Russia hands over 'lost' archive of US film history

The first of 200 films thought to be lost from the early years of American film-making were returned to the United States after being carefully filed for decades by Russian archivists.

Digital copies of 10 silent movies, dating from 1919 to 1925, were returned last year; more are expected to follow as archivists try to track copies of the silent-era films.

The collection of almost 200 films held by Russian authorities includes those made by some of the industry's best-known names, such as Cecil B De Mille. More than 80 per cent of US films from the silent era, between 1893 and 1930, no longer exist in the America because they were not stored properly and the old film decomposed. The Russians, and later the Soviets, were more careful.

More than 1,000 American films were shown in Russian cinemas. The films were digitally preserved by Gosfilmofond, the Russian state film archive, and handed back to the Library of Congress.