Lost Silent Film From 1923 Found At Auction — Now It’s Finally Playing On The Big Screen!

A two-image collage. The first shows an image from a black-and-white silent film with Clara Bow. The actor has her mouth in open from shock. The second image shows a stack of film reels with one open on top.

Last year, a distributor of rare and antique films went out of business in Omaha. Before they did, though, they held an auction for their remaining items. Gary Huggins, who lives in Kansas City, thought it’d be worth the drive to check it out. He turned out to be right, but he never would have guessed that it’d be because he’d find a lost silent film!

The silent film isn’t what caught his eye. Instead, within a stack of film reels, he spotted an old cartoon. He only wanted it, but he had to pay for the whole stack to get it. The total cost? Only $20.

A stack of old film reels with one open on top. It's in a parking lot.
YouTube

“It was the best 20 I’ve ever invested, for sure,” Gary says.

Back at home, Gary used his projector to find out what all he bought. This is when he discovered The Pill Pounder starring the one and only Clara Bow. According to her biographer, David Stenn, she was the most popular film star of the late 1920s.

Close up of Clara Bow in a silent film. She's looking to the side at someone off screen. She looks upset.
YouTube

Because film strips used to be made with nitrate, an unstable and combustible chemical, it’s a miracle it’s still in good condition. What might be just as shocking, though, is the fact that this is the only copy known to exist.

Kansas City Man Finds Lost Silent Film Starring Clara Bow

Gary Huggins smiles slightly as he stands outside.
YouTube

Gary came to realize this as he searched for folks talking about the film online… and got nothing. Thankfully, he was able to find the perfect person to sell this treasure to: David.

“When someone said to me, ‘Would you be interested in a print of The Pill Pounder?’ I assumed they were making fun of me because I thought, ‘Would I be interested? It would be a miracle,’ and it is a miracle,” David says.

Clara Bow and another actor stand next to each other in a silent film. Bow has her mouth open in shock.
YouTube

The film couldn’t have been discovered at a better time. Just this year, Taylor Swift announced her upcoming album, The Tortured Poets Department. The very last song on the track list is Clara Bow.

Now, fans of silent films, Clara Bow, and Taylor Swift alike can watch The Pill Pounder at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in April. It will be the first time it’s shown on the big screen in 101 years.

“This is why I do what I do, though I never dared dream this one would resurface,” David admits. “Miracles really do happen.”

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here!

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