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Mutt and Jeff being preserved


Among a cache of recently discovered American silent films from 1912-1927 was one cartoon, Mutt and Jeff in On Strike (1920). It, along with seven others, will be restored via a new international cooperative film preservation program between the major U.S. archives and Australia.

The cartoon itself is interesting as it reflects and lampoons the strikes and labor strife common in the US during the post World War I period. The plot has Mutt and Jeff going on strike when they are refused a pay raise and their attempts to make their own cartoons. “Chastened by the experience, they return wiser workers.” It also features a rare on screen appearance of Mutt & Jeff creator/cartoonist Bud Fisher. Exhibition prints will be distributed to the U.S. archives for screenings later this year.

UPDATE: The cartoon has been posted online, click here.

  • Joe

    Alright! It’s very nice to hear that these films are beign preserved in such a collaberative effort.

    That Mutt & Jeff cartoon indeed sounds unusual. It sounds like something more fitting with Fleischer’s Koko the Clown series.

  • This is great news. Finds like this are like time capsules of halcyon times of our past. True connoisseurs of early animation will flock to treasures like this. With the lack of originality as of late, many are turning back to the classics. I couldn’t pry my kids from Sponge Bob to watch Mutt and Jeff. Old school they say. It’s too bad they are missing a society of past values generated in the animation and stories of the past. I think we can still learn a lot from films like this and reflect on life that transcends into today’s world. Everything comes back in cycles, even labor strife and recessions.

  • Cartoon characters making cartoons seems to be a recurring theme in animation. Anyone know what the first instance was?

  • It always makes me feel good inside when I find out people are making an effort to preserve this kind of American history.

  • Keith Paynter

    Bravo! It’s the equivalent of unearthing a buried time capsule (or a contruction worker discovering a singing frog, for that mattter!)

    Once in a while, to turn a phrase, one generation’s trash is another generation’s treasure.

  • moopot

    Isn’t a brief excerpt of this cartoon on encarta 96?

  • I’ll take this opportunity to recommend a dvd of work by one of Mutt & Jeff’s original animators.

    Charley Bowers was an artist, animator and live action director of silent comedies. He also acted in his films, and even survived into the sound era. His live action work integrated some fantastic stop motion animation.

  • That’s quite a discovery. If only someday someone came across the full eight-hour version of Greed…

  • Cole Johnson

    The Fox people were brutally indifferent to their archives. As a result, the surviving record of their material is pitiful. As far as I can tell, there are probably less than ten Fox Mutt and Jeff cartoons extant. I’ve gone to some effort personally and have only been able to document three and a chunk of one more, out of a ton of these made over the course of five years. Movie trade magazines of the time have heavy promotion for these, and very enthusiastic reviews. With a wildly imaginative man like Charley Bowers in charge, their absence is all the more tantalizing. Can’t wait to see “ON STRIKE”!