UNLV Film Department Makes ‘Front Page’ News
A legacy of Las Vegas founding father Howard Hughes will flicker back to life Monday at UNLV.
Long before he created a Strip casino empire or bought the land on which Summerlin sits, the reclusive billionaire took a turn as a 1930s Hollywood mogul.
One of his most enduring achievements, the 1931 newspaper satire “The Front Page” will be shown Monday at a special screening for the UNLV students and faculty, some of whom worked to restore a print that had been untouched for more than 80 years.
The film was entrusted to UNLV in the 1990s along with other films from Hughes’ personal collection.
Hart Wegner is a professor emeritus from UNLV's film department. He was instrumental in bringing the collection to the university. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that he had to convince the people at Howard Hughes Corporation that UNLV was the right place for the collection.
“I pointed out that for us it would put us on the map in terms of having something of such importance in the department of film and it would be an extra seven truckloads of boxes that would sit in the back of the warehouse for the academy for instance,” Wegner said.
The collection includes five complete films by Hughes, including "The Front Page," but there is also advertising campaign material, contracts for actors and directors, correspondence and operating documents for Hughes' silent film studio.
Jason Edminston is the film and new media specialist at the Department of Film. He said it all the documents that accompany the films are the most interesting to him.
“As long as I’ve studied films one of the things that has fascinated me is that it is a process,” he said.
Edmiston said looking at the paperwork for the films, including how they were adjusted for each state's censorship board, "is a reflection of that process as it was years and years ago.”
Over the past two years, the print of “The Front Page” was returned to pristine condition through the support of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars.
The prints that UNLV has are in fairly good condition, according to Edmiston. The Academy will scan the prints, remove dust, scratches and problems with contrast in a digital environment.
“Ultimately, we’ll get a 35 millimeter print back because that is still the most stable way to archive anything,” Edmiston said.
The film "The Front Page" isn't just important to UNLV's film department but to the whole film industry, Film Department Chairman Francisco Menendez said.
“No one knew the importance of this 'Front Page' print because the Library of Congress had one but it happened to be the international one, and we own the only domestic version of the print,” he said.
Menendez said having the collection at UNLV will give scholars a chance to dig deep into a section of American film history.
“It’s part of American cinema that really has not been written about and cataloged in an academic way,” he said.
Menendez believes the Howard Hughes film collection will be the cornerstone of the UNLV film studies department as the school transitions into a top tier university.
Francisco Menendez, chairman, UNLV Film Department; Hart Wegner, emeritus professor, UNLV Film Department; Jason Edmiston, film and new media specialist, UNLV Film Department