AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (Reuters) The Dutch national film archive has discovered a complete copy of the long-lost 1922 silent classic "Beyond the Rocks" starring Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson in a private collection, it said on Saturday.
"Film historians and restorers have been looking for 'Beyond the Rocks' a classic melodrama about impossible love for almost three-quarters of a century," the Filmmuseum, the Dutch national center for cinematography, said in a statement.
Jan van den Brink, a film historian and Valentino expert who works for the Filmmuseum, said the 1922 hit film had turned up among well over 2,000 film canisters bequeathed to the archive in 2000 after the death of a collector in the town of Haarlem.
"We are feeling rather excited because it is a wonderful rediscovery especially as the film is the only film in which Valentino and Swanson starred together," he told Reuters.
The deceased collector, whose family van den Brink said did not want to be named, had a strange way of organizing his films, so it took the archive several years of searching through the reels to realize there was a full copy of "Beyond the Rocks."
Van den Brink said the 81-minute romantic melodrama about a woman pushed into a marriage with an older man who falls for Valentino's nobleman character on her honeymoon was in good condition apart from about two minutes which were damaged.
"It is a complete feature film in six acts with a beautiful story in which Valentino plays a rather decent character," he said, adding he believed the collector had the copy for decades.
The Filmmuseum is restoring the film, repairing scratches and other minor damage, and has asked Dutch composers to write a new score to be performed live when it shows the silent movie at its festival in Amsterdam next year.
Van den Brink said the Filmmuseum expected interest in the film from archives around the world as well as the film's producers, Paramount, and planned to produce a copy for international distribution.
Born in 1895 to a middle-class Italian family, Valentino moved to New York in 1913 and rose to star status in the early 1920s, wooing fans with steamy performances until his premature death in 1926 following complications from a perforated ulcer.
Swanson, best known for her portrayal of Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's 1950 "Sunset Boulevard," was one of the most popular and influential female stars of the 1920s.