Rescuing The Last Edition
The quest to restore the “lost” 1925 drama
The Fate of Early Cinema
It is estimated that only ten to fifteen percent of the motion pictures created during the silent-era still survive in complete form today. The other 85-90% of all motion pictures created prior to 1930 are considered “lost” – titles for which not a single surviving print is known to exist. The rare surviving original film prints that still exist in archives and private collections are unique artifacts, time capsules of a bygone era.
In April 2011 Bay Area film preservationist Rob Byrne learned that EYE Film Instituut Nederland, the Dutch national film archive, held in their collection an original nitrate print of The Last Edition, a film hitherto not known to have survived. Research subsequently confirmed that the archive holds the only known surviving copy.
The Last Edition
The Last Edition is one in a series of films created by Emory Johnson in the mid-1920s, many of which were set in the San Francisco Bay Area and all of which featured blue-collar protagonists such as policemen, railroad engineers, printers, mailmen, and baseball players. In the case of The Last Edition the leading character is a pressman at the San Francisco Chronicle, played by veteran actor Ralph Lewis.
The filmography includes:
- In the Name of the Law (1922) – San Francisco policeman
- The Third Alarm (1923) – Fireman
- The West-Bound Limited (1923) – Railroad engineer
- The Mailman (1923) – U.S. Mailman
- The Spirit of the USA (1924) – Sailor
- Life’s Greatest Game (1924) – Baseball player
- The Last Edition (1925) – San Francisco Chronicle pressman
With few exceptions, none of these films are known to exist in any form. The Last Edition, is one of these rare exceptions. The film is an exciting drama in its own right, but what makes it extra special is its unique documentary and historical value. Shot in and around the Chronicle building, the action-packed drama features thrilling chases through the city, newspaper production from press to print, and a (literally) “stop the presses” climax that includes a dramatic fire and rescue.
Rescuing The Last Edition
With the discovery of the lone surviving film print began the quest to preserve the fragile vintage nitrate material and restore the film to the screen.
The project’s goal is to digitally restore the film material, create modern film prints for theatrical presentation, and to create a preservation negative on polyester film stock for long-term archival storage.
The project is a collaboration between the EYE Film Instituut Nederland and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Both of these organizations have agreed to dedicate their resources and the time of their staff and employees at no cost.
The end products of the project will consist of two new 35mm exhibition prints, one of which will stay in Netherlands and the other to be preserved at the United States Library of Congress. In addition, a new preservation negative will be created, as well as archival digital copies also to be held in both Netherlands and Library of Congress.