Monday 30 September 2019

LFF 2019 Preview: Love, Life and Laughter

The 63rd BFI London Film Festival has announced George Pearson’s Love, Life and Laughter (1923) as this year’s Archive Special Presentation. Lost for nearly a century, this film was on the BFI 75 Most Wanted list and one of its most sought after titles for decades and has now been carefully restored by the team at the BFI National Archive. Its screening at this year’s Festival gives audiences the chance to fall under the spell of Betty Balfour, Britain’s ‘Queen of Happiness’ and the nation’s biggest star of the 1920s. The presentation will take place at BFI Southbank on Thursday 3rd October, 6.10pm in NFT1 with a live musical accompaniment.

This restoration is from a Dutch-language version of the film, which was identified by archivists at Eye Filmmuseum in the Netherlands while being catalogued following its arrival at the archive in November 2012. The archive responded to the BFI’s 75 Most Wanted list, a list compiled in 2010 outlining the film titles the BFI National Archive would like to preserve and make available. The print is part of a collection of film cans that belonged to a local cinema in the small town of Hattem (near Zwolle). Cinema Theater De Vries, run by the De Vries family had only been active for 3 years, from 1929 – 1932 and subsequently the film cans came into the possession of the Van Egmond family. In 2012, when the cinema building was about to be redeveloped, an employee at a local television station, Gerhard van der Worp, took the initiative of bringing the material to Eye. No-one had any idea of the contents of the film cans. Despite being an incomplete version of the film this discovery is hugely significant in terms of film history of that period, with over 80% of silent films made still missing.

Betty Balfour’s star persona, her bubbly personality and physical comedy were very popular in Holland, which is one of the reasons the film was found there. The film was found with Dutch intertitles, and the original English titles were missing – part of the painstaking restoration by the BFI team included the recreation of English intertitles in keeping with Betty Balfour’s working class dialect. Balfour previously worked with Pearson through the 1920s as the comic character Squibs, in a hugely popular series of films. She was much in demand as a popular foreign export and worked with leading directors in Germany, Austria and France (including the great Marcel L’Herbier). She starred in Hitchcock’s 1928 silent Champagne which was restored by the BFI National Archive in 2012. Born in London in 1903, she died in Weybridge in 1978.

Source: BFI