Rare silent film about Lincoln saved from old barn





In a tale celebrating the romance of movies, a contractor cleaning out an old New Hampshire barn destined for demolition found seven reels of nitrate film inside, including the only known copy of a 1913 silent film about Abraham Lincoln.

"When Lincoln Paid," a 30-minute film about the mother of a dead Union solider asking Lincoln to pardon a Confederate soldier whom she had initially turned in, stars the brother of John Ford, director of "The Grapes of Wrath," ''The Quiet Man," and other classics.

"I was up in the attic space, and shoved away over in a corner was the film and a silent movie projector, as well," Peter Massie, a movie buff, said of his discovery in the western New Hampshire town of Nelson. "I thought it was really cool."

It was the summer of 2006, and the film canisters sat in his basement for a while before Massie thought of contacting nearby Keene State College, where film professor Larry Benaquist thought it was a rare find.

After working with the George Eastman House film preservation museum in Rochester, New York, the college determined that the film, directed by and starring Francis Ford, did not exist in film archives. In fact, it was one of eight silent films starring Ford as Lincoln; there are no known surviving copies of the others.

"The vast majority of silent films, particularly from the early period -- the first decade of the 20th century -- are gone," said Caroline Frick Page, curator of motion pictures at George Eastman House. "That's what makes these stories so incredibly special."...


comments powered by Disqus