From the birth of cinema in the 1890s until the late 1940s, the standard film stock was made of a nitrate base, which is highly combustible. Plus, it disintegrates quickly if it’s not stored in a special low-oxygen, low-humidity, climate-controlled vault. Result: Hundreds of films are gone forever, including these.
The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays (1908)
The first-ever adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, it starred Baum interacting with drawings of his characters. The single print was in Baum’s possession, but it disintegrated and was thrown out by his heirs.
The Werewolf (1913)
The first werewolf film was lost in a 1924 fire.
It starred silent-film icon Theda Bara in the title role and had a huge (at the time) budget of $500,000. All but 45 seconds were destroyed in a Fox Studios vault fire.
The Gulf Between (1917)
The first full-length color film made in the United States. Only a few frames are left.
El Apostol (1917)
Made in Argentina by Italian filmmaker Quirino Cristiani, this was the first-ever full-length animated movie. All copies were destroyed in a fire in 1926. Cristiani’s other major work was Peludópolis (1931), the first animated feature with sound. All copies of that movie were lost in a 1961 fire.
Humor Risk (1921)
The first Marx brothers movie. Harpo plays a detective chasing Groucho. It had a single screening, the audience hated it, and the Marx brothers themselves destroyed the only print.
The Great Gatsby (1926)
Only a trailer remains of the first film version of the classic novel.
Hats Off (1927)
Laurel and Hardy’s first hit. There was only one print, and it was misplaced after the movie’s theatrical run.
The Way of All Flesh (1927)
Emil Jennings won the first Oscar for Best Actor, but only five minutes of footage remains. It’s the only Academy Award–winning performance that has been lost.
King Kong Appears in Edo (1938)