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Long lost 1924 U.S. silent film discovered after Japanese auction

A scene from the short film "Our Pet."
Ichiro Kataoka shows off the 1924 film he won at an auction, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Oct. 4, 2016. (Mainichi)

A reel of film for one of the titles from 1920s silent movie series "Baby Peggy" was recently discovered in Japan after it had been thought lost in the United States for decades.

    Silent movie narrator Ichiro Kataoka, 38, who collects silent films as part of his job, bought the film at an auction in September. An American acquaintance who took a look at the film told him that it might be a lost reel from the Baby Peggy franchise. Kataoka's friend checked with New York-based TV producer and film preservationist David Stenn and confirmed that the film was a short titled "Our Pet" released in 1924.

    The movie is on 9.5-millimeter film stock made by French firm Pathe. While Kataoka has not screened it to avoid damaging the antique, the length of the film stock suggests the black-and-white movie is 15-20 minutes long. It depicts Peggy warding off thieves.

    At the beginning of the reel, "OKITA STUDIO" and "DAIREN - MANCHURIA 1931" appear on screen, pointing to a possibility that "Okita Studio" in Dalian in then-Manchuria (now northeast China) edited and distributed the film in 1931. Moviemaking was a popular business in Manchuria, and the newly discovered film could be an important Japanese cinematic history source.

    Diana Serra Cary, the former child actress who played Baby Peggy, says she was surprised to learn that the film for a movie she starred in when she was 5 has been found in Japan. The 97-year-old now lives in California, and is a writer and silent film historian.

    Kataoka plans to donate the film to Stenn after making a digital copy. He says, "I had no idea the film was so valuable when I was bidding. I hope the historical film is preserved with care in its original country."

    A scene from the short film "Our Pet."

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