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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You can't judge a book....if you can't see the cover

Because I am not bent on selling the items I find, I don't have to be concerned with the condition I find them in. This book, "Who's who..." is a good example. The condition of the book is part of the story it has to tell. It looks as if it is about one stiff breeze away from turning to dust. I bought it for the subject, because I enjoy the medium. Having restored silent films at a previous job, I had the opportunity to watch hundreds of them (sound and silent), whether I wanted to or not. This book is an interesting compendium of the stars of the day (1920) and includes directors, studio bosses and other noteworthy people. It is a fascinating reference and amazing to see the level of film production when the industry seemed to be in its infancy. Considering the theme of film restoration, I thought I might try to see what this book might have looked like 90 years ago, or part of it. (My hat's off to whoever invented the "clone" tool.)
As I peruse the first few pages looking for a copyright date I often stumble upon other interesting items or clues. This image on the inside cover was very intriguing. I may be sounding like a broken record, but "who are these 2?" the picture looks like it was taken on back lot of a movie set and one of the subjects is obviously George Hyde, but any research on that name comes up empty. Although "Famous Players Studio" which was owned by Adolf Zukor, who later partnered with Laskey Pictures and then eventually became Paramount, is relatively easy to find.

While working in film restoration, my job was to go through each film and perform simple repairs, fix the splices, sprocket holes, and often re-edit an entire scene to cover for a section that was heavily damaged. It wasn't the purest form of restoration, but it was a great education in film history and research. All the films were being prepped to be transferred to video tape. It was the silent film transfers that were most unique with each one being recorded to video while an original organ score was performed by the famous Rosa Rio (Click her name to read an interesting biography of her at IMDB). A fascinating woman who's organ playing could be heard during of the screening of silent films, setting the mood for the radio series, "The Shadow", and waking the audience up for the "Today Show".
This was also on the inside cover, but these stamps were designed to commemorate the mothers of the US who had placed a flag with a star on it to honor a son lost in WWII. That could place the picture in the book closer to the middle of the century, but I think their clothes tell a story that's closer to 1920.

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