Long-lost film brings the CBC to Bala
The CBC’s cameras were rolling as scenes recovered from a long-lost "Anne of Green Gables" movie were shown at First Muskoka Congregational Church in Glen Orchard on Wednesday evening.
Photo by Louis Tam
January 18, 2012
BALA — The CBC’s flagship newscast The National paid a special visit to a Bala church last week for a showing of recovered scenes from a long-lost Anne of Green Gables movie.
Cameras were rolling at First Muskoka Congregational Church on Wednesday evening as still images from the 1919 silent movie were shown to an audience of over 100 people. As much of the movie has been lost, the 45-minute slides how had sparked the interest of the newscast after a previous showing at Clevelands House in Minett last August.
“A producer from the National saw a copy of the Gravenhurst Banner, which had a story about it, so she called us and said that they were fascinated and wanted to know more,” said Jack Hutton, co-owner of the Bala Museum. “This is the only recreation of that movie in the world.”
Hutton, an award-winning ragtime performer, provided the soundtrack for the film on piano, while his wife Linda narrated the scenes. The recreation was first shown in 2008 at a conference at the University of Prince Edward Island.
The original film itself is based on the novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery, but disappeared after a Hollywood scandal erupted involving lead actress Mary Miles Minter and director William Desmond Taylor.
“It was a great success and was for a couple of years until the director was murdered in Hollywood in his bungalow,” said Hutton. “They discovered love letters at his place from Mary Miles Minter who was only 17 at the time, and a great public outcry ensued … the studio destroyed the movie, and Minter’s career ended immediately.”
The recovered stills are all that’s left of the original movie, and were found by Hutton and his wife Linda after an exhaustive search through magazines and other sources.
The Huttons began their search for scraps of the movie after finding the film’s original sheet music on eBay, outbidding the National Library of Canada in the process.
Not knowing of the film’s existence at the time, the Huttons were left scratching their heads over the sheet music’s peculiar cover.
“What puzzled us was that the Green Gables on the front bore no resemblance to what we had seen in Prince Edward Island,” he said.
They later learned of the movie’s existence after finding a postcard with a scene from the movie on eBay, which noted the filming location was south of Boston. Through a friend, the Huttons went on to find the film’s original script at the United States Library of Congress.
Although there are no known copies of the film left, that hasn’t stopped the Huttons from continuing their search. In the past, he said, film enthusiasts have recovered other lost Mary Miles Minter films.
“We’ve been searching ever since trying to find it somewhere; there’s maybe a one-in-a-million chance it can be found,” he said.
Hutton said the screening also left an indelible impression on CBC arts reporter Deana Sumanac, who spent two hours interviewing the couple prior to the Wednesday screening.
“Deana told us they rarely get any interaction or response at their Toronto events where they are taken totally for granted,” said Hutton. “She said it was very moving to be with a small town audience excited as firecrackers about the night.”
The film recreation is tentatively scheduled to be aired on the Jan. 20 episode of The National.
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