Put on Your Detective Hats! We Have Some Film Fragments to Identify!

We all love a good mystery, right? Well, collector Christopher Bird has some nitrate extracts that he would like us to help him identify. Chris has been really generous about sharing his collection with us via YouTube so this is a chance to do something nice in return.

This is very much brainstorming. If you think you recognize anything at all, give a holler in the comments. We’re just throwing out ideas so don’t worry about being right or wrong. Even a guess that isn’t exactly right can trigger the old synaptic pathways and lead us to the identity of these mystery fragments.

Film #1: Soldiers in a Trench

This film has an edge code that indicates it was PRINTED in the UK in 1927 (possibly 1928). It may or may not be a British film. Obviously a war picture but whether it is a comedy or drama is unclear.

Possible clues include the identity of the two men with visible faces and the uniforms they wear.

Film #2: The Damsel

As you can see, this is likely a western or lumberjack picture and we have a pretty good look at the leading lady’s face. The bob looks mid-1920s to me but don’t take that as gospel. Do you know her or the film?

Film #3: Napoleon in New York

The film says Pathé Frères New York, likely a French production exported to the American market. No closeups of the actors, I’m afraid, but this is clearly a historical picture, likely Napoleonic given the costumes. This production definitely looks pre-WWI to me but, again, don’t take it as gospel.


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  1. Birgit

    Oh brother…I don’t think I am of any help but the first one looks like British or Canadian uniforms…I can show it to my ex who knows about military uniforms. I thought the 2nd one was Blanche Sweet but I looked closer and know i am wrong. From the guy’s one shirt, I almost wonder if this is supposed to be lumbermen..lumberjacks and she is a young wife trying to deal with the rugged outdoors. The last one…no clue at all

  2. Marie Roget

    May have some insight into Fragment #1: no clue on the actors, but the uniforms seem British due to the style of the SBR (gas mask) bag hanging around Soldier Closest To Camera’s neck over his chest, and the style of Brodie helmets worn by the others. The Brodies look shiny to me under the dirt on them, which places the film’s plot in 1915-1916 range (Brodie helmets were first manufactured for field use in 1915 and 1916 is when Brodies were coated on manufacture with a dull paint to make them less visible). If they are in fact shiny it places Fragment #1’s plot in Britain pre-1916. Audiences were full of vets of course. They would spot the differences (and errors).

    Not remotely likely this is part of a doc or newsreel is it, though I’m always hoping for more silent docs 😉

      1. Marie Roget

        You’re welcome! It pays to have a lot of generational military in the family (women and men), with their myriad books, old photo albums, and anecdotes of Great Uncle So-and-So and his field nurse wife Great Auntie Madge, etc-etc-etc. Always made for lively holidays with these folks.

  3. Mike Carver

    The soldier to the far left in the first fragment looks a great deal like character actor extraordinaire Nigel de Brulier. It might be from the 1928 short “Frenzy.”

  4. Brock Davis

    Any chance this is (purely by coincidence) another Fritzi? Fritzi Brunette in the 1921 film The Man from Lost River. The IMDb synopsis seems to fit the images.

  5. swac44

    I posted a link to this article on the Nitrateville message board, and one sharp-eyed commentator suggested the “men in a trench” snippet might be from the First World War film What Price Glory, since the actor’s whose face can be clearly seen looks like that film’s cast member Sammy Cohen.

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