The infamous MGM vault fire

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Dan McW, Feb 5, 2006.

  1. Dan McW

    Dan McW Second Unit

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    This is mentioned occasionally in one thread or another, but what is the best source (Internet or print) for details on the fire and on exactly what films were lost in the fire? Does anyone know the exact date of the fire?
     
  2. Jack Theakston

    Jack Theakston Supporting Actor

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    It was 1965. There's a good article by David Pierce in Film History Vol 9, No 1. An electrical fire sparked an explosion in Vault #7 due to gasses that were being emitted by nitrate prints. One person was killed. For sure, LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT was in there, but I believe A BLIND BARGAIN and THE DEVINE WOMAN were among others that perished in the flames.
     
  3. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

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    There was a previous fire in 1957 as well. I've been told that along with the loss of film, that people were killed in both fires.
     
  4. Drew Salzan

    Drew Salzan Second Unit

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    I believe most or all of the Hanna-Barbera negatives as well. I think what we are seeing now are remasters from original Technicolor prints and dupes.
     
  5. Richard M S

    Richard M S Supporting Actor

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    The liner notes of the Rhino CDs reference the MGM vault fire causing the loss of the deleted musical outtakes from The Pirate, Ziegfeld Follies and Summer Holiday - probably others as well. I had not realized there were 2 fires though.
     
  6. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    Luckily for us MGM had already seen the dangers of keeping nitrates and when safety film was introduced circa 1950, it was the first studio to transfer its older titles to safety versions. Probably most of the MGM product from 1924 onwards was saved this way (in a process started in the 1960s and lasting over 20 years), though there were a few that fell through, like the seemingly lost London After Midnight starring Lon Chaney and Garbo's The Divine Woman, of which only a few minutes still exists.

    This reminds me of another vault fire: the one at the Fox vault in New Jersey which took place in 1937, destroying a lot of early Fox films, including the first Cleopatra starring Theda Bara.

    And this isn't restricted to film vaults either- in 1978 a vault fire in Long Branch NJ swept thru the Atlantic Records depository of original session tapes and unreleased masters, but forunately some previously 'lost items' have been found in the past few years, like some Ray Charles rehearsal tapes that producer Jerry Wexler kept. Those are now on CD as part of the big Ray Charles Atlantic boxed set they put out last year .

    Here's a link regarding the destruction of musical treasures held in vaults:

    http://www.billholland.net/words/vault2.html

    And one regarding the Fox fire and lost films in general:

    http://mic.imtc.gatech.edu/remembran...esumedlost.htm
     
  7. RodneyT

    RodneyT Stunt Coordinator

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    And lets not forget the fire at Aardman last year that claimed a lot of animation history.... perhaps not as old as Fox or MGM material, but still worth mentioning.
     
  8. Guido Bibra

    Guido Bibra Stunt Coordinator

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    The fire at Aardman actually destroyed most of the sets and props, but the movies themselves were stored elsewhere and are still safe. It's still very sad that the sets were destroyed, since these were often shown on exhibitions - the sets for the current W&G movie actually escaped the fire because they were "on the road".
     
  9. CameronMcC

    CameronMcC Second Unit

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    its suprising that their aren't many documentaries, or books on the fire. I'd love to read an extended article as well.
     
  10. Dan McW

    Dan McW Second Unit

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    Thanks, everyone.

    What's the easiest way to obtain that David Pierce article?
     
  11. Jack Theakston

    Jack Theakston Supporting Actor

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    Dan, back issues of Film History should be pretty easy to find on ebay or dealers. If you absolutely can't find it, email me and we can work something out.
     

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