Left: Theda Bara in the risqué 1917 historical epic, "Cleopatra." Only
a few fragments still exist, after the only known complete prints were destroyed in fires.
According to the Library of Congress, 70 percent of films
from the silent era are lost - films which helped define the very language of
cinema, and which captured the early years of the American Century. Even movies
featuring box office stars or that were successful with audiences and critics were
not immune from falling prey to time - to deteriorating nitrate prints, to vault
fires, or to the disinterest or carelessness of studio archivists.
Film scholars around the world continue to search in
archives and private collections for missing films, with occasional success. An
early John Ford feature, "Upstream," was recently found at the New
Zealand Film Archive, while the Cinemateque Francaise has uncovered
previously-missing films by Ernst Lubitsch, Frank Capra and Tod Browing. The original Technicolor sequences from the
1925 version of "Ben-Hur" were found in a Czech film vault.
Click through the gallery to view some of the more notable missing
films, then check your attic …