Earlier this year I alluded to an important new discovery – now we can share the details!
The first issue of Comique Magazine (Fall 2020) featured an article about pioneering film historian Kalton C. Lahue, penned by historian / documentarian Tony Susnick. For those not familiar with the name Kal Lahue, he was responsible for numerous groundbreaking books about silent film including MACK SENNETT’S KEYSTONE: THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE COMEDIES, MOTION PICTURE PIONEER: THE SELIG POLYSCOPE COMPANY, KOPS AND CUSTARDS: THE LEGEND OF KEYSTONE FILMS, CLOWN PRINCES AND COURT JESTERS, DREAMS FOR SALE: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE TRIANGLE FILM CORPORATION, WORLD OF LAUGHTER: THE MOTION PICTURE COMEDY SHORT 1910-1930, COLLECTING CLASSIC FILMS, and more. These seminal works helped to breed multiple new generations of fans and film historians -- myself included!
Lahue eventually moved on from film studies and became a prolific author of automotive shop manuals and other technical volumes, passing away in 1993 at the age of 59.
During discussions with Lahue’s family, Tony had the foresight to ask if they had kept any of Kal’s original research materials. No one was sure, they needed to check and get back to him. When they did, Tony received the sort of news that every film historian dreams about: the family had saved a collection of TEN original audio cassettes which contain Lahue’s previously-thought-lost interviews with various silent film pioneers!
Included are lengthy discussions with --
Chaplin imitator BILLY WEST (1966)
Director E. MASON HOPPER (1965)
FRED C. NEWMEYER, director of Our Gang & Harold Lloyd comedies (1965)
MARY HORSLEY, the Horsley Brothers, Centaur Film Company / Nestor Motion Picture Company (1965)
Serial actress EDITH THORNTON (1965)
Actor FRANK LACKTEEN (1964)
Comedian CHESTER CONKLIN (1964)
and Sennett production manager / Producer GEORGE W. STOUT (1969)!
Tony took possession of these precious, half-century old recordings earlier this year and graciously passed them along to me for examination, physical restoration, digitization, and restoration. Frankly, they were in terrible condition. Each one suffered from unique audio problems and major physical damage. However, all have now been properly repaired, duplicated, and fully restored!
The master tapes and copies are being donated to two archives for long term preservation, and we are currently preparing several special programs and other forms of release so that EVERYONE can reference and enjoy these remarkable interviews! We are also working on a detailed article for the second issue of Comique Magazine, with input from legendary historian and Lahue collaborator Sam Gill, which will be available later this year.
On a personal note, it was the thrill of a lifetime to work with and be among the first to hear these one-of-a-kind, historic recordings. Sincere thanks to Kevin and Kory Lahue, Kal’s former wife Julie Sprasser, and the incomparable Tony Susnick for sharing this monumental discovery, a thing for which we should all be most grateful. IMHO, this may well be one of the most important discoveries of the year -- the content is simply breathtaking!
More on all of this soon.
-- Paul E. Gierucki
Interact with your favorite SCM authors, producers, directors, historians, archivists and silent comedy savants. Or just read along. Whatever.
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