Most Silent Films Have Now Vanished

January 11, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. vintage /ˈvɪntɪdʒ/ (adj.) – old but best in quality
Example: Ron collects vintage items such as old movies and albums.

2. extinction /ɪkˈstɪŋkʃən/ (n.) – the condition in which something is considered to be gone forever
Example: Historians are worried about the extinction of the greatest classic movies caught in fire in the studio.

3. remnant /ˈrɛmnənt/ (n.) – remaining parts or copies
Example: Some remnants of classic James Bond films are kept in the museum.

4. export /ɪkˈspɔrt/ (v.) – to send or transport something to another country
Example: American film directors exported their movie entries to France for the upcoming international competition.

5. return /rɪˈtɜrn/ (v.) – to send something back to its original source
Example: It is expensive to return defective products shipped abroad.


Read the text below.
Vintage silent films from the 1920s are nearing extinction, according to Library of Congress’ (LOC) study.

LOC’s National Film Preservation Board discovered that about 70 percent of American silent films had already vanished. Since this kind of movie has no sound, actors had to emphasize their actions and facial expression to be understood by the audience. The remarkable quality of acting in the silent film era is thus a treasure to be preserved.

However, even LOC, recognized as the United States’ national library and considered the second largest library in the world, cannot save all of those films.

James Billington, the librarian of Congress, said that 75 percent of around 11,000 American silent films are now nonexistent. Only 14 percent of these films remain in original form while 11 percent exist in foreign versions or low quality formats.

Several factors caused the loss of these silent films. These factors include poor handling of the film rolls, fire incidents, and mismanagement of movie studios. Despite extinction threats, preservation of the remaining silent films today is still possible with the help of the Internet technology. Also, many silent film remnants in other countries can still be recovered.

Steve Leggett, program coordinator for the National Film Preservation Board, revealed that most of the remaining silent films are in foreign countries because they were exported for presentations. Studios were not able to return the copies due to expensive transportation costs.

The LOC spends $530,000 annually in repatriating silent films. One recent repatriation project is in New Zealand, which retrieved many silent films including “The White Shadow” released in 1924.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Why is it important to preserve silent films?
·         How do you think films and movies can be preserved?

Discussion B

·         In your opinion, are movies and films important? Why or why not?
·         How does technology affect the movie industry?


January 11, 2014