The master camera negative of My Fair Lady was found in a quake-riddled vault in California eight years ago, forgotten, slowly decomposing. This wasn't an obscure film that had been langushing out of the public consciousness. This was a huge, $20 million dollar film, one of the last productions that Jack L. Warner ever undertook, and garnered eight Oscars at the 1965 Ceremony. And yet here it was, disintegrating. In this case, a happy ending was found; a restartion team was formed, and they managed to produce a new, digitally-enhanced print which is almost the equal of the original 1964 print.
However, other famous films have not been so lucky. At the moment, the prints for The Alamo, and It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World will be completely lost by next year. The Nun's Story is apparently in a bad way. And yet, very few people seem to care.
It's galling to see the movie companies clamouring for infinite copyright terms when they're prepared to let some of the greatest works of Western art in the 20th Century rot behind closed doors.