The 10 silent films Russia returned to the U.S.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011; 10:36 PM

The Russian government has returned 10 American silent-era films that no longer existed in the United States but were found in Russian state archives. The gift, presented to the Library of Congress in October, is the first installment on the return of up to 194 movies that were not preserved in the United States but were found in Russia. In an October news release, the Library of Congress described the 10 films presented to James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress:

The Arab (Metro Pictures, 1924)

Director: Rex Ingram

Cast: Ramon Navarro, Alice Terry

Jamil (Navarro), son of a Bedouin leader, falls in love with the daughter of a Christian missionary. Jamil foils an attempt to massacre Christians when he calls the Bedouins to his aid. Upon his father's death, Jamil is made leader of his tribe, while the girl (played by the director's wife, Terry) departs for America but promises to return to him.

Ingram, a stickler for realism, shot portions of "The Arab" on location in Algiers, using Bedouins as extras. Ingram's big career break came when he directed "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" three years earlier and made a star of Rudolph Valentino. Navarro's collaboration with Ingram on this picture and earlier silent versions of "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "Scaramouche" helped catapult him to stardom.

Kick In (Famous Players, 1922)

Director: George Fitzmaurice

Cast: Betty Compson, Bert Lytell, May McAvoy

On release from prison, a thief named Chick Hewes (Lytell) resolves to go straight but is harassed by the police for refusing to turn stool pigeon. He is further angered when the district attorney's son Jerry (Robert Agnew) is not prosecuted for killing a child from the slums in a car accident. He decides to undertake one more job - at the district attorney's home - but discovers that Jerry is already stealing from his father's safe. Jerry's sister Molly (Compson) prevents the police from arresting Chick for her brother's crime, and they go west to begin anew.

"Kick In" had been a successful Broadway play starring John Barrymore. Fitzmaurice also directed an earlier version of the film in 1917. He gained fame as a director of successful romantic dramas, including "The Cheat" with Pola Negri, which he also produced; "The Son of the Sheik," Valentino's last film; and "The Night of Love" with Ronald Colman.

The Conquest of Canaan (Famous Players, 1921)

Director: Roy William Neill

Cast: Thomas Meighan, Doris Kenyon

Defiant of polite society and friendly with corrupt town leaders, Joe Louden (Meighan) is encouraged by his friend Ariel (Kenyon), a recent heiress, to succeed. He studies law and opens a practice in Beaver Beach, where he defends suspected murderer Happy Farley (Paul Everton). When the trial turns ugly and a mob threatens the presiding judge, Farley defends the judge. He is acquitted of murder. Joe wins Ariel and is proclaimed the next mayor of Canaan.

Previously filmed in 1916, "The Conquest of Canaan" was based on a novel by Booth Tarkington, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for fiction. A number of Tarkington's novels and plays were adapted for film, including "Alice Adams," "Monsieur Beaucaire" and "The Magnificent Ambersons."

Meighan was a popular leading man in silent films beginning in 1914, often appearing in Cecil B. DeMille productions, including "Male and Female" (1919) and "Why Change Your Wife?" (1919).

The Eternal Struggle (Metro Pictures, Louis B. Mayer, 1923)

Director: Reginald Barker

Cast: Renee Adoree, Earle Williams, Barbara La Marr, Wallace Beery, Pat O'Malley

Engaged to Canadian Mountie Neil Tempest (Williams), Andree (Adoree) falls in love with one of her fiance's underlings, Bucky O'Hara (O'Malley). When Andree is suspected of murdering a man who attacked her (Beery), she flees across Canada, pursued over rapids by both O'Hara and Tempest. Andree's innocence is established and, realizing she and O'Hara are in love, Tempest gives her up.

This is one of the last feature films produced or released by Louis B. Mayer's Metro Pictures before he helped establish MGM in 1924. "The Eternal Struggle" also features the earliest surviving performance of the French-born Adoree, who two years later played the female lead opposite John Gilbert in MGM's mega-hit "The Big Parade."

You're Fired (Famous Players, 1919)

Director: James Cruze

Cast: Wallace Reid, Wanda Hawley

To win the hand of Helen Rogers, wealthy idler Billy Deering (Reid) agrees to her father's wager: If Billy can keep a job for one month, Gordon Rogers will agree to the marriage. After clerking in an office and working as a xylophone player - and quitting before he can be fired - Billy takes a job posing as a knight in shining armor in a swanky theme restaurant. All goes well until Helen, who knows nothing of the wager, arrives to dine.

This comedy has several winning elements, among them a screenplay based on O. Henry's story "The Halberdier" and the star power of Reid. Reid's boy-next-door good looks and affability made him a popular star of the '10s. His career was cut short by his death from drug addiction, which reportedly resulted from studio doctors giving him morphine to treat an injury on the set.

Keep Smiling (Monty Banks, 1925)

Directors: Albert Austin, Gilbert Pratt

Cast: Monty Banks, Glen Cavender

An unnamed boy (Banks), who has a fear of water, invents a special life preserver that inflates when it hits water. Attempting to promote his invention, he becomes involved with a wild speedboat race, a crooked mechanic and the charming daughter of a boating magnate.

A prolific and versatile filmmaker, Banks came to the United States as a teenager and made his film debut in 1917 under his real name, Mario Bianchi. As actor, producer and director, Banks went on to become one of the top screen comedians of the silent era, starring in his own series of shorts for the fledgling Warner Bros. studio as well as appearing alongside the likes of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Buster Keaton and the young Jean Arthur. After the coming of sound, he moved to England, where he directed a number of popular musical comedies.

The Call of the Canyon (Famous Players, 1923)

Director: Victor Fleming

Cast: Richard Dix, Lois Wilson, Ricardo Cortez, Marjorie Daw

A complicated love triangle is played out when war vet Glenn (Dix) travels from the East to Arizona to regain his health with the assistance of his dedicated nurse, Flo (Daw), much to the consternation of his New York fiancee (Wilson).

Fleming became highly regarded as a director of outdoor action movies in the 1920s. He began as a cameraman, became a director of photography and moved on to directing in 1919.

In the sound era, Fleming directed such classics as "Treasure Island," "Captains Courageous," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind."

Canyon of the Fools (R-C Pictures, 1923)

Director: Val Paul

Cast: Harry Carey, Marguerite Clayton

In this tale of love and revenge, set against the backdrop of the California Gold Rush, a young man named Bob (Carey) heads west to confront the man who once framed him for a crime. After teaming up with a local sheriff, Bob tangles with bandits and eventually discovers both love and gold.

Carey was one of the biggest western movie stars of the silent era and one of the few who made a successful transition to talkies.

Circus Days (First National, 1923)

Director: Edward F. Cline

Cast: Jackie Coogan, Barbara Tennant, Russell Simpson, Claire McDowell

Coogan (Chaplin Chaplin's young sidekick in "The Kid" two years earlier) stars as Toby Tyler, who runs away from his cruel uncle and joins a circus to work as a lemonade boy. Eventually, Toby works his way up to become the Big Top's star clown.

This film was based on the novel "Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks With a Circus," by James Otis Kaler, an extremely prolific author of novels for boys in the 1880s to 1905.

Valley of the Giants (Famous Players, 1919)

Director: James Cruze

Cast: Wallace Reid, Grace Darmond

Upon his return from college, a young man (Reid) learns that his father is in danger of losing the family's beloved land to an unscrupulous lumberman. The film is highlighted with a daring scene played out on a runaway logging train.

Reid, one of the most popular film actors of the late '10s and early '20s, teamed up with director Cruze for several pictures in 1919, including this outdoor adventure. Cruze, originally trained as a stage actor, started working in films in 1911. He turned his attention to directing in 1918 and by 1927 was the most popular and highest-salaried director in the business.

It was on this movie, filming on location in northern California and southern Oregon, that Reid was injured doing stunt work. He supposedly was given morphine injections for the pain by a studio physician, which led to his addiction and ultimate death on Jan. 18, 1923.

SOURCE: The Library of Congress

© 2011 The Washington Post Company