4. HUMAN WRECKAGE (1923) ^ One of the great Hollywood tragedies of the early 1920s was the death of virile leading man Wallace Reid in a sanitarium where he was attempting a withdrawal from morphine addiction. Reid’s widow, actress Dorothy Davenport, sought to avenge her husband’s painful demise by openly addressing the then-taboo subject of drug addiction in a film. Working with top producer Thomas H. Ince and relying on the expertise of the Los Angeles Anti-Narcotics League, Davenport (who then billed herself as “Mrs. Wallace Reid”) starred in “Human Wreckage,” a harrowing drama of the destructive effects of drug addiction on a tight family. The film’s bold and focused depiction of drug addiction was widely supported by audiences, critics and even politicians (although its distributor may have gone a bit overboard in declaring it “The Greatest Production in the History of Motion Pictures”). ^ WHY IS IT LOST? Despite its thunderous reception, “Human Wreckage” did not embolden filmmakers to tackle other taboo subjects. As the memory of Wallace Reid diminished, the film’s importance receded over time. By the time it was recalled, all prints were already lost.
5. HUMOR RISK (1920) ^ At the start of the Roaring Twenties, the Marx Brothers were among the popular acts in vaudeville… but they were still a few years away from their breakthrough stardom on Broadway and then Hollywood. The ambitious siblings tried to rush their success by financing a two-reel comedy called “Humor Risk” (the title was a spoof of the then-popular drama “Humoresque”). Details on the film are few and far between, but it is known that the film was written by Jo Swerling (who later created “Guys and Dolls”) and it featured the brothers working separately rather than as a team. Harpo played a good-guy detective in pursuit of a villainous Groucho, with Chico in his Italian character (the effect was most likely lost in this silent production) and Zeppo as either a playboy or a nightclub owner. A cabaret setting allowed for the inclusion of a dance number. Groucho later claimed the film was never completed or released, though evidence has surfaced to show “Humor Risk” had at least one screening (at a kiddie matinee in the Bronx, NY). ^ WHY IS IT LOST? Reportedly, the film’s sole screening was a disaster and the Marx Brothers may have destroyed the print. A second print may have been made, but this cannot be confirmed, and the film’s negative was supposedly left in a projection room and never reclaimed. Groucho stated the film was terrible, but he was also quoted as offering $50,000 for the recovery of a print.
6. LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS (1959) ^ This British production was reportedly a “quiz film” in which scenes from a number of Bela Lugosi scenes were shown and audience members were encouraged to audibly identify their source. This would be no mean feat, as “Lock Up Your Daughters” consisted of the more obscure B-level ventures that Lugosi made in the 1940s at the Monogram Studios. Lugosi supposedly appeared in new footage as a host of the film, which operated under the plotline of the one-time Dracula as a mad scientist conducting oddball experiments on luscious young starlets. ^ WHY IS IT LOST? It is not clear whether “Lock Up Your Daughters” is lost or just nonexistent. Beyond a review in the British film trade journal Kinematograph Weekly and the recollection of several British film veterans, there is no record of the film ever being released and no materials on the film have ever been located. Several Lugosi biographers point out there is no record that Lugosi ever shot the new footage which placed him as the host of the film (he was last in Great Britain in 1951 and the film was reportedly released in 1959, three years after his death). A true phantom film, “Lock Up Your Daughters” continues to prove elusive.
Get the rest of the list in the next part of FILM THREAT’S TOP 10 LOST FILMS>>>
Posted on January 25, 2001 in Features by Phil Hall
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