about David Shepard's condition makes me want to put up this tribute now, if there's a chance of letting him know how valuable his work has been. I thought there could be no more appropriate way to express what he's done for everyone who loves early film than to cite just a few of the titles I own thanks to his efforts to make them available, that have enriched my life as a student of film. But even so, I had to leave so much out— no DeMille whom he released so much of, no Buster Keaton, no The Lost World
, no Boris Barnet, no Abel Gance, nor such oddities and wonders as House of Mystery, Bed and Sofa, Laila, Regeneration, Bardelys the Magnificent,
and so on. I mean, go look at the list on his Wikipedia page,
there's practically no end to it.
The fact is, David Shepard's life has not only been about preserving film history, he has been a part of film history. He worked for Kent Eastin at Blackhawk Films, eventually acquiring the library and trademark. He worked for the AFI, steering the contents of Paramount's vaults to the Library of Congress's care. He created markets for silent film around the world to make these releases possible. He has been part of festivals from Kansas to Pordenone. And not least, he has participated online with fans—and often detractors—of his releases, first at alt.movies.silent (where it amazed me that that guy whose name was on the laserdiscs I owned could actually be spoken to and he would respond), and later here
. As he knows well, film history changes with what's available, and he has often brought titles back from obscurity to put them back into the mainstream of film's story.
There's an example of his knowledge that struck me here a while back when I interviewed him
—he rattled off a list of French directors he considered important:
Carne, Clair, Prevert, Renoir, Feyder, Duvivier, Musso and others.
I knew the others, but Musso? My efforts to identify this figure were unsuccessful, and I finally asked him directly. It was Jeff Musso, director of a 1939 French film based on a novel by Liam O'Flaherty called The Puritan.
Who knows, he remembered it so we may see it yet.
Thank you for everything, Mr. Shepard.
Titles depicted: The Kid
(Chaplin), The Toll Gate
(Hart), A Modern Musketeer
(Fairbanks), The Italian
(1915), Broken Blossoms, The Indian Tomb
(1921), Capitaine Fracasse
(Cavalcanti), Les Vampires
(Feuillade), Conquest of the Pole
(Melies), Cyrano de Bergerac
(Feyder), The Late Matthias Pascal
(L'Herbier), The Childhood of Maxim Gorky