Stars of Lost Films of the 1920s

The film celebrities of the 1920s were the first true superstars. They were instantly recognized wherever they went, sometimes to a fault, i.e., being mobbed. While many examples of their films have survived and are even in circulation on dvds these days, many more films are lost forever. Here’s a roundup of some notable stars of the era in films that are now lost.

Douglas Fairbanks (here with Winifred Westover in lost film, THE KNICKERBOCKER BUCKEROO from 1919) was universally acknowledged as the uncrowned king of Hollywood by 1920. But even Doug had no idea of his appeal until he ventured away from Los Angeles on his honeymoon with Mary Pickford. This photo was scanned directly from an 8×10 inch work negative:

Wallace Reid is remembered more for his sad death of drug addiction in 1923. He was an incredibly popular star in the late teens and early 1920s. This photo, scanned directly from an 8×10 inch work negative, is from one of his later films, FOREVER (1921), another lost film, which was an adaptation of the fantasy, PETER IBBETTSON:

Beautiful Dolores Costello was discovered on the Warner Bros. lot by John Barrymore in 1925. They made two hit films together but many of Costello’s films haven’t survived including this film from 1929. Today she may be better known as the paternal grandmother of Drew Barrymore:

Two magnetic personalities, Ronald Colman and Vilma Banky, in the lost THE TWO LOVERS (1927). Colman became a greater star in sound films through the 1950s with his velvet voice and charming British accent. Some say Banky revealed a rather thick Hungarian accent in talkies, while others say no, she sounded something like Garbo. In any event, Vilma transitioned her fame nicely to make a fortune selling real estate in California:

That’s a young Joan Crawford in the title role of ROSE-MARIE (1928) with House Peters and James Murray. The 1936 remake starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy is better known but this silent musical apparently had virtues of its own. Perhaps a print will yet turn up. This photo was scanned directly from an 8×10 inch work negative:

The original Rin Tin Tin made over 25 feature films from 1923 to 1930 yet only a handful survive. Here’s pastoral scene from one of the lost ones, A DOG OF THE REGIMENT (1927) with Dorothy Gulliver:

The films of Lon Chaney Sr. have a high survival rate and many are available on dvd and streaming video. But his LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927) is perhaps the most famous lost American film of all time:

Rudolph Valentino’s films from his relatively brief career also enjoy a high survival rate but A SAINTED DEVIL (1924) remains stubbornly elusive. This photo was scanned directly from a work negative:

This lobby card from WOLF SONG (1929) is one of Gary Cooper’s first starring films, here with Lupe Velez. This film is a reason for optimism: WOLF SONG was long listed as a lost film but a print was recently discovered. However, it is not in circulation at this time so to many film buffs it still seems lost:

George Arliss scored a big success in 1932 with THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD, where he also provided Bette Davis with her breakthrough role. But Mr. A had made this story ten years earlier as a silent film that is now lost. This is an original glass slide from 1922:

Beautiful Mary Astor was a star from silent films to television and co-starred with the top leading men in each era. When her film career wound down, she became a best-selling novelist. Key films from every phase of her career exist but here’s a lost one from 1929:

Published in: on December 12, 2011 at 7:59 PM  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. There are so many great films that are lost to us forever. Thank you for reminding me of them and, as always, your fantastic photographs.


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