A Guide to
THE LOST FILMS OF LAUREL AND HARDY
Part 1 by Trevor Dorman
This is one article I wish I didn't have to write. How I wish all the L&H films were complete. Unfortunately the reality is that they are not. I have attempted to gather together all available information on the missing films. Every few years the films do turn up, but with the passing of time their rescue is all the more urgent due to the volatility of nitrate film. Hopefully, one day you'll be able to rent The Rogue Song from your local video store but until then we'll just have to keep searching.
In this first part, I'll discuss The Rogue Song. In future issues I'll look at Laurel and Hardy's shorts and also the foreign language versions.
THE ROGUE SONG
Released May 10th 1930.
Probably the most sought after Laurel and Hardy film due to it being shot in two colour Technicolor. This was an experimental and expensive process but the results were breathtaking, even today. The silent film Ben Hur from the early 1920's was filmed partially in this process and survives. I've seen some of it and it is gorgeous. Just what happened to The Rogue Song? A fire in MGM destroyed the studio's print and the Technicolor Corporation destroyed their check print and negative years ago. It was considered lost in the 1960's. Then in the 1970's the complete soundtrack was discovered. Then in 1982 a 3 minute clip with Laurel and Hardy was found among the personal effects of a New Hampshire projectionist. In the early 1990's a mute trailer was found (contents unknown). Then in 1993 a Sons member asked the Prague Archive if they had any remnants of this film. Indeed they had! They had a reel of film (unfortunately without L&H) which was made up of excerpts from the film. It was an original print and was mute. It has since been preserved. Later on the soundtrack for the trailer was discovered. This film seems reluctant to be found and is only surfacing in bits and pieces.
Recently, Bram Reijnhoudt wrote about a lead as to the whereabouts of this film. I quote his article:
BERLIN - a trace of the Rogue Song (the long-lost feature film with Laurel and Hardy) has been found, at least on paper, in East Berlin. During a visit to a synchronisation studio of the former DEFA (East German film industry), Achim Vogtner of Germany's Two Tars Tent discovered company records to the effect that in the 1960's a German version of the film Das Lied Der Banditen (Song of the Bandits) was dubbed into Russian. A certain L. Barrymoor' (sic) was mentioned as the director of the film that according to the DEFA books, was made in two-tone color. It is assumed that the film was shown on television to the Russian troops. Unfortunately, during a second visit to the DEFA studio, Vogtner found that all staff members had been discharged and no further information could be gained. Vogtner hopes to continue his research in Moscow.
So at least we have proof that it existed up to the 60's at least and may still exist somewhere. We must attempt to track down this print now. I would love to hear of any further developments, either re-filmed in those languages or dubbed.
There is still hope of The Rogue Song being found but it will take some digging and a lot of research. All available leads should be exhausted. Now is the time to begin, nitrate is so volatile that in another few years it will be pointless even looking and if it were to be found it will have disintegrated. The Battle Of The Century decomposed in the 1950's!
In the next part of Trevor's fascinating look at The Lost Films of Laurel and Hardy he looks at the silent films released in 1927.NOTE: Future installments will only appear in our printed Laurel and Hardy Magazine'. So we do hope that you will subscribe.
How about we all make that extra special effort to try and track down a movie for the millennium. Can you think of anyone who might have access to old movies that has not yet been asked? Can you think of any unopened vaults? These movies must exist somewhere!
There is still hope of finding the missing Laurel and Hardy Film, The Rogue Song', as a fragment of the film has been found in New England. Northeast Historic Film( NHF), northern New Englands film and video archives recently located the portion. The 500 ft. of nitrate cellulose film, which was said to be in excellent physical condition contains a ballet sequence from the movie made in two- colour Technicolor.
This sequence has been preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, NHF and Warner Bros., the films copyright holder. A clip from this new found footage will be included in a tribute to Technicolor airing on Turner Classic Movies in December. CLICK BELOW TO PLAY ROGUE SONG CLIP:
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