Tracing a background for historical films requires the researcher to consider information from a number of sources, and can be an important part of the restoration process, providing information not only on the original context in which the film was screened, but in how a version screened in one territory may differ from those seen elsewhere.
(l – r)A note on the screening at the Chicago Theatre in Tilburg from the Nieuwe Tilsburgsche Coursant on 17 February 1930; The Asta, Rotterdam, which was to close in 1940, as it appeared in the late 1930s; A note on the screening at the Leeuwarder from the Leeuwarder Courant on 2 January 1930
From the limited information on screenings of The Last Edition in the Netherlands available it would appear that The Last Edition (or, as it was translated into Dutch, De Laatste Uitgave) appeared in cinemas in Rotterdam (July 19 1929, at the Olympia and August 23 1929, at the Asta), Leeuwarden (early January 1930, at the Leeuwarder), Tilburg (during February 18-20 1930 at the Chicago Theater) and Utrecht (28 November 1930 at the Vreeburg Bioscoop). Such a run means that the The Last Edition was still being shown around 5 years afters its original appearance in US theaters. Given the limited number of screenings, it is likely that the print shown – distributed by Loet C. Barnstijn ‘s Standaard Films NV of Den Haag – was the only Dutch print in existence, and is the print held by EYE, used as the source for the restoration.
Interestingly, it appears that the Dutch censors required a single cut be made to the film, due to ‘excitement’, of whose content all we learn is “Mr. Looking at moving legs girl”. While we cannot be certain of the the identities of ‘Mr.’ and ‘girl’, the cut seems likely to have been made in the first scene (below) between newspaper owner Jerome Hamilton and the stenographer Fanny O’Grady. As the sole source for the restoration, this censored Dutch edition provides all our knowledge for how the film appeared in release – censors operating in differing areas may have required different cuts altogether, and may have even found ‘Mr. Looking’ permissible.
The sequence in which the censored shot most likely occurred
The story of the Dutch print following its theatrical distribution is sadly unknown. Its seven reels of nitrate film came to EYE (known then as Filmmuesum) in 2005, as part of the Zaalberg collection, amassed by a professional film collector. Such private collections are an important source of material when they arrive at an archive, often allowing for the discovery of a film previously thought lost. The maintenance of private collections is, however, a source of mystery and concern for archivists and restorers. Unknown treasures from our film heritage may exist in such private collections, though any material, especially that on unstable nitrate stock, is at risk of being lost for ever, denied the specialist conservation it would receive in an archival collection.