Alma Taylor Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter

Treasures from the silent era: the Townly Cooke Collection

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.

Mademoiselle from Armentieres (1927) Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter
Mademoiselle from Armentieres (1927) Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter

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.

Poster for The Rat (1925) Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter
Poster for The Rat (1925) Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter

“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.

Dorothy Gish in Tiptoes (1927) Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter
Dorothy Gish in Tiptoes (1927) Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter
Jane Shore (1915) Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter
Jane Shore (1915) Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter
Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter
Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter
Alma Taylor Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter
Alma Taylor Courtesy of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Treasures from the silent era: the Townly Cooke Collection”

  1. Hi Pam – you’ve got “maybe” rather than “many” on the first line.

    Solidarity against the tyranny of auto-correct and, in my case, English!

    Best

    PJ

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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