Many of you reading this will have known the artist and photographer Townly Cooke, who died in 2016. He had a huge collection of silent film stills and memorabilia and was a regular at the British Silent Film Festival.
After he died, his collection of around 1,000 pieces was bequeathed to the wonderful Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in Exeter, and they are now on display there. Cooke never exhibited his collection, so this is the first time that these pieces have been shown to the public.
It’s a treasure trove for fans of British silent cinema. The majority of the collection consists of of stills from films of the 1910s and 1920s and most of these are from British films. Cooke was especially interested in the work of Cecil Hepworth, and his stars, including Alma Taylor and the It couple Henry Edwards and Chrissie White.
The collection features a large number of large-form advertising cards for Hepworth’s productions, and several production images from each film. There are also rare very early copies of the Picturegoer magazine and pressbooks for films including The Rat (1925), starring Ivor Novello.
“In many cases the images and ephemera in the collection are the only visual evidence of films that are now lost,” says Dr Phil Wickham, curator of the Museum. “The Townly Cooke collection is a wonderful addition to our holdings at the museum and a great opportunity for scholars and the public alike to discover more about this fascinating period of film history through these beautiful artefacts.
“The collection is a testimony to Townly’s abilities as a collector and his ambition to share his collection with others after his death. We are very grateful for his generosity and to his family and estate and his friend Amran Vance in enabling the acquisition.”
The Townly Cooke Collection actually includes stills from three films on the BFI “Most Wanted” list of lost movies: The Amazing Quest of Mr Ernest Bliss (1920), Mademoiselle from Armentieres (1927) and Tiptoes (1927).
The best way to experience this fantastic collection is to take a trip to Exeter and visit the museum for yourself. But, with permission, I have included some stills here to give you an idea of what is included.
- For details of how to visit the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum and see Townly Cooke’s wonderful collection, visit the website here. The museum is situated within the campus of Exeter University, and it’s a fantastic place, bursting with interesting displays.
- And click here for a full listing of all the items in the collection.
- You can read more about the Townly Cooke Collection here.
- And you can find out more about Townly Cooke herehttp://www.townlycooke.com/contents/biography.html.
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