Family’s not-so rubbish find

Mike Grant witht the film reel

Mike Grant witht the film reel - Credit: Archant

A chance visit to the tip has seen a movie-lover unearth what could be one of just two surviving copies of an 87-year-old silent film.

The Grant family have been unable to identify this film.

The Grant family have been unable to identify this film. - Credit: Archant

A chance visit to the tip has seen a movie-lover unearth what could be one of just two surviving copies of an 87-year-old silent film.

Cinema enthusiasts Mike Grant and his daughter Rachael discovered the copy of The Cardboard Lover in a treasure trove of old 35mm and 16mm films at Sidmouth Recycling Centre – with some dating back as early as 1909.

The pair’s find has attracted interest from the British Film Institute (BFI), which is keen to have the reels analysed by experts.

Mike, 56, picked up the films for £10 after finding a tin lodged behind a shelving unit.

A still from The Cardboard Lover (1928)

A still from The Cardboard Lover (1928) - Credit: Archant


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The former Salters Meadow resident sometimes stops by the recycling centre, near the Bowd, after visiting his parents’ graves in Sidmouth Cemetery.

Mike said: “I have always been interested in old film and television, when I found them I knew straight away they were something quite special.

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“I thought when I asked they would think it was an antique, but he said ‘about £10’ and I said ‘that’s fine by me.’

His daughter, Rachael, took to Facebook to identify the mystery movies.

A still from The Cardboard Lover (1928)

A still from The Cardboard Lover (1928) - Credit: Archant

She discovered only one copy remains of The Cardboard Lover (1928) in the Library of Congress, Washington, but it is heavily damaged.

After further research, the family have been informed that their version is a better copy.

The film starred Marion Davies, a famous actress of the time.

Rachael, 26, said: “There may well be more films out there, so it would be wonderful if the Herald could help lead us to the identity of the former owner of the films.

A still from Jane Is Unwilling To Work

A still from Jane Is Unwilling To Work - Credit: Archant

“They’re from all over the world, Italy, France, America, so it’s very puzzling to think how they wound up in Sidmouth.

“Several of the films appear to be otherwise lost, making them very precious and unique.”

Other films found in the tin included a reel marked The Stag Hunt, which appears to be an Italian film called Il Guanto, which was filmed in 1910.

Other titles that the pair have tried to identify include Jane Is Unwilling to Work, a 1909 Pathé short.

A still from a reel marked The Stag Hunt

A still from a reel marked The Stag Hunt - Credit: Archant

They also found a further five 16mm reels from the 1920s and 1930s, with the most interesting films being one of London Zoo and another of an African safari.

Rachael has made guesses about the other two films.

Brian Robinson, BFI’s communication manager for archive and heritage, said: “It is very early to say anything, because 99 per cent of films from that era have not survived.

“It is only a small proportion that have survived and, the more time that goes on, it is rarer for us to make finds of material from those years.”

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