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Lost Films of London
by Christopher Doty

talbot of canadaPerhaps the only thing more discouraging than finding that archival films, photos and recordings don't exist is finding that they once existed but no more. What follows is a short list of motion picture milestones that have vanished due to neglect, accident or nervous lawyers.


1916 - The Adventures of Dot
The Holy Grail of lost London movies. Very little is known about this spy thriller about an anarchist trying to blow up a city or why a film company even bothered to travel all the way to London to film it. A reporter from a local newspaper, The London Advertiser, was cast in a small roll which explains why the rival London Free Press didn't bother to cover the production.

1928 - UWO Golden Jubilee
Promotional movie to celebrate the University of Western Ontario's 50th birthday was screened e
xtensively throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s. The only know print was apparently thrown own during a house cleaning in the mid 1960s. Only a single frame of the movie is known to exist.

1935/36 - Welcome to London
The city's first booster film went into production in late 1935 and was designed to show off the beauties of the city to potential investors. The project was doomed from the start. Winter-time views made London look too desolate and one the highlighted businesses, Carling Breweries, closed up its London operations midway through production. To top it all, the camera operator didn't bother to clean out his equipment prior to shooting, making most of the footage unwatchable.

The unused footage was later used as stock by experimental film maker Jack Chambers in his magnum opus, The Hart of London (1970).

1939 - The Royal Visit
London's first bona fide documentary chronicled the visit of King George and Queen Elizabeth to the city in June 1939. Shot by a chorus of amateur cameramen, the film was screened at the Capitol Theatre in downtown London and remained in the possession of a local photographer for several years. Some of the original picture elements turned up in 1989 but the rest of the film is lost.

1942 - Talbot of Canada (a.k.a. Here Will I Nest)
The only print of the nation's first feature length colour film was largely destroyed in an apartment fire in the 1970s. In 2003, the only surviving reel of Talbot of Canada (minus its soundtrack) was restored and expanded with still photos to give viewers an idea of what the originally looked like. Click here for more information

1944 - War Bond Promotional Film (working title)
Intended as a sales tool by Famous Players Theatres, this film never made it past the first day of photography. A large parade on Dundas Street was rained out and never rescheduled. Only a tantalizing foot of the soggy celebration exists, stapled into a former theatre manager's scrapbook.

1955 - Morley Safer TV Debut
The future co-host of 60 Minutes made his television debut when a local cameraman asked him to interview the pilots of a plane crash that killed the head of Ontario Hydro. The film is missing from the station's archives.

1969 - Chambers
Unique, highly creative documentary about London painter Jack Chambers is one of the greatest London-produced films of all time. Although technically not a lost film (copies exist in public and private archives) Chambers is impossible to screen because of legal wranglings which are unlikely to be cleared up in the near future.

1972 - C.C.C.I.
The closing shots of Jack Chambers legendary personal film, The Hart of London (1970), features a series of camera pans over the Thames River at different times of the day while his wife, Olga, whispers, "You must be very careful," on the soundtrack. The sequence probably inspired Chambers' next film . After compiling about an hour's worth of footage the film was abandonned because of Chambers' declining health. A rough cut still sits at the National Archives in Ottawa. Some of this footage appears in Doty Docs' recent documentary, The Jack Chambers Film Project.

1990 - Superconductor
When it achieved independence from the CBC network in 1988, CFPL-TV was given a mandate by the CRTC to produce more original programming - including this ambitious spy thriller.
Despite the enormous amount of resources and talent spent on the project, reception to Superconductor was cool and it currently languishes in the station's vaults. At least it didn't lose as much money as the other London epic of that year, Beautiful Dreamers.