“BFI Most Wanted is the kind of initiative that every country should undertake. It is vitally important work that needs to be done.”
— Martin Scorsese
Film history is littered with tales of films destroyed, junked or lost, whether through laboratory fires, production companies going bankrupt or because they were simply no longer seen as commercially valuable. Most films of the silent period are gone – once sound came in, no one imagined silent films would ever be of interest again. Early cellulose nitrate prints, still in use until 1951, contained small amounts of silver and when films came to the end of their run, they were often melted down to remove the precious metal. There are also more sinister tales of prints deliberately destroyed by studios when they obtained the rights to remake a title, as MGM tried to do with the 1940 version of Gaslight.
Here at the BFI National Archive, we’re committed to filling the gaps in the national collection and are asking the nation to help us; this list of 75 ‘Most Wanted’ British films contains titles we would like to preserve and make available. So this is a call to arms to the public as well as collectors and archivists around the world – check attics and cellars, sheds and vaults and let the hunt begin for the BFI Most Wanted.
If you have film material on any of these titles, or any clues to where we might track it down, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 10 most wanted
All 75 lost films
Maria Marten or the Mystery of the Red Barn (1913)
True crime thriller – an early staging-post in British horror.
A Study in Scarlet (1914)
The immortal Sherlock Holmes takes his first bow in a British feature.
Ambitious family saga about several generations of shipbuilders.
The First Men in the Moon (1919)
The first H.G. Wells film: pioneering sci-fi or campy nonsense?
The Amazing Quest of Mr Ernest Bliss (1920)
A millionaire accepts a bet that he can’t earn his own living.
The Adventures of Mr Pickwick (1921)
Silent Dickens, described as “exceptionally good”.
The Narrow Valley (1921)
Pictorially beautiful romantic melodrama by Cecil M. Hepworth.
Love, Life and Laughter (1923)
An impoverished writer and aspiring chorus girl have much in common.
Found! A print turned up in a disused cinema in Holland and has come to the BFI National Archive.
Ambitious saga of post-WWI disillusionment from silent master George Pearson.
Woman to Woman (1923)
A British dancer and French officer meet during WWI but are accidentally parted.
Lily of the Alley (1924)
Groundbreaking silent feature told entirely without intertitles.
Who Is the Man? (1924)
Romantic melodrama with debutant John Gielgud as a tormented artist.
Melodrama in which Dorothy Gish’s Limehouse waif is adopted by a rich woman.
Mademoiselle from Armentieres (1926)
A Frenchwoman deceives the German army during WWI.
The Mountain Eagle (1926)
Hitchcock’s second film as director: the Most Wanted’s most wanted.
The Arcadians (1927)
Victor Saville’s directorial debut: a silent (!) adaptation of a popular stage musical.
The Story of the Flag (1927)
This survey of national symbols was Britain’s first animated feature.
Tip Toes (1928)
Dorothy Gish and Will Rogers play penniless music-hall artistes.
The Crooked Billet (1929)
Thriller regarded by Adrian Brunel as his best silent film.
The Last Post (1929)
A late silent film unique in British cinema for being produced, written and directed by women.
Lord Richard in the Pantry (1930)
Knockabout caper from leading comedy director Walter Forde.
The School for Scandal (1930)
Sheridan classic headlined by Madeleine Carroll.
Too Many Crooks (1930)
Laurence Olivier’s first all-British film, about a playboy safecracker.
Murder mystery: the first British talkie with a film-studio setting.
Hobson’s Choice (1931)
First sound version of Harold Brighouse’s stage warhorse.
Lloyd of the C.I.D. (1931)
Talkie serial pitting Scotland Yard’s finest against ‘The Panther’.
Two Crowded Hours (1931)
Michael Powell’s first film: a “very good little murder drama”.
Castle Sinister (1932)
Mad Devon-based doctor attempts a brain transplant.
Men of Tomorrow (1932)
Robert Donat’s screen debut, by the director of Mädchen in Uniform.
Counsel’s Opinion (1933)
A barrister is seduced by a widow posing as a lord’s unfaithful wife.
Yes Mr Brown (1933)
Comedy in which Jack Buchanan has to impress his new boss.
Badger’s Green (1934)
A contentious planning issue is resolved via a village cricket match.
The Path of Glory (1934)
Political satire that might have been Britain’s answer to Duck Soup.
To Be a Lady (1934)
Early talking role for Chili Bouchier, as a country girl in the city.
Murder at Monte Carlo (1935)
Errol Flynn’s screen debut: rival journalists chase a scoop.
The Price of a Song (1935)
Michael Powell thriller with a song-publishing setting.
The Public Life of Henry the Ninth (1935)
Hammer’s debut: a feelgood story about a street musician.
Educated Evans (1936)
Max Miller comedy about a racing tipster turned social climber.
The Man Behind the Mask (1936)
Michael Powell’s last quota quickie: another melodramatic thriller.
The Scarab Murder Case (1936)
Philo Vance proves that an archaeologist killed his brother.
The Vulture (1937)
Slapstick comedy about over-keen amateur detective Cedric Gull.
The Viper (1938)
Bumbling detective Cedric Gull in a sequel to The Vulture.
The Good Old Days (1939)
Max Miller costume comedy about an 1840s theatrical troupe.
Murder Will Out (1939)
A rare Chinese jade triggers mysterious disappearances.
Dr O’Dowd (1940)
Irish melodrama that was the young Peggy Cummins’ film debut.
This Man Is Dangerous (1941)
A thrilling melodrama starring the dashing young James Mason.
A dubbed version has been spotted on Italian TV, and we are optimistic about an English print turning up.
A murderous twin gets his comeuppance in this twisted thriller.
It’s In the Bag (1943)
Riotous missing-cash farce with Cockney housewives Gert & Daisy.
Squadron Leader X (1943)
Thrilling war escape drama directed by the recently re-evaluated Lance Comfort.
Kiss the Bride Goodbye (1944)
Romantic melodrama about a woman with an interfering mother.
Welcome Mr Washington (1944)
Wartime caper about US soldiers in a sleepy English village.
Found! A 16mm print came to the BFI from a private collector.
Flight From Folly (1945)
Lively musical comedy showcase for stage star Pat Kirkwood.
For You Alone (1945)
Love-versus-duty romantic melodrama: a huge hit at the time.
The World Owes Me a Living (1945)
An injured RAF pilot recalls life before and during WWII.
Found! A print turned up at Paramount’s archive, and the studio generously donated a digital file of the film.
Bless ’Em All (1948)
Max Bygraves’ screen debut: a boisterous army comedy.
Found! Who would have thought the Belgians were fans of Max Bygraves? A subtitled print of the film was located at the Belgian Cinematek.
But Not In Vain (1948)
Anglo-Dutch WWII drama about a man’s terrible moral choice.
Somewhere in Politics (1948)
Knockabout comedy with madcap music hall star Frank Randle.
Golden Madonna (1949)
Phyllis Calvert goes to Italy in search of a lost painting.
This rare Calvert film was loaned to us by Cohen Media and has been scanned and preserved digitally.
Double Confession (1950)
Blackmail thriller whose stellar cast includes Peter Lorre.
Since our search began, this thriller has been released on DVD but is not yet preserved in the BFI National Archive.
Hammer the Toff (1952)
Sequel to Salute the Toff in which our hero foils a master criminal.
Found! A collector in Australia donated a 16mm print to the archive.
Salute the Toff (1952)
The first of two films showcasing John Creasey’s upper-class sleuth.
A 16mm print was purchased by the rights holder, and the film is now available on DVD. The BFI National Archive would still like to preserve material.
Small Town Story (1953)
Football-themed thriller with big-name cameos from the sporting world.
Another title that surfaced on DVD after our call-out. The archive now holds digital material on the film.
Three Steps in the Dark (1953)
A country-house will-reading is followed by murder.
The Diamond (1954)
This counterfeit-diamonds thriller was Britain’s first 3-D feature.
Alive on Saturday (1957)
Mistaken-identity thriller involving communists and royalty.
Second Fiddle (1957)
Lively comedy about gender relations in the workplace.
Teen drama from cult director Don Sharp, with Cathy Come Home’s Carol White.
Brutal, claustrophobic thriller from the director of Corruption.
Found! The original negative was discovered at Technicolor and donated to the BFI.
Farewell Performance (1963)
Variety-theatre thriller enlivened by various Joe Meek pop acts.
Sleep Is Lovely (1968)
Intriguing late-60s London-set kidnap-and-ransom drama from a director hailed as an ‘English Godard’.
The Promise (1969)
Three young Russians experience WWII and the space race.
Found! Material on the film had been misfiled on the BFI’s own database and was located after an audit.
Nobody Ordered Love (1971)
Filming of a WWI drama is interrupted by star misbehaviour.
The Cherry Picker (1972)
Sexploitation comedy with Lulu heading an improbably starry cast.
Stylish cult 1970s horror about a disturbed female killer.
Found! The original negative was discovered by the BFI and is now housed in Belgium.
Where Is Parsifal? (1983)
Bizarre comedy whose starry cast included Orson Welles.
Found! The director of the film, Henri Helman, generously donated his own personal print to the BFI.