Lost Footage From Buster Keaton's "The Blacksmith" Discovered

Slate's Culture Blog
July 18 2013 2:24 PM

Watch Newly Discovered Buster Keaton Footage

Aisha Harris Aisha Harris

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

Not long ago, film historian Fernando Pena was looking through some 9.5mm film prints purchased by a friend on Ebay in 2008, when he made a shocking discovery: An alternate European print of a 1922 Buster Keaton classic short, The Blacksmith.

As Variety reports, it is not uncommon for alternate takes of silent films to crop up. This is due to the nature of filmmaking practices from the era—many silent films were often produced by using two cameras set up side-by-side to record the same action.* One set of negatives would be intended for domestic import, the other for foreign export, with little variation between the two.

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What makes this find so significant is that  the lost version of The Blacksmith, which features French intertitles, is significantly different from the U.S. version. One sequence involving a horse is absent from the found footage, for example, though there are "never-before-seen gags" according to Variety, as well as a slightly altered ending, in the version Pena uncovered.

This is not the first major contribution that Pena has made to film recovery and restoration. In 2008, he discovered the original, uncut version of Fritz Lang's epic Metropolis in its entirety within the archives of Argentina's Museo del Cine.

Variety has posted a short clip of his Keaton find on YouTube. The historian hopes to restore this new version of The Blacksmith for audiences to enjoy. 

[Via The Dissolve.]

*Correction, July 18, 2013: This post originally misidentified the practice of shooting silent films with two different cameras as a "two-reeler."

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