I recently purchased a Keystone Kinescope Model E-32 16 Millimeter Projector from eBay. It was originally made by the Keystone Manufacturing Company, located at 288 A Street in Boston.
Today, that site is a parking lot.
I was able to date the projector as first being sold in 1932. The model number “E-32″ is just a coincidence, as others like the B-63, A-74, D-61 and D-62 were all created during or before 1932. The best evidence I was able to find was in a catalog that came in the original projector box. It advertises light bulbs for 1930, 1931 and 1932 models. Additionally, an old vintage movie equipment website lists 1932 as the possible year for the E-32.
After making the exchange for the projector in Union Square here in New York, I brought it home and went through the box contents. The original box was included, and I pulled out the projector, two camera spools with some very old films, and some small spare parts.
At the bottom of the box were several cut strips of film.
At first, I didn’t think much of it. Some film at the bottom of the box…I figured it was probably just discarded from the spools. I viewed one of the strips under the light to get an idea of what it might be. Looked like a black and white cartoon. The eBay seller said that his grandfather collected old film equipment many years ago, and that the box had likely been sitting idle in the same place for decades. I set the short film strips aside and concentrated on the projector, setting up the film that was already on the spools.
Several days passed, and last night I decided to have a closer look at the film in the box. I confirmed what I had thought several days earlier. The film is part of an early Mickey Mouse cartoon.
There are five strips from the bottom of the box, and each one has a different length. All five together measure 22.72 inches, or 57.85 centimeters, with 68 full frames. Here’s the breakdown:
- Strip One: 2.5 in, 6.35 cm
- Strip Two: 3.5 in, 9 cm
- Strip Three: 5.27 in, 13.4cm
- Strip Four: 4.8 in, 12.2 cm
- Strip Five: 6.65 in, 16.9cm
Mickey Mouse debuted in 1928, first seen by the public in Steamboat Willie, though he did make appearances in the undistributed films Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho. Looking at the film, I wanted to find out which movie these frames were from. I searched around the internet, watching old shorts and reading articles.
In studying all of the frames, here’s what I see going on in this scene:
A smiling Mickey Mouse is walking on a prairie. He sees a pig with piglets getting milk and picks up the mother. One of the dark-colored piglets hangs on by the nipple. Mickey’s eyebrows change to show a bit of anger. He kicks the piglet off the mother pig, causing the piglet to go up into the air and then land on its head.
With such little information, I knew it might be difficult to find any details about the film frames. I noticed that Mickey isn’t wearing gloves. In doing some research, I found that Mickey didn’t wear his signature white gloves until halfway through 1929′s The Opry House. The only films that don’t feature his white gloves are the three I mentioned earlier and 1929′s The Jazz Fool. This means that the mystery film very likely was created in 1928 or 1929.
After looking through almost 100 Mickey Mouse cartoons, I haven’t been able to locate the movie. Lists on IMDb, DisneyShorts.org and YouTube don’t contain the short. I’m continuing to research the frames, and while part of me hopes I can find out more information, a larger part hopes I’ve discovered a piece of history.
Update (February 14, 2013): The video is now live on YouTube for viewing.
Update 2 (June 6, 2013): The answer has been found. The six seconds of film is part of a deleted scene from Steamboat Willie. Thanks to Aeonterbor for notifying me on the YouTube comments.