Vault Assistant Darren Slattery at British Film Institute film archive
One of Britain's "most-wanted" lost films from the 1920s has turned up in a collection of old canisters rescued from a rural Dutch cinema, Amsterdam's EYE Film Institute said on Wednesday. "The long-lost British masterpiece called
Love, Life and Laughter (1923) featuring actress Betty Balfour was discovered in the EYE's collection last Friday," spokesman Marnix van Wijk said.
Shot by famed director George Pearson, the film was listed as "missing" by the British Film Institute and featured on a list of 75 movies the BFI said "was not in our vaults" but "which we would love to find."
The silent classic features a youthful Balfour, by far the most popular British screen actress of the time, playing the role of "Tip-Toes", who dreams of dance-hall fame and befriends a young aspiring writer played by Harry Jonas.
The pair agree to meet each other in two years to see if their dreams came true.
This particular copy was shown in a cinema in Hattem near the central Dutch city of Zwolle between 1929-32, the EYE said.
The cinema closed down and the canisters were in storage at a local television station.
In 2012 a Dutch journalist brought them to the EYE in the Dutch capital.
"It took a while for us to open the canisters to see what's inside," Van Wijk told AFP.
"One of our people on Friday got to it, watched the film and saw the title. He went online and then realised 'Hey, this is a really exceptional discovery'," he said.
Bryony Dixon, silent movie curator at the BFI's National Archive, described it as a "very important find".
"Not only does Betty Balfour, the biggest female star of the silent movie period play the lead role, but also it's directed by George Pearson, one of Britain's most talented movie-makers at the time," he said.
At its release the British press hailed it "as a triumph", a "classic" and a "masterpiece", the EYE added.
It premiered for the first time in the Netherlands in Amsterdam's Tuschinski theatre on October 12 1923.
"We are in consultation with the BFI over how it will be restored and when the public will be able to enjoy the movie once again," Van Wijk said.