|A lobby card from THE SPANISH DANCER|
Like many restoration projects, some of the more major concerns facing the archivists in charge of restoring THE SPANISH DANCER were missing footage, damage and deterioration of the existent footage, and a lack of reference for how the complete film should be constructed. The latter problem was the first to be solved, when an original cutting continuity was located at the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A cutting continuity, in addition to detailing the order in which shots and titles are to be cut together also provides the footage for each shot in the film, making continuities an archivist's best friend.
With the continuity located, the next step was to locate the film material in the best condition. The majority of the restored film's footage came from four sources: a nitrate 35mm print from the EYE Institute, a nitrate 35mm print from the Belgian Film Archive in Brussels, a 16mm print from Lobster Films in Paris, and a 16mm Print from Photoplay Productions.
With the necessary material assembled to constitute a true restoration of the print, the dirty work of repairing, piecing together, and restoring the images commenced. In order to properly restore the film's images and remove damage such as what's shown in the image below, all film elements were first scanned at 2K resolution to be worked on as a digital intermediate (DI).
|Nitrate film deterioration in THE SPANISH DANCER|
This image shows severe nitrate decomposition at the left and right edges of the frame.
|Before digital restoration...|
Once the painstaking process of removing the damage was complete, the restoration work began on reintroducing the film's original tinted color back into the restored film. The cutting continuity also provided tinting instructions, and by using the tinted Dutch nitrate print for a color reference, new Desmet prints were created. Thanks of the nature of the Desmet printing process, a black and white negative, which won't fade the way a color negative will, was created for preservation purposes.
|A picture showing an original, tinted nitrate print.|
To see THE SPANISH DANCER (1923) in all its restored glory, come out to the 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, where the film will be screened on Saturday, July 14th at noon. See you there!
Special thanks to Rob Byrne, president of the San Francisco Silent Festival, for providing me with the images and background to this fascinating project, and for helping to bring this wonderful film back to life.