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George Eastman Museum receives 20 reels of rare 35mm nitrate films

Rochester, N.Y., February 24, 2021—The George Eastman Museum has recently received a donation of 20 reels, from 12 identified titles, of rare 35mm nitrate and diacetate film prints from historian John Goodman of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

“We are very grateful to Mr. Goodman for this donation of nitrate films,” said Peter Bagrov, Curator in Charge of the Moving Image Department, George Eastman Museum. The gift contains several rarities including a vintage tinted reel of Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, made in 1925. “It’s a bit of a mystery,” Bagrov added. “Chaplin himself was not fond of tinting, and all of the known release prints of this film are in black and white. Even though the print is incomplete, this beautifully tinted reel is a great discovery and adds a new dimension to our understanding of how films were presented during the silent era.”

Among the other donated objects are tinted prints of The Law of the Mounted (J. P. McGowan, US 1929) and Si ve vulesse bene (I wish you well, Emanuele Rotondo, Italy 1922). “The latter is preserved at Cineteca Nazionale (Rome, Italy), but only in black and white,” added Bagrov. “While our print is incomplete, it is likely to be the only tinted nitrate print of this title in the world.” The gift also contains several as yet unidentified prints, which require further investigation, including a beautiful travelogue shot in eastern Wyoming in the mid-1920s.

“Each print tells its own story,” said Bagrov. “Found in Nebraska, these films traveled a long way to entertain audiences, and now they have found their permanent home. With any luck, one or two might be programmed in the museum’s Nitrate Picture Show film festival, but our highest priority is to guarantee long-term storage for them and eventually to get them preserved.”

The George Eastman Museum has a longstanding international reputation for its commitment to collect, preserve, and screen nitrate film. The museum’s extensive holdings of nitrate films are conserved at its Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center, which is currently undergoing a major technological upgrade, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.