Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tales from the Archives: James K. Hackett Follow-up Research

Today's film topic post is a follow-up to last week's Tales from the Archives post about stage and silent film actor James K. Hackett. From now on I will be also posting these entries on the Archives blog! PAHRC Blog
I will also be using the scanner at the Archives so the pictures I use in future articles will be of high quality! I am really looking forward to this as it will be the best possible way to present my research.

In last week's Tales from the Archives post I mentioned that a copy of the James K. Hackett film The Prisoner of Zenda (1913) is supposedly held at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.The Eastman House is the oldest museum dedicated to photography as well as one of the world's oldest film archives. The Eastman House holds over 25,000 motion picture titles as well as over 3 million artifacts in their collection of stills, posters, and papers.
IMDB is not exactly a reliable source, and there is already a lot of misinformation out there regarding silent era films so I wanted see if I could verify whether or not The Prisoner of Zenda (1913) does indeed survive at the Eastman House. I sent an e-mail to the Head of Cataloging and Access (Jared Case) in the Eastman House's Motion Picture Department who was happy to tell me that the film is indeed in the Eastman House archives and was preserved in the 1970s. Stills from the film can even be ordered from their website. Not only that, but for a small fee the film is available to watch at the Eastman House!
George Eastman House


While I was at it, I decided on a whim to ask if any of Hackett's other films were located at the Eastman House. I could not find any information about them besides their IMDB listings, so I just assumed they were lost but figured it couldn't hurt to ask. I was surprised when Mr. Case informed me that there was a listing for "a fragment" of Hackett's film Ashes of Love (1918) at the Library of Congress! He forwarded me what little information he had, but when I searched the Library of Congress website I couldn't find any listing for this film. I then contacted the Library of Congress to get to the bottom of this new mystery. I got a response from Mike Mashon, Head of the Moving Images Section (Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress. Mr. Mashon told me that the reason I was unable to find a listing was because many of the holdings at the Library of Congress are not findable online, including "everything derived from nitrate" such as Ashes of Love. According to the LOC records, they have "one reel of what seems to be a six reel film" but it doesn't indicate which one of the six reel they have. The reel is available to be viewed at the LOC reading room in Washington D.C.

It was great able to confirm that The Prisoner of Zenda exists at the Eastman House. I was pleasantly surprised that any of Ashes of Love survives.There is almost no information about the film and as you saw it my last post, I just believed it was completely lost. Both copies of these films may be the only ones that still survive. This proves never know what you will find in archives, museums, and libraries. The records for nitrate films at the Library of Congress need to be updated, so who knows what hidden gems they have that nobody knows about.
Someday I would like to visit both the Eastman House and the Library of Congress as they sound like fascinating places. It would be interesting to see these films, especially Ashes of Love since we don't even know which reel survives at the LOC. Who knows, as someone pursuing a career in archival studies I may one day get a job at one of these places! That would certainly be a dream job for me as I'd be able to combine my passion of history with my interest in films.

On Sunday 9/4 I'll post the next weekly wrap-up.


  1. I can not find this book on line and if you know anything about it you can call me at 901-283-9490 or e-mail me at thanks
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    dmillner555 • 11 hours ago
    I have a theater copy of the crisis by winston churchill (love breaks the bonds or prejudice) james k. hackett (Hackett, John Keteltas) edition. Signed by James K Hackett dated 1902. All pages are ther 522 of them. I want to know if it is worth anythinng. I got it from a friend when their mother passed. She went to a show and saw this play and bought this book at the theater where they were selling them.

    1. Hi dmillner55,
      Thanks for sharing. I don't know anything about that book but it sounds interesting and its cool that Hackett signed it. Best of luck with finding out more about the book.