Monday, September 19, 2022

Book Notes: Gates on the Dawson City movie hoard

The excerpt in the Toronto Star from the new book by Yukon historian Michael Gates reminded me of meeting Michael in Whitehorse and hearing some of this story from him over coffee.  It's about the discovery of over 500 early twentieth century Hollywood films, left abandoned in the Dawson City permafrost -- most of them films otherwise absolutely lost and unknown. It was a terrific story then, and published as Hollywood in the Klondike:Dawson City's Great Film Find, it will be again.

The skating rink, a barnlike structure clad with corrugated metal, had been recently demolished. Dawson alderman Frank Barrett hired a backhoe operator to dig exploratory holes at the site to determine the extent of the permafrost. As Barrett watched nearby, the bucket unearthed a metal box filled with reels of 35-millimetre black-and-white film.

One problem was, the frozen film was all nitrate-based, highly inflammable and nobody wanted to touch the stuff. There were others. 

There is also a pretty terrific movie, called Frozen Time, that draws on Klondike scenes from the films found in the Klondike.


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