Lost Media

A 104-Year-Old Lost Silent Movie Has Been Found in a Basement

'Sealed Hearts' was made in 1919 and had been thought lost forever. "The film had been in the cellar for many years," a film historian said. "Exciting!"
A 104-Year-Old Lost Silent Movie Has Been Found in a Basement
Image: Film Is Fabulous festival

A 104-year-old silent movie that had been thought lost forever has been found, an organization dedicated to preserving rare and endangered film has announced.

The movie, called Sealed Hearts, was released in 1919 and was directed by Ralph Ince, who was prolific during the silent era. It was produced by Lewis Selznick, a giant of silent film, and starred Eugene O’Brien, Robert Edison, and Lucille Lee Stewart. The movie reels were recently found in the basement of a film collector who had died. 

“A film collector in the northwest of England explained to me, during a telephone call, that he had an old nitrate film,” John Franklin, the principal organizer of the Film Is Fabulous festival, which is dedicated to saving lost and endangered films, told me. “It had been found in the cellar of a property, which had belonged to a deceased film collector. The film had been in the cellar for many years.” 

Details of the discovery will be announced this weekend at the festival in Leicester, England.

One of the reels discovered in the basement.

“Upon examination, it was confirmed that reels 1-4 of the missing silent 35mm print entitled: Sealed Hearts, was in the cans. The original US distribution print had lasted 50 mins and been in 5 reels,” he added. “We assumed that the film was, therefore, incomplete. But Eric Greyson, one of the main nitrate restorers in the USA explained that the U.K. distributor almost certainly edited the film down to 4 reels, and in all probability the edited film is complete. Exciting!”

The American Film Institute notes that the film was shot in the Bronx in the summer of 1919. “Frank Prentiss, a multi-millionaire who hates and distrusts women, convinces his adopted son, Jack, that they are detrimental to a man's success.” Jack eventually meets a woman, fights with his dad about it, etc. A review of the movie from 1919 says it’s “a colorful drama of youthful loves, elderly prejudices, and clashing natures that is rich in beauty, forceful in development, and thrilling in climax.”

More importantly, it’s a staggering find of a film that had been lost for years and of which no other copies are known to exist. Franklin said that after the film is screened this weekend, his organization is working on getting the copy to the Library of Congress: “The print is still here, in the U.K., awaiting all the necessary forms and licenses to be exported to the US. The Library of Congress will be the final destination. The full details of the film will only be ascertained once the film is examined by the experts at the LoC,” he said.