The Lost Films of William Powell


Not surprisingly I appear to have hit an impasse in my silent movie experience – at this point so many of William Powell’s pictures are either lost, or stored in archives and private collections and therefore not publicly available. This is mostly because he made the majority of his silent pictures with Paramount, the dominant studio of the 1920s. Of the 1,222 silent pictures that Paramount made, only 361 remain, a few of which are incomplete or fragmentary.

The list below outlines those films that are lost or unavailable:

Outcast (1923)

The Bright Shawl (1923) – stored at UCLA

Under the Red Robe (1923) – stored at George Eastman House

Dangerous Money (1924)

Too Many Kisses (1925) – stored at the Library of Congress

My Lady’s Lips (1925) – stored at UCLA

The Beautiful City (1925) – not known

White Mice (1926)

Sea Horses (1926)

Desert Gold (1926)

The Runaway (1926)

Aloma of the South Seas (1926)

The Great Gatsby (1926)

Tin Gods (1926)

New York (1927)

Love’s Greatest Mistake (1927)

Senorita (1927) – private collection

Time to Love (1927) – private collection

Nevada (1927) – stored at the Library of Congress and George Eastman House

She’s A Sheik (1927)

Beau Sabreur (1928)

Partners in Crime (1928) – stored at the Library of Congress

The Drag Net (1928)

The Vanishing Pioneers (1928)

Forgotten Faces (1928) – stored at the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art

I’ll still take a look at each film consecutively though – mercifully there are fan magazines, film stills and newspaper reviews to give us some context. And I’ve still a fair bit to go at, so over the coming months I’ll be giving you my views on Bill’s existing silent films – most of which you can find in varying degrees of quality on YouTube:

Romola (1924)

Beau Geste (1926)

Special Delivery (1927)

Paid to Love (1927)

The Last Command (1928)

Feel My Pulse (1928)

The Four Feathers (1929)

But oh! What a scant amount of work remains compared to those lost! I can only exhibit a mixture of sorrow and frustration because in amongst those lost pictures were some monster hits, and some true classics of the genre. There’s a few duds as well, but wouldn’t it have been nice to have the opportunity of forming our own view of them?

The list also highlights just how much William Powell’s career kicked on from 1926 onwards – he was firing out a prodigious amount of work which would have enabled a pretty decent Hollywood lifestyle. Powell’s early years on the stage were marked by a decade or so of struggle, particularly financial, which had led in part to his separation from his first wife, Eileen Wilson. Once in Hollywood, Bill maintained a reputation for being very careful with his money, assisted by his father, an accountant who also managed his affairs. Indeed, Bill eventually moved his parents to Hollywood and the three shared a flat together until Bill’s marriage to Carole Lombard. 

Bill’s career was transformed by the talkies and this gave him the power to be more choosy over which pictures he worked on and he reduced his output accordingly. He’d made the hard yards in the silent era and it was time to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

References/Recommended Reading:

William Powell: The Life and Films – Roger Bryant

https://www.loc.gov/programs/static/national-film-preservation-board/documents/pub158.final_version_sept_2013.pdf

https://silentology.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/how-do-silent-films-become-lost/

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4 thoughts on “The Lost Films of William Powell

  1. cc

    It really is sad how many of his films are lost. By most reviews of the time, he was outstanding and very well received by fans and critics from the very start of his career. I recently purchased Nevada from an online movie site and it was a decent copy. Bill was great in it. Looking forward to visiting your site again. So glad to find a great site for William Powell.

    Liked by 1 person

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