Long Lost Masterpiece Film Recovered
A silent masterpiece if British cinema, thought to have been lost for the past 80 years, has been found. Love, Life and Laughter, a 1923 film written and directed by legendary silent-film maker George Pearson, had simply made its home in a small cinema in Hattem in the Netherlands, before making its way to the Dutch EYE film museum.
The British Film Institute (BFI) has been looking for the film for years and has the 90-minute masterpiece listed on its 75 Most Wanted, which is their list of most sought-after British films that they do not have a copy of in their archives, dating back to 1913 and many of which are believed to have been lost.
Love, Life and Laughter stars Betty Balfour, easily considered Britain’s most famous and successful silent actress. She was best known for her recurring role in Pearson’s film of Squibs, who was the main character in a series of highly popular silent comedies.
The film tells the tale of a chorus girl named Tip Toes, played by Balfour, who wanted to make it big in the music halls. She lives in the top floor of a run-down house, and befriends the lonely tenant who lives in the attic above her, who dreams of becoming a famous writer. The pair make a pact to make their dreams come true and agree to meet back in the same place two years later to see if each other made it happen.
It was thought that only half a dozen production stills, a publicity leaflet and a campaign book (complete with illustrations and film-synopsis) were the only survivors of Love, Life and Laughter. Only one other film by Pearson is thought to survive, Squibs Wins the Calcutta Sweep, although many of his films are on the Most Wanted, which makes this latest discovery even more significant.
When the small cinema in which the film had been in hiding was about to be redeveloped, in November 2012, a local television station employee collected some of the film canisters there and took them to the EYE in the hope of uncovering some footage of the world wars.
The film canisters were finally being catalogued recently, when the researchers came across Love, Life and Laughter. They contacted Bryony Dixon, who is the silent film curator for the BFI’s National Archive.
Dixon explained that most of the films from Pearson’s era would have been recycled for their silver content, especially after most British film studios were shut down in the financial crisis of the 1920s, resulting in around 80% of the films from that time being lost.
“I’m one of the handful of people for whom the title means anything at all, and I had a sort of ‘Oh my God’ moment,” Dixon said. “It is very exciting for us. We’ve been looking for this one for a long time, so it’s great news.”