The university, which has the boys' original Hal Roach film negatives and other source materials in their archives, is behind a drive to restore the prints with a nod toward eventual DVD transfers.
The push to preserve the films was announced earlier this month at Cinefest in Syracuse, N.Y. by the director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, Jan-Christopher Horak. A major lead gift from Jeff Joseph of $100,000 has been committed toward the project, and UCLA hopes Laurel & Hardy fans will pitch in to the fundraising effort. A site set up just last week for donations had received $4000 in pledges in just a few days.
I was able to see two restored Laurel & Hardy shorts this past Sunday in Los Angeles. A screening, part of the UCLA Festival of Preservation, was held at the beautiful Billy Wilder theater located in the Hammer Museum in Westwood, not far from the university campus.
|You have to walk past Billy to get into the Wilder auditorium|
He hopes some of his Hollywood pals who are big L&H fans--he singled out Dick Van Dyke and Tim Conway--will step forward and help with the fundraising.
"These films are so delicate you have no idea," he said of he urgent need for preservation. "Think of powder on the back of butterfly wings--they're that delicate."
The original L&H nitrate camera negatives have bounced around from distributor to distributor for years. Titles were chopped off and replaced. Random music was added. Things were indeed a fine mess.
I have several 16mm prints of their classic shorts and some of their features. Shown Sunday were two restored 35mm prints from 1930. One I have in my collection--Blotto--and another I don't think I have ever seen, Chickens Come Home.
|It's even Wilder inside|
The screening included the restored trailer of the lost L&H feature The Rogue Song. The Lawrence Tibbett operetta, a very early colour film, has vanished from the face of the earth. If you find a print in your attic or basement, contact UCLA or, better yet, me.