- Screening Room
Lost and Found: Mercury Theatre Films
As a member of the Mercury Theatre, Orson Welles planned three comic silent movies as part of the troupe’s innovative 1938 multimedia revival of Too Much Johnson, William Gillette’s late 19th-century martial farce. The films featured Joseph Cotten as a philandering prevaricator, Ruth Ford as his wife, Arlene Francis as his mistress, Edgar Barrier as her clueless husband, and a host of other Mercury Theatre performers and office staff. Left unfinished and never publicly screened, the three shorts took on legendary “lost film” status when the single known copy reportedly burned. But an abandoned 35mm nitrate work print from the Too Much Johnson production resurfaced in an Italian warehouse. The 10 reels were preserved by George Eastman House, in collaboration with the Cineteca del Friuli and Cinemazero, through a 2013 NFPF grant. Read about the discovery here.
Presented here are the newly preserved 66-minute work print along with a “reimagining” of how the films might have been put together had they been completed. The films include new music by Michael D. Mortilla and essays by Scott Simmon, Professor of English at UC Davis. Read a plot summary of Too Much Johnson here.
|Too Much Johnson Work Print (66 min.)||Too Much Johnson: The Films Reimagined (34 min.)|