Edelman: Lost and found baseball films

From SABR member Rob Edelman at Our Game on September 27, 2012:

A gloomy fact of film history is that more than half the movies made during the silent film era (pre-1927) are lost—vanished into the mists with the passing generations.

One of the culprits is the evolution of film technology. For decades, prints and master materials of films were generated on nitrocellulose film stock, which deteriorates over time. Across the years, archivists have recovered “lost” films in rotting film cans that were hidden away under piles of boxes in grandma’s attic or deep in the bowels of motion picture studio storage facilities. When a can was pried open—if it could be pried open—all that remained was its contents in various stages of corrosion. The chemically deteriorating celluloid may have become sticky, or even solidified into a mass, or was coated in varying amounts of nitrate dust. Some images still could be seen and identified while those on other frames simply had dissolved.


As a result, an immeasurable number of moving images from that era exist only in faded memory.

To be sure, a handful of baseball-related feature-length films were produced before 1920. Those that are considered “lost” include Right Off the Bat (1915, Arrow), starring Mike Donlin; Somewhere in Georgia (1916, Sunbeam), featuring Ty Cobb; and Casey at the Bat (1916, Triangle), with DeWolf Hopper—not to be confused with a 1922 DeForest Phonofilm which utilizes the sound-on-film technology developed by Theodore Case and features a hammy Hopper reciting the poem that earned him immortality. Of the early non-baseball films in which ballplayer-turned-actor Donlin appeared, prints exist only for Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1917, States Rights); copies of Jack Spurlock, Prodigal (1918, Fox), Brave and Bold (1918, Fox), and The Unchastened Woman (1918, Rialto De Luxe-George Kleine System) all have vanished. 

Read the full article here: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/09/27/lost-and-found-baseball/

Originally published: September 27, 2012. Last Updated: September 27, 2012.