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“Stop, Look and Listen,” a Silent Film Released 94 Years Ago, and Long Thought to Be Lost, Found in Tokyo

March 6, 2020 GMT
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An action scene, atop a moving train, in "Stop, Look and Listen" (Photo: Business Wire)
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An action scene, atop a moving train, in "Stop, Look and Listen" (Photo: Business Wire)

TOKYO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Mar 6, 2020--

“Stop, Look and Listen,” a 16mm silent film comedy originally released in the United States in January of 1926, has been discovered in February of 2020, by Japanese film archivist, Toshihiko Sasayama, aged 39. The film, dating back to the Golden Age of Silent Films, and long thought to be lost, was directed by the famous American silent film actor, Larry Semon (1889–1928), who also starred in the film, together with Oliver Hardy (1892–1957).

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An action scene, atop a moving train, in “Stop, Look and Listen” (Photo: Business Wire)

Although only the last ten minutes of the originally sixty-minute-long film were discovered, according to specialist, this is a valuable discovery for the history of silent films.

Commentary from Steve Massa, Author and Film Historian

Look up “silent movie clown” in the dictionary and you’re liable to see Larry Semon’s picture. The heavy white make-up on his horse face that made him look like a slapstick version of Nosferatu, the wind-up toy movements, the clodhopper shoes, bowler hat, and chest-high balloon trousers – all of the above merged together in the character of a happy dumbbell caught up in a whirlwind of chaos. As a director the plots of his films were just excuses to set his gags in motion, and his fondness for explosions, chases, crashes, and spectacular falls from high places created in his best films a mad, surreal world.

Coming from a background of appearing onstage as a child, and working as a newspaper cartoonist as a young adult, Semon made his film debut in 1914 as a writer and director. It wasn’t long before he was starring as well, and by the early 1920s thanks to shorts such as “The Bell Hop” (1921) and “The Sawmill” (1922) he was one of the Kings of Silent Comedy. When Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd moved into feature films Larry decided that he should too.

From 1924 to 1927 Semon headlined in five slapstick features. “Stop, Look and Listen” (1926) was the fourth and next to last. Long unseen and considered lost, this surviving final reel shows the comic expertly re-working the train finale from his 1922 short “The Show” for the big climax. Chases with autos, motorcycles, trains, and sometimes airplanes were one of his specialties, and this sequence in particular is very well-directed and plotted. The recovered footage of “Stop, Look and Listen” is also an addition to the existing filmography of Oliver Hardy, who is making the last of his many appearances with Semon as well as being an assistant director.

Sad to say, none of Semon’s features did well at the boxoffice, and by 1927 he was bankrupt and scrambling to regain his audience. His last film was the 1928 short “A Simple Sap,” and he died later that year of pneumonia and nervous exhaustion just shy of forty years old. – Steve Massa

Events Leading to the Discovery and What Will Happen Next

The film was found among a cache of black and white films acquired by Mr. Sasayama from an antiques dealer in Aichi Prefecture. It was presumed to be a silent film comedy, and Mr. Sasayama asked a Japanese classic film researcher of his acquaintance, Ms. Junko Iio, to examine it. Subsequently, Mr. Sasayama enlisted the help of Steve Massa, an American silent film historian, which was when the title of the film was made known. Mr. Sasayama noted that although the film had undergone intense deterioration, he had never dreamed that it might be a lost silent film. He hopes that it can be used for future research.

The discovered film will be shown within the British Silent Film Festival Symposium, to be held in London, in April of 2020. The first viewing in Japan will be at the Kobe Classic Comedy Film Festival, to be held in January of 2021.

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CONTACT: Yuki Sekiguchi,

Prabe Co., Ltd, a Public Relations Office

4-6-3-405 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-0052

Office: +81-3-6441-3656

Cell: +81-80-4063-1425




SOURCE: The Office of Toshihiko Sasayama

Copyright Business Wire 2020.

PUB: 03/06/2020 12:05 PM/DISC: 03/06/2020 12:05 PM