The BFI today announces the discovery of a cache of extremely rare Technicolor film fragments from the 1920s held by the BFI National Archive, including previously unseen footage of Louise Brooks dancing in colour. The very image of the modern woman, this tantalising glimpse of Louise Brooks comes from The American Venus (1926), her first credited film role and is one of the only images we have of her in colour. The feature is believed lost with the exception of footage from the film's trailer, held by Berkeley Art Museum and The Library of Congress. It is thought that this extremely short extract discovered by the BFI may come from a costume test.
The fragment from The American Venus (1926) was found alongside material from The Far Cry (1926), The Fire Brigade (1926) and Dance Madness (1926) within a copy of Black Pirate (1926), donated to the Archive by The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 1959.
In the same print of Black Pirate, there is also a test shot for historical drama Mona Lisa (1926) starring Hedda Hopper, the "Queen of the Quickies" and legendary acerbic Hollywood gossip columnist for the LA Times, whose biting wit was recently portrayed by Judy Davis in award-winning TV series Feud. The fragment shows Hedda Hopper as Mona Lisa in repose, one assumes, about to be painted by Leonardo da Vinci. No other material from Mona Lisa is currently held by any film archive.
Other extracts from a number of early Technicolor musicals were discovered in a batch of 1950s cinema ads for a local television shop in Chingford, North East London that were donated to the BFI National Archive last year. All dating from 1929 these fragments comprise footage from Sally, which only exists in black and white, a previously lost section of Gold Diggers of Broadway, as well as short clips from Show of Shows and a trailer for On With The Show! In addition a short extract donated by one of the BFI's curators in 2007, has now been identified as Paris (1929).
Check out the footage at the link - seriously, check it out, if you're at all a fan of vintage cinema, this is a terrific discovery and a wonderful glimpse into history.