Charles Ashton and British Silent Films

British Silent Film Star – Charles Ashton

Loss of Silent Films

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Many films of the silent era have been lost for a number of reasons:

  • high cost of film meant that  film prints were produced in small quantities.
  • prints were destroyed after  showings, to save on storage costs
  • prints were often worn out
  • with the talkie era, silent films were considered worthless
  • silent film companies go out of business
  • cost of archiving films is too high
  • chemical decomposition
  • flammable  nature of nitrate stock.

The archiving of films did not take place until it was too late.

Unfortunately, British silent films were considered worthless once sound was introduced, so many did not survive – storage costs were high, the nitrate stock was flammable and so many films were destroyed.  Of the twenty-two films described here, only seven films have survived.

However, as recently as 2007, a silent film starring Charles Ashton was found.  The National Library of Wales’ National Screen and Sound Archive was presented with a 16 min 9.5 mm version of the 1922 The Last King of Wales by a private collector.  Clips were shown at the Welsh Classics Film Festival 2007 and it was planned that this film be transferred to another format and officially preserved.

Silent films are rarely shown in the cinema, so film festivals are the best places to see the more popular films, such as, Kitty, or the archival films.  These festivals take place in various places in the UK – Nottingham, Scarborough, Aberystwyth, San Francisco and Pordenone near Venice.  For details of festival websites go to the end of the References section at the end of this book.


Written by anneramsden

March 9, 2010 at 9:51 am

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