By Guest Blogger Spencer Blohm
One of the many things that most of us don’t give up on from our childhood is that tiny sliver of hope that we’ll somehow find hidden treasure. It may not be as extravagant as finding a secret passageway in your living room to a tunnel of gold, but most of us can’t deny that little rush when they think they may have found something of value (after all, Antiques Roadshow has made an entire series about it).
The Dutch film institute, known as EYE, had that feeling when they started unpacking the shipment of films earlier this year that they had originally received in November of 2012. The package consisted of leftover film cans from an older building in a rural Dutch town that had briefly been used as a cinema in the late 20’s. In the package, they discovered one of the BFI’s most sought after films: Love, Life, and Laughter. The 1923 silent film, directed by George Pearson, is a landmark find for the BFI, who had assumed that this film, like so many other silents, was destroyed or recycled following the bank crisis of 1924 (which put many studios out of business).
The film stars the enigmatic Betty Balfour, the most famous British actress of the silent film era, and is generally regarded as the British equivalent to the United States’ Mary Pickford. Love, Life and Laughter is the film which launched Balfour’s career and was just one of a series of critically and commercially successful collaborations between Balfour and Pearson. It’s a particularly significant find for Pearson fans too, since it is only the second film of his that the BFI possesses a complete version of.
In the film, Balfour plays Tip Toes, a down on her luck chorus girl who yearns to be center stage. She befriends a young writer in a similar situation to her own (played by Harry Jonas), and the two agree to meet up two years later in order to see if either of them made it big. The film, naturally, wouldn’t have been such a hot commodity if it wasn’t regarded as a cinematic masterpiece, with Balfour receiving much praise. Adding to its allure is the fact that it is somewhat of an anomaly being a full length film, since it was produced during a short period where studios decided to expand the length of their silent films.
The BFI is hoping to receive a copy from EYE, so that they can translate the Dutch intertitles and screen it for audiences within the next year. This discovery is the ultimate lost treasure for film buffs all around the world, not just in Britain, and shows that perhaps we shouldn’t give up on those childhood wishes after all.
About the Author: Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, film, and pop culture blogger for DirectTelevisionSpecials.org. Despite multiple attempts, he’s never been able to find hidden treasures or films in either of his grandparent’s attics. He lives and works in Chicago, where he can often be found scouring flea markets looking for a big find.