having something others don't ("I don't want to lend"). I've heard stories of people who had been holding on to some shows, whose next of kin tossed their collection in the garbage can the week after they died...
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 9:32 am

But this system that you've just described can be a pain if you are for example looking for 1 particular film.


Yes, life is like that. What else is there to say?

Le Maison de Mystere is coming out on blu-ray in the next couple of months. That was on my "no effin' way I'll ever see THAT" list, and soon it'll be on my shelf. Glass half full.
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Spiny Norman

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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 9:50 am

Mike Gebert wrote:
But this system that you've just described can be a pain if you are for example looking for 1 particular film.


Yes, life is like that. What else is there to say?

Le Maison de Mystere is coming out on blu-ray in the next couple of months. That was on my "no effin' way I'll ever see THAT" list, and soon it'll be on my shelf. Glass half full.

Bit of a truism, but yes, if you must, that happens all the time and not just with films. I just think the people who are truly hoarders are despicable (only them, not the others).

About the other truism: The glass is twice as large as it needs to be, besides, the upper half is filled with air, and who can live without air?
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 9:58 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:
But this system that you've just described can be a pain if you are for example looking for 1 particular film.


Yes, life is like that. What else is there to say?

Le Maison de Mystere is coming out on blu-ray in the next couple of months. That was on my "no effin' way I'll ever see THAT" list, and soon it'll be on my shelf. Glass half full.

Bit of a truism, but yes, if you must, that happens all the time and not just with films. I just think the people who are truly hoarders are despicable (only them, not the others).

About the other truism: The glass is twice as large as it needs to be, besides, the upper half is filled with air, and who can live without air?


All of which reminds me of the Gary Larsen "The Far Side" cartoon that I still have posted on my wall. It shows "The four basic personality types".

First person: "The glass is half full!"
Second person: "The glass is half empty!"
Third person: "Half full! ... No, wait! Half empty! ... No,half ... What was the question?"
Fourth person: "Hey! I ordered a cheeseburger!"


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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 11:13 am

I think the image of the shadowy, selfish collector propagated by people such as McIntyre diverts attention from the real problem. There are still far too many vintage films in which the copyright is owned by a person (usually a corporate one) who is not making, nor intends to make any use of it. There are many instances of legal rights which lapse by reason of desuetude and, in my opinion, this should be added to them.

I realise the analogy is not exact but no-one would seriously suggest that a collector who, at his/her own time and expense, has unearthed a Renaissance masterpiece or a first edition of The Great Gatsby should be compelled to hand it over.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 12:36 pm

alistairw wrote:I think the image of the shadowy, selfish collector propagated by people such as McIntyre diverts attention from the real problem. There are still far too many vintage films in which the copyright is owned by a person (usually a corporate one) who is not making, nor intends to make any use of it. There are many instances of legal rights which lapse by reason of desuetude and, in my opinion, this should be added to them.

I realise the analogy is not exact but no-one would seriously suggest that a collector who, at his/her own time and expense, has unearthed a Renaissance masterpiece or a first edition of The Great Gatsby should be compelled to hand it over.


Just to be provocative ... What if it was the only surviving copy of Gatsby? Or of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?

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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 1:09 pm

I'm reminded, Jim, of the reporter interviewing an Occupy Wall Street guy who said there should be no such thing as private property. "So I can just take your Ipad?" "That's personal property."

To be provocative, mind if I go through your house and take stuff that's valuable?

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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 1:33 pm

boblipton wrote:I'm reminded, Jim, of the reporter interviewing an Occupy Wall Street guy who said there should be no such thing as private property. "So I can just take your Ipad?" "That's personal property."

To be provocative, mind if I go through your house and take stuff that's valuable?

Bob


You would emerge empty-handed!

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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 1:46 pm

A valid point. I'm not a collector so perhaps my view is overly romanticised but my experience is that a large majority of collectors (large enough anyway to render the problem de mimimis) would be only too pleased to receive an offer from a reputable source to take the necessary preservation steps.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 2:02 pm

A film's purpose is to be seen by a large number of people. If it's not available to be seen due to the efforts of a hoarder, it's not only failing to serve its purpose, it's being actively prevented from doing so, and it might as well be lost.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostMon Mar 04, 2013 2:57 pm

Jim Roots wrote:All of which reminds me of the Gary Larsen "The Far Side" cartoon that I still have posted on my wall. It shows "The four basic personality types".

First person: "The glass is half full!"
Second person: "The glass is half empty!"
Third person: "Half full! ... No, wait! Half empty! ... No,half ... What was the question?"
Fourth person: "Hey! I ordered a cheeseburger!"


Jim

And then there would be a fifth person who examines the glass and takes a sip:
"Wait a minute. This is just water! So, like, what's the big deal all about?"
And finishes drinking the water.

To the general public, a collector is just some crazy eccentric with "just some old movie. So, like what's the big deal all about?"
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostTue Mar 05, 2013 2:42 pm

alistairw wrote:A valid point. I'm not a collector so perhaps my view is overly romanticised but my experience is that a large majority of collectors (large enough anyway to render the problem de mimimis) would be only too pleased to receive an offer from a reputable source to take the necessary preservation steps.

Despite my earlier remarks there may be very little "hiding" going on. I was told that many collectors lent their Doctor Who episodes selflessly to the BBC for recovery. And the rumours about people clutching yet more missing episodes are very often just rumours.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostTue Mar 05, 2013 6:32 pm

Monsieur X wrote:A film's purpose is to be seen by a large number of people. If it's not available to be seen due to the efforts of a hoarder, it's not only failing to serve its purpose, it's being actively prevented from doing so, and it might as well be lost.


I often feel this way--and not always so much toward other collectors, who I deal with or know of by being one myself--but about films in some archives. The policies put in place by some archives or sometimes even the donors make access close to impossible, or prohibitively expensive. This is sometimes understandable, though, given that in some cases an archive needs to put forth such high restrictions in order to try and fund itself should an interested researcher/distributor come along and want to copy a film. The sad fact is archives need money to stay afloat, from wherever they can get it, and most researchers and even distributors don’t have a fraction of the cash involved for accessing, copying, and restoring films. In the worst case scenarios, there are no terms written down that you can ask for, and you have to play games and do some brown-nosing, oftentimes with no success. It’s not fair to the films at all. I think we all naturally feel like archives and collectors should just “bend the rules” for that one film (or fifty!) that we want to see/copy.

In the end, it all really depends on which archive or collector has or winds up with a film. That’s usually all it takes to determine accessibility. Some are greedy, snooty, snobby and spiteful and others are just lovely but poor. Cash? As I just suggested, that plays an important part in the end, too, even with those who want to share their films. Archives need to pay their employees. Collectors/historians who are not independently wealthy, aren’t lucky enough to work in the field but have spent a lifetime saving film also need to eat lunch sometimes.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostTue May 28, 2013 11:47 pm

Gentlemen,

I recently joined this website because several years ago when I was creating MARC records for the public libraries, seventeen 16mm film projectors and three 35mm film projectors went to the savage yard -- they were scraped because nobody used them anymore. If was so much easier to just throw them away then to find them new homes... I have no idea how many cans of films were tossed into the garbage -- I managed to save Nanook of the North, the Gold Rush, Grandma's Boy and several others and send them to collectors. God only knows what got tossed, I don't even want to think about it! Now when I find unwanted cans of film, I will at least have a place to post what I've got and hopefully find them new homes.

Many of the silent films that are available now on DVD were assumed to be "lost forever" when I was a film student during the 1970s. They have since been "rediscovered." To every film collector, archivist, preservationist, etc. out there who contributed their collections, their time, and their knowledge to finding and restoring these forgotten visions of the past, I THANK YOU! You have enriched my life and countless high school students who have become interested in the silent era and now know that Johnny Depp wasn't the first pirate to slide down a ship mast using a knife!

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Re: Films held in private collection

PostWed May 29, 2013 8:19 am

I cannot believe this conversation has gone on this long and no one has referenced the situation of the uncut A Star Is Born (1954) and private collecting.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostWed May 29, 2013 9:51 am

augustinius wrote:I cannot believe this conversation has gone on this long and no one has referenced the situation of the uncut A Star Is Born (1954) and private collecting.

Why, what is the story there?
That's what this forum is for after all, to hear those stories. There is no final authority/source/truth about things like that. Only very few DVDs really give you everything in the final most complete version with all relevant extras. And Wikipedia SOMETIMES has the right information but that's always hard to judge.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostWed May 29, 2013 11:25 am

" I cannot believe this conversation has gone on this long and no one has referenced
the situation of the uncut A Star Is Born (1954) and private collecting... "

Why, what is the story there?

http://www.thejudyroom.com/asib/asib-article.html
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostWed May 29, 2013 11:51 am

Scoundrel wrote:" I cannot believe this conversation has gone on this long and no one has referenced
the situation of the uncut A Star Is Born (1954) and private collecting... "

Why, what is the story there?

http://www.thejudyroom.com/asib/asib-article.html

A sad story, because the real victims are the films and the audience. The average fan won't be able to see, or will generally not even know about it, unless you are on intimate terms with the collector who does have ASIB (or any other film) uncut.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostWed May 29, 2013 12:43 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:A sad story, because the real victims are the films and the audience. The average fan won't be able to see, or will generally not even know about it, unless you are on intimate terms with the collector who does have ASIB (or any other film) uncut.


The average fan doesn't care, they are happy with what they have.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostWed May 29, 2013 3:04 pm

LouieD wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:A sad story, because the real victims are the films and the audience. The average fan won't be able to see, or will generally not even know about it, unless you are on intimate terms with the collector who does have ASIB (or any other film) uncut.


The average fan doesn't care, they are happy with what they have.

Alright, when I complain to people about incomplete DVD releases they usually are not that upset. But I guess 5-10% of the viewers would mind if they knew. The people in the business, reviewers, researchers, aficionado's, fans of specific movies/artists...
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostWed May 29, 2013 4:19 pm

Anything's possible, but I can't say the breathless way that piece is written makes it more convincing.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostWed May 29, 2013 4:25 pm

Not only breathless, but poorly organized -- notice the identification of Joe Capriccio(sp?) and Joe Caps twice -- and inaccurate. The Norma Talmadge movies Ashes of Vengeance was released in a 112 minute version and a 72-minute version.

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Re: Films held in private collection

PostThu May 30, 2013 11:32 am

While I don't particularly care for silent films beyond a few exceptions, this discussion also applies to sound movies.

Blaming "hoarding" collectors for the unavailability of rare/lost titles is bull dung. It is the copyright owner who did not save and/or care for these titles who is responsible for their unavailability. Over my life, I have known a lot of film collectors and seen a lot of rare, one of a kind material. While there are certainly collectors who "hoard" their material, and others who actively want to make it available, most are somewhere middle.

While the comments on this thread gloss over the hostile manner that many copyright owners treat collectors, this is a major issue collectors. There is no trust. Further, many collectors are of the opinion that there is no reason for them to provide material for someone else to make money. Some studios/archives have the attitude that collectors should provide their material for free, so the studio can make money off material they foolishly did not save. You would see a lot less "hoarding" if the studios would pony up the cash. While most of these titles will not generate much in the way of DVD sales, let face it, if there was no money in it, there would not be a DVD.

And while we are bantering around terms, why don't we substitute "collector" with "private archive". I don't see the difference. For example, UCLA, LOC, the Academy only loans out prints to select venues, as do many collectors. Many collectors would restore their rare material if someone donated the money to them.

The fact that Al Detlaff owned a print of Edison's Frankenstein was never really a secret. He just felt that if someone was going to make money off of it, it was going to be him. The restored 35mm film print and DVD release was funded by Kino. I assume they met his price for using his material.

I met Al Detlaff at the Landmark Loews Jersey when he was doing his Edison's Frankenstein tour. He introduced it on stage dressed as father time. I was the projectionist for that show. He wanted me to project a slide with his copyright notice over the picture so that nobody could video tape it off the screen. I refused. Hopefully other venues did too. Other than that, he seemed like a nice guy but was certainly a character. He brought the original nitrate print with him, and displayed it on rewinds in the lobby. He also brought a silent hand tinted cartoon, the title escapes me, but it was nitrate so I did not run it.

Several years later, Mr. Detlaff did donate his nitrate print of the 1912 Robin Hood to the Fort Lee Film Society here in NJ. It came in a box with a pile littered with frames cut from the print. The Fort Lee Film Society did the restoration and struck a new 35mm print.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostThu May 30, 2013 3:39 pm

Mitchell Dvoskin wrote:Blaming "hoarding" collectors for the unavailability of rare/lost titles is bull dung.

Remind me where they were squarely blamed in the first place?
Mitchell Dvoskin wrote:And while we are bantering around terms, why don't we substitute "collector" with "private archive". I don't see the difference.

That's a bit far fetched, don't you think? Last week I went to the MoMa and saw a film projected just for me. I don't see that happening very quickly at a private collector's garden shed.
But no-one's making accusations like that, so relax.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostThu May 30, 2013 4:12 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:That's a bit far fetched, don't you think? Last week I went to the MoMa and saw a film projected just for me. I don't see that happening very quickly at a private collector's garden shed.
But no-one's making accusations like that, so relax.


You obviously don't live close to me. Have you asked? There may be a collector in your area who has regular screenings. If you're ever in Dallas, let me know.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostThu May 30, 2013 4:27 pm

Jim Reid wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:That's a bit far fetched, don't you think? Last week I went to the MoMa and saw a film projected just for me. I don't see that happening very quickly at a private collector's garden shed.
But no-one's making accusations like that, so relax.


You obviously don't live close to me. Have you asked? There may be a collector in your area who has regular screenings. If you're ever in Dallas, let me know.

That's not the same. I suspect you don't have regular opening hours, a library and research facility, online database of your collection, a coffee machine serving brown water, etcetera. Don't get me wrong, it's great that people like you host screenings or contribute to festivals, saving and keeping alive rare films. I wish I had the films to do that. But the claim that a collector is equal to an archive is just ludicrous. If you hadn't brought it up just now, I would never have known that I could call on you (not that I live in Dallas, but the offer's appreciated).
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostThu May 30, 2013 5:04 pm

So Amazing Spinyman, is what you are saying is that if an archival institution does not make their collection available for public screenings, whether in their own venue or thru outside venues, they are not an archive?

Is what you are saying is that if in archival institution does not list it's collection to public it is not an archive?

Are you saying that if an archival institution does not have a coffee machine, it is not an archive?

I can think of a few well respected archives that do not make their prints available to the public, nor do they have a publicly accessible list of what they have.

I almost think you have lost sight of the fact that these prints are private property of their respective owners to do with as they see fit, within the bounds of the copyright laws when applicable. Many of the well known archives only make their rarer prints available internally and to invited guests. How is that any different?

Collectors spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars acquiring items nobody else wanted and preserving them the best they are able. It is no surprise that many are not open to others using their material for commercial gain with little to no compensation.

Wishing that all collectors would make their material available is like me wishing that copyright holders without prints would lose their copyright and the film would become public domain. Both would make more films available, but neither is going to happen.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostThu May 30, 2013 5:11 pm

Jim's collection is pretty large, and he and I put on public shows when we can find a venue that wants to have a movie event, and we screen films monthly for our local Dallas area classic movie group. Our group used to just be a handful of people, but now we barely have room for everybody that attends our monthly screenings.

And we are only talking about films and videos, but I regularly share my photo and memorabilia collection with researchers and authors. There's not much of a point in having a closet full of films or photos if you can't share them with other movie fans.

If you attend the conventions like Cinecon or just drop in to Nitrateville regularly, it will be easy to make connections that can help you to see classic films.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostFri May 31, 2013 3:48 am

Mitchell Dvoskin wrote:Are you saying that if an archival institution does not have a coffee machine, it is not an archive?

Glad you understand, because that's exactly what I was saying. Luckily no-one's trying to twist my words.
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Re: Films held in private collection

PostFri May 31, 2013 6:50 am

Mitchell Dvoskin wrote:So Amazing Spinyman, is what you are saying is that if an archival institution does not make their collection available for public screenings, whether in their own venue or thru outside venues, they are not an archive?

Is what you are saying is that if in archival institution does not list it's collection to public it is not an archive?

Are you saying that if an archival institution does not have a coffee machine, it is not an archive?

I can think of a few well respected archives that do not make their prints available to the public, nor do they have a publicly accessible list of what they have.

I almost think you have lost sight of the fact that these prints are private property of their respective owners to do with as they see fit, within the bounds of the copyright laws when applicable. Many of the well known archives only make their rarer prints available internally and to invited guests. How is that any different?

Collectors spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars acquiring items nobody else wanted and preserving them the best they are able. It is no surprise that many are not open to others using their material for commercial gain with little to no compensation.


Am I mistaken, or are you actually arguing that collectors and archives shouldn't make their material available??? Because that's crap. The sole purpose of a film is to be seen by as many people as want to see it. If the only copy of a film is locked up in an archive or a collector's house, it isn't being seen by more than a few people, and thus it isn't serving its purpose. What's the point of its existence?

And yes, some collectors and archives do hold screenings of their films, but that only serves to expand the film's audience to the people who can make it to the showing. But that doesn't include me, and I'm sure there are plenty of other people who want to see the film that it doesn't include, as I imagine there are lots of silent film fans who don't have the money or time to go flying all over the country to attend screenings.
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