fbpx George Eastman House to host U.S. premiere of rediscovered film directed by Orson Welles on October 16 in Rochester, N.Y. | George Eastman Museum

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George Eastman House to host U.S. premiere of rediscovered film directed by Orson Welles on October 16 in Rochester, N.Y.

Too Much Johnson tickets on sale beginning September 10

Rochester, N.Y., September 6, 2013—George Eastman House, located in Rochester, NY, will host the exclusive U.S. premiere of the newly discovered Too Much Johnson (1938), a Mercury Theatre film directed by Orson Welles, on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.

The October 16 screening will be held at Eastman House’s Dryden Theatre, and tickets are available for $25 for Eastman House members only. Bruce Barnes, Ron and Donna Fielding Director at George Eastman House, will introduce the event. Prior to the film screening, the 16mm home movie (1938, 3 min.) of Orson Welles shooting Too Much Johnson on location, preserved by the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, CA, will be shown. Too Much Johnson will then be screened with live music accompaniment by Philip C. Carli, and live narration by George Eastman House Senior Curator of Motion Pictures Paolo Cherchi Usai and members of the museum’s film preservation staff. Tickets will be available to George Eastman House members beginning September 10. To become a member of the museum call (585) 271-3361 ext. 261 or visit eastmanhouse.org and to purchase a ticket to the U.S. premiere of Too Much Johnson, visit eastmanhouse.org/lostwellesfilm.

The world premiere of George Eastman House’s restoration of Too Much Johnson will take place October 9, 2013, at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, the world’s first film festival of silent cinema, established in 1982 in Pordenone, Italy. The festival was co-founded by Cherchi Usai.

“To think that this American silent film has been in Italy for decades, abandoned in the very same city where a major silent film festival is being held—it is just mind-boggling,” said Cherchi Usai. “What’s more, this is a fairy-tale story with a happy ending, and we are honored to celebrate this remarkable recovery by hosting the exclusive American premiere in the Dryden Theatre.”

Too Much Johnson was originally intended to be used in conjunction with the Mercury Theatre stage adaptation of an 1894 play by William Gillette. The three-part slapstick film was meant to be shown as prologues to each act of the play with the accompaniment of music and live sound effects, but was never finished. Joseph Cotten was cast in the lead role, with supporting roles going to Mercury Theatre actors, including Eustace Wyatt, Edgar Barrier, Ruth Ford, Arlene Francis, Mary Wickes, Orson Welles, and his wife Virginia Nicolson. The play ultimately opened without the film on August 16, 1938, and flopped.

When discovered, the nitrate work print of the film—left unfinished by the Mercury Theatre and never shown in public—was given by Cinemazero to one of Italy’s major film archives, the Cineteca del Friuli in nearby Gemona. From there, it was transferred to George Eastman House in order to be preserved with a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. According to published sources, until now the only known print of Too Much Johnson had burned in a fire that destroyed Welles’s home in the outskirts of Madrid in 1970.

The original nitrate print of Too Much Johnson will reside at Eastman House’s Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center, one of the repositories for the museum’s collection of 28,000 films. The bulk of Eastman House’s preservation work for Too Much Johnson was completed at Cinema Arts, a film laboratory in Pennsylvania specializing in the restoration of archival material.

“The Motion Picture Department at George Eastman House is one of the oldest and most prestigious film archives in the United States, and we are honored to host the U.S. premiere of this iconic film in October,” said Barnes. “Under the leadership of Paolo Cherchi Usai, our museum is being widely recognized for its efforts in the field of moving image preservation. We are proud to be a key contributor to the restoration of one of the greatest long-lost treasures in motion picture history.”

For more information about the U.S. premiere of Too Much Johnson and the restoration process, visit eastmanhouse.org/lostwellesfilm.

About George Eastman House

George Eastman House is located on the estate of George Eastman, the father of popular photography and motion picture film. Eastman House comprises world-class collections of photographs, motion pictures, photographic and cinematic technology, and photographically illustrated books. Established as an independent non-profit institution in 1947, it is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the earliest film archives. The archive houses 28,000 film titles and 4 million film-related publicity stills, posters, scores, scripts, and pre-cinema artifacts. Eastman House also holds the world’s largest collection of camera technology. The Eastman House’s L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation is regarded as the premier venue of professional training in film preservation, restoration, and archiving. The Eastman House is also the archive in which many filmmakers have chosen to preserve their films, including Cecil B. DeMille, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Ken Burns, and Kathryn Bigelow. Learn more at www.eastmanhouse.org.

About National Film Preservation Foundation

Headquartered in San Francisco, the National Film Preservation Foundation is the nonprofit charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Since starting operations in 1997, the NFPF has helped 260 American cultural institutions save their films and has preserved some 200 “lost” American films found abroad, including those showcased on the DVD Lost and Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive, to be released in September. For more information, visit www.filmpreservation.com.

About Cineteca del Friuli

Established in 1977, the Cineteca del Friuli is one of the five major archives in Italy dedicated to the preservation of the motion picture, and an active publisher of books and DVDs dedicated to the history of cinema. In addition to its extensive film holdings, which are safeguarded in a state-of-the-art conservation center in Gemona del Friuli, the institution holds one of Italy’s largest film research libraries and a vast collection of stills, posters, and other film-related documents. For more information, visit www.cinetecadelfriuli.org.

About Cinemazero

A nonprofit cultural institution organization created in 1978, Cinemazero is cofounder with Cineteca del Friuli of the famed silent film festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, held annually in Pordenone, Italy. Cinemazero runs a three-screen theater, a media center with thousands of books and videos, and a photographic archive documenting the work of film directors Pier Paolo Pasolini, Federico Fellini, and Andrei Tarkovsky. An active publisher of books, it also hosts exhibitions, conferences, retrospectives, and other events relating to cinema and photography. For more information, visit www.cinemazero.org.


Attn. Media

Still images from Too Much Johnson can be downloaded here for use with press materials: https://eastmanhouse.box.com/s/isdz6btp1og5elerg5yq.

A video about the restoration of the film can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/IwfxH2r7SS0.