– George Eastman Awards – Part 1 – November 20th 1955 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
First year of the George Eastman Awards – held on November 20, 1955. Master of Ceremonies; Jesse Lasky.
We almost take it for granted now; just about any film we want to see or have heard about we have access to in one form or another, thanks largely to technology, film preservation and the seemingly daily discoveries of previously thought lost or incomplete films.
But in 1955, when this first Awards ceremony from the Eastman House was held to honor those people in film during the early years (1915-1925), those early films were largely missing or forgotten memories, the source of legends and rare screenings offered by film societies and in some cases, private collectors.
But for the most part, the Silent era was part of some deep-distant past and even with the advent of Television – films were gradually coming into the average home, but Silent films were considered a curio and, with very few exceptions, ignored.
Film societies, pledged to preserve and encourage an interest in this essential part of our cultural history began to spring up – one of the first being the Cinematheque Francaise, which was established in 1936. Later societies, including the George Eastman House were established after World War 2 as an interest gradually grew in viewing these films again.
In 1955 the first ceremony, exclusively devoted to films of the past and those responsible for those films and the innovations which went with them, was held at George Eastman House in Rochester New York on November 20, 1955.
This first ceremony was to be devoted to the earliest years of the Silent era, 1915-1925. Master of Ceremonies was Jesse Lasky and the event featured some of the most legendary (and forgotten) figures of that early and pivotal period in Film history.
The unfortunate part about this particular recording is that only the first part seems to have survived – the second part, which begins with Norma Talmadge’s acceptance speech on is missing. But what there is, the first half-hour, is certainly of huge importance from a film history standpoint. In addition to Lasky, on-hand to accept their awards were Arthur Edson, John Sites, Henry King, Harold Lloyd and Mae Marsh. Many others were awarded but didn’t show, owing to scheduling conflicts, illness or working on other projects. The tape fades out just as Norma Talmadge is being introduced.
Still, it was a historic first which I don’t think was broadcast, making the loss of Part Two all the more frustrating. But this is one of the sad realities of history – sometimes it’s just gone and there’s not much to do about it.
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