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Old 09-08-2019, 04:46 PM
Wesley Clark is offline
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When did it become normal to make copies of all the TV shows and movies


My understanding is a lot of films made 100 years ago are lost forever


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o..._on_lost_films

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Statistics on lost films
This is necessarily an incomplete list. Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation claims that "half of all American films made before 1950 and over 90% of films made before 1929 are lost forever."[4] Deutsche Kinemathek estimates that 80–90% of silent films are gone;[5] the film archive's own list contains over 3500 lost films.

A study by the Library of Congress states that 75% of all silent films are now lost.[6] While others dispute whether the percentage is quite that high,[7] it is impractical to enumerate any but the more notable and those that can be sourced.

For example, roughly 200 out of over 500 Méliès' films and 350 out of over 1,000 of Alice Guy's films survive.

Plus Marion Stokes recorded a lot of TV shows, which apparently is a new digital archive but she was recording in the 80s and 90s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Stokes

Nowadays I get the impression that pretty much everything is saved. But when did that start? When did it become common to save copies of all the movies and TV shows? If almost everything from before 1929 is gone, and half of the stuff before 1950 is gone then preservation must've started up in earnest in the 30s and 40s, but still not been anywhere where it needs to be.

But the implication was that even in the 80s and 90s, TV shows weren't being saved.
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Old 09-08-2019, 05:36 PM
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Early films are lost because the film stock deteriorated long ago. Both stock and storage have improved greatly sibce the 1920s.

As for TV shows, live presentations could only be recorded on kinescope (actually fiming the TV monitor during a broadcast) until around 1955. This would probably have been done more often if producers and advertisers had realized their future worth. Stars like Jackie Gleason and Desi Arnaz (and Audrey Meadows and Lucille Ball) had to fight to get episodes of their shows preserved. The powers that were thought they were crazy: "Nobody's gonna watch the same show twice!"

Game and variety and talk shows started being widely videotaped in the late 50's. While a lot of episodes of, say, Dean Martin's show have survived to this day, ones of You Don't Say and Split Second have not, since the videotapes were almost immediately wiped for repeated use. (The stuff was expensive.) I don't think any of the episodes of Steve Allen's syndicated show that I watched back in the late sixties have survived, which is a crying shame because they were hilarious. I suspect the same is true for Merv Griffin, Joe Pyne, Virginia Graham, and all of the other talk show hosts who were around then.

I imagine shows started to be saved for the sake of preserving them sometime in the early '70s. I think the enduring popularity of old series in syndication (Star Trek in particular) probably had something to do with this.
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Old 09-08-2019, 05:42 PM
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This extensive Wikipedia article on "Lost Television Broadcasts" gives many examples of what was lost, primarily due to live programs in the early days of TV not being recorded at all, videotapes being recorded over, or films being discarded.

The article gives may examples of lost shows up through the 1960s and 1970s, including many of the episodes of the BBC series Doctor Who from the 1960s, and most episodes of The Tonight Show with Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, up through the early 1970s. I suspect that, in a lot of cases, TV programs from that era are more likely to have survived if they were originally recorded on film, rather than videotape.

There aren't many examples from after the 1970s, in part due to home VCR recordings, and in part apparently because TV networks and producers began to see a value in keeping these things.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 09-08-2019 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 09-08-2019, 06:20 PM
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There was little reason to keep old movies until TV came along. A few films remained popular for years (The 39 Steps was often used by small theaters in the UK when they needed extra money at the end of the month), but the vast majority of them were just taking up space in warehouses. When more space was needed, they'd be tossed as worthless.

Once TV showed a market for old movies, studios were less likely to dump their old films.

The same thing was repeated for TV, added to the fact that live TV was rarely recorded. Even when it was, you had the issue of paying for storage. The output of the Dumont network -- much of which had been recorded on Kinescopes for west coast playback -- were unceremoniously dumped into the East River to make room. If it wasn't for Jackie Gleason keeping a personal record of his Honeymooner sketches, they would have been lost forever.

By the 60s, TV knew enough to keep the tapes for reruns and for syndication. Any successful show was kept, but a show that didn't have enough episodes to syndicate would probably be dumped.

By the 70s, people kept everything.
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Old 09-08-2019, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by terentii View Post
As for TV shows, live presentations could only be recorded on kinescope (actually fiming the TV monitor during a broadcast) until around 1955. This would probably have been done more often if producers and advertisers had realized their future worth. Stars like Jackie Gleason and Desi Arnaz (and Audrey Meadows and Lucille Ball) had to fight to get episodes of their shows preserved. The powers that were thought they were crazy: "Nobody's gonna watch the same show twice!"
In fact, one of the reasons videotape caught on so quickly in television was because the old tapes could be erased and reused, which is why almost all of the television work of Ernie Kovacs is gone. He didn't own the recordings, and the networks didn't save his shows after they were canceled.

Notoriously, no complete recording of Super Bowl I (January 1967) was thought to have survived until a homemade copy was uncovered in Pennsylvania in 2005.
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Old 09-08-2019, 07:07 PM
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Notoriously, no complete recording of Super Bowl I (January 1967) was thought to have survived until a homemade copy was uncovered in Pennsylvania in 2005.
And, there's apparently no known recording of the Super Bowl II broadcast, and no color recordings of the full game broadcasts for Super Bowls III through V.
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:04 PM
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This documentary tells the story of hundreds of old films, preserved in the permafrost in and near Dawson City, Yukon Territory. Most of them were in crates in the swimming pool/hockey rink of a former Y, and others were even found in the river.

The movie also goes into a lot of the history of Dawson City, and what life is like for the current residents.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawson_City:_Frozen_Time

By the time feature films made it to a place like Dawson City, there was little or no interest in them elsewhere, so the studio had no desire for them to send them back. Movies and even newsreels were often viewed as ephemera.

Last edited by nearwildheaven; 09-08-2019 at 11:07 PM.
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:32 PM
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There was little reason to keep old movies until TV came along. A few films remained popular for years (The 39 Steps was often used by small theaters in the UK when they needed extra money at the end of the month), but the vast majority of them were just taking up space in warehouses. When more space was needed, they'd be tossed as worthless.
Not always worthless. A lot of early film contained silver. The silver could be extracted and sold. A lot of studios felt the silver was worth more than the content on the film.
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:42 PM
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If it wasn't for Jackie Gleason keeping a personal record of his Honeymooner sketches, they would have been lost forever.
The same is true for Monty Python's Flying Circus. The only reason we can watch the show is because Terry Jones kept copies of it.
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:46 AM
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You also have to consider the sheer volume of films that were churned out before television took over the market. Every studio had to produce enough feature films ("A" and "B") to satisfy theater demands each week of the year, and many of these were of dubious quality. With each movie consisting of ten-minute reels, storage was an enormous problem. It's really not surprising that so many of them were destroyed, especially the "B" pictures.
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Old 09-09-2019, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by nearwildheaven View Post
This documentary tells the story of hundreds of old films, preserved in the permafrost in and near Dawson City, Yukon Territory. Most of them were in crates in the swimming pool/hockey rink of a former Y, and others were even found in the river.

The movie also goes into a lot of the history of Dawson City, and what life is like for the current residents.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawson_City:_Frozen_Time

By the time feature films made it to a place like Dawson City, there was little or no interest in them elsewhere, so the studio had no desire for them to send them back. Movies and even newsreels were often viewed as ephemera.
Thanks for the reference. I found a few free viewings on the web (YouTube has it at $3.99 by the way).

I had no idea of this bit of history. Fascinating film for those who are interested in early cinemaphotography/photograghy and its roots.

As a rejuvenated film photographer (dSLR's!, which I carry around just about 24/7) when I approach people and strike up a conversation, and ask if I can take their picture, sometimes I get asked "why? who is it for?". A reasonable query in this time and age.

I truthfully answer, "For history".
(Yes, I am one of those history nerds who made straight A's in that subject. ).

Last edited by Cabin_Fever; 09-09-2019 at 11:11 AM. Reason: spelling
  #12  
Old 09-09-2019, 11:35 AM
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By the 60s, TV knew enough to keep the tapes for reruns and for syndication. Any successful show was kept, but a show that didn't have enough episodes to syndicate would probably be dumped.
At 79 episodes (80 with the first pilot, which wasn't aired for years afterward), Star Trek just barely made it. It was picked up by an enterprising* station owner who recognized the loyalty of its fan base and was smart enough to strip it five days a week in the late afternoon, so younger viewers could watch it. It took off like wildfire after this.

*Pun intended.
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Last edited by terentii; 09-09-2019 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 09-09-2019, 11:52 AM
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The article gives may examples of lost shows up through the 1960s and 1970s, including many of the episodes of the BBC series Doctor Who from the 1960s, and most episodes of The Tonight Show with Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, up through the early 1970s. I suspect that, in a lot of cases, TV programs from that era are more likely to have survived if they were originally recorded on film, rather than videotape.
I've been watching a lot of the William Hartnell Doctor lately, and from the extras on the DVDs learned that there was a dedicated fan who tape-recorded the sound from the broadcast shows and took photos of the screen. For some of the earliest Dr. Who stories--such as the Marco Polo one--those photos and sound are all that survives. Other lost episodes, such as the middle of Reign of Terror and Hartnell's very last show before he transforms into Patrick Troughton, have been recreated in animation with those soundtracks.

Once in a while, a missing episode or two is found in the archives of other countries, where the show was sent to be broadcast in the early '60s and then forgotten.
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Old 09-09-2019, 12:09 PM
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If it wasn't for Jackie Gleason keeping a personal record of his Honeymooner sketches, they would have been lost forever.
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The same is true for Monty Python's Flying Circus. The only reason we can watch the show is because Terry Jones kept copies of it.
The same with reruns of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. After Johnny moved his show to Burbank, he foresaw the value of keeping copies of his broadcasts. They have since been digitized and transferred to servers. That's how they became available for broadcast on Antenna TV.
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Old 09-09-2019, 12:25 PM
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Gidget is another TV series that would probably have been forgotten long ago had it not been for the loyalty of its fan base.* I was cancelled after just one season, but picked up ratings in summer reruns. I'm now watching it on Retro every morning.

*And, of course, the delightful Sally Field.
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Old 09-09-2019, 05:53 PM
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The same with reruns of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. After Johnny moved his show to Burbank, he foresaw the value of keeping copies of his broadcasts. They have since been digitized and transferred to servers. That's how they became available for broadcast on Antenna TV.
Only the later shows. The early ones were thrown out for a predictable reason. A new network exec saw the costs of storage of the old TTS episodes and said chuck them. A story Johnny would tell on some anniversary show explaining why they had so few clips from the early years.

Last edited by ftg; 09-09-2019 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 09-09-2019, 06:47 PM
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I was cancelled after just one season, but picked up ratings in summer reruns.
It, not I, goddammit!
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Old 09-09-2019, 07:07 PM
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I was cancelled after just one season, but picked up ratings in summer reruns.
It, not I, goddammit!
Well...your numbers for the 18-24 demographic have been dropping...
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Old 09-09-2019, 07:25 PM
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Only the later shows. The early ones were thrown out for a predictable reason. A new network exec saw the costs of storage of the old TTS episodes and said chuck them. A story Johnny would tell on some anniversary show explaining why they had so few clips from the early years.
That was what I said, wasn't it? Virtually all of the Tonight Show episodes from 1973-1992 were preserved, after Johnny's move to Burbank.
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Old 09-09-2019, 07:32 PM
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Gidget is another TV series that would probably have been forgotten long ago had it not been for the loyalty of its fan base.* I was cancelled after just one season, but picked up ratings in summer reruns. I'm now watching it on Retro every morning.

*And, of course, the delightful Sally Field.
And rather than uncancel Gidget, they rushed to get Sally Field a new vehicle, resulting in The Flying Nun. Which Field apparently hated doing, but it lasted for 3 seasons, so I guess the network was right that she was a large part of why Gidget had picked up an audience after cancellation.

(I am also watching Gidget daily, right now. Larue speaks to me more than Gidget does, but still...good show, and surprises me more than you'd expect from a teen sitcom from the mid-60s.)
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Old 09-09-2019, 09:10 PM
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And rather than uncancel Gidget, they rushed to get Sally Field a new vehicle, resulting in The Flying Nun. Which Field apparently hated doing, but it lasted for 3 seasons, so I guess the network was right that she was a large part of why Gidget had picked up an audience after cancellation.
If you watch The Flying Nun closely, you'll see Sr. Bertrille sometimes showing home movies from before she entered the convent. Those home movies included scenes of a slightly younger her surfing and getting into cute little types of happy teenager trouble.
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Old 09-10-2019, 12:14 AM
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Little Nemo is correct about reclaiming silver. According to Dr. Elizabeth Ezra in Georges Méliès: The Birth of the Auteur ((2000) Manchester University Press. p. 19.) "During the war (WWI), the French army confiscated over four hundred of Star Films original prints, melted them down to recover silver and celluloid, the latter of which the army made heels for shoes."

George Mélies films to make heels for shoes, let that sink in for a minute. War is a huge culprit for lost culture like films.

Starting in 1935, the visionary Henri Langlois managed to save many silent-era films from all around the world mostly just picking them up for pennies in Paris flea markets. The Cinémathèque started in his parents' bathtub where he stacked his finds.

In a great documentary by Edgardo Cozarinsky called Citizen Langlois (1994) we also learn that by 1938 Langlois had founded an International Federation of Film Archives with among others, Frank Hensel, the director of the Reichsfilmachiv. By a twist of fate, this same Frank Hensel who had been a Nazi since 1928 became a Major at the head of censorship in Paris during the occupation and allowed Langlois storage space in the basements of the Palais de Chaillot that had been requisioned by the occupying army. Many of the very verboten films Langlois stored were the last known by Jews such as Jean Epstein, and would certainly not have survived. Hensel warned Langlois with a smile never to tell him what he was storing.

By the end of WWII, Hensel's own Reichsfilmachiv, which during the war had grown their archive to somehwere around 17,000 films through acquisitions both civilized and violent, also lost most of it to war.

Safe to say that the same gross disregard for the cultural value of television shows existed far after film preservation was established. I'm not even sure saving absolutely everything is the norm in the digital age. We sort of assume that because everything is digitized, it's saved somewhere, but is it?
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Old 09-10-2019, 12:47 AM
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(I am also watching Gidget daily, right now. Larue speaks to me more than Gidget does, but still...good show, and surprises me more than you'd expect from a teen sitcom from the mid-60s.)
I must confess, I didn't watch the show much when it was first on (I turned 11 in January 1966; Batman was my special birthday present). But I absolutely remember the episode where Gidget meets Daniel J Travanti on the beach. The scene that stuck in my mind was when he picked her up off the rock she was sitting on and said "Phew! You've gotta stop eating those triple-decker hamburgers!"
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Old 09-10-2019, 12:50 AM
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Well...your numbers for the 18-24 demographic have been dropping...
[VOICE OF OSCAR LEROY] Kids today, they just don't know what's good. Jackasses!
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Old 09-10-2019, 01:03 AM
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Larue speaks to me more than Gidget does, but still...
I like Larue too. Gidget is the girl I'd have lusted after in high school, but Larue is the one I'd probably end up with.
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