The New York Times – 1979
Lillian Gish ‘Lobbies’ for Old Newsreels
June 20, 1979
WASHINGTON, June 19 (UPI) — Lillian Gish, whose film career spans almost the entire history of movies, urged Congress today to preserve the historic newsreels now deteriorating in vaults.
“It’s powerful history, and we should preserve the living record of it,” Miss Gish told a House Government Operations subcommittee.
The threat to old newsreel footage was demonstrated last Dec. 7 when a fire at a National Archives storage facility in Suitland, Md., destroyed 12.6 million of the 28 million feet of newsreel’ film that had been donated by Universal Studios. A 1977 fire destroyed a smaller amount of film.
George Stevens, retiring director of the American Film Institute, estimated it would cost between $15 million and $30 million to recopy surviving newsreel footage on modern film that will not deteriorate.
Miss Gish, who made her stage debut in 1902 at the age of 4, has appeared in motion pictures since 1913. In recent years, she has been active as a lecturer on film preservation.
Much of the footage in Government vaults, dating from 1930 to 1951, was on nitrate film, which becomes highly flammable as it deteriorates.