THE TUNNEY - GREB BOXING MATCH 1922
The story begins with Jimmy Jacobs stating in 1986 that "I have three frames of the first Greb-Gene Tunney fight that I found stapled to a copyright application for the film," Jimmy Jacobs said in a Ring Magazine article that the American Film Institute had a file for the film but the film was missing. So the question for years was, "Where did it go and who has it?"
I contacted The American Film Institute and The Library of Congress and neither could find the film or the folder. I pressed further and here is the response from the Library of Congress that helps clarify the situation:
Here's a guess on the situation with the Tunney-Greb fight film. I think that the film was never actually held by the American Film Institute or the Library of Congress. The American Film Institute Catalog is a long-term project undertaken by the AFI to identify all feature-length films (films of four or more reels) produced in America. I believe someone has confused the entry for "The Tunney-Greb Boxing Match" (1922) in the Catalog as proof that the film was in the custody of the AFI. I also think it is possible that Jim Jacobs confused this film with another motion picture in which Greb appeared.
Following are entries from the AFI Catalog retrieved by searching "Harry Greb."
The Tunney-Greb Boxing Match (1922)
Production Company: J. C. Clark Productions
Released: 00 Jun 1922
Length: 4 reels
Physical Properties: Black & White; Silent
Production Credits: .
Genre: Documentary, Boxing
Principal Subjects: Boxing; Harry Greb; Madison Square Garden (New York City); Gene Tunney
Plot Summary: Gene Tunney loses his American light heavyweight title to Harry Greb by a decision after 15 rounds of boxing. (Madison Square Garden, 23 May
The Fighting Deacon (1926)
Alternative Title(s): The Life of Tiger Flowers
Distribution Company: Theatrical Owners Booking Association
Released: 1926; Pittsburgh showing: 13 Sep 1926
Copyright Information: © Walk Miller; 03 Aug 1926; MU3529
Length: 5 reels
Physical Properties: Black & White; Silent
Production Credits: Production Walk Miller; Writer Walk Miller.
Cast: Theodore Tiger Flowers, Walk Miller
Genre: Documentary, African American; Documentary, Boxing
Principal Subjects: African Americans; Boxers; Boxing managers; Deacons; Theodore Flowers; Harry Greb; Porters; World War I
Plot Summary: Episodes from the boyhood and early manhood of Theodore Flowers are presented, including his experiences in the United States Army during World War I. Flowers, formerly a porter, Flowers turns to boxing and, under the training of Walk Miller, becomes the middleweight champion, beating Harry Greb for the title.
Note: This film was also known as The Life of Tiger Flowers.
California Eagle 29 Oct 26, p. 1.
Pittsburgh Courier 4 Sep 36, p. 10.
Jacobs' claim was "I have three frames of the first Greb-Gene Tunney fight that I found stapled to a copyright application for the film," he said in 1986."
Please note, there is no copyright information listed in the AFI Catalog entry for "The Tunney-Greb Boxing Match," nor is the film listed in "The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Motion Pictures, 1912-1939." I think Jacobs' memory may have been faulty. The second film "The Fighting Deacon" was registered for copyright. The copyright number MU3529 indicates that the film was "non-fiction" and was registered as unpublished. It was common for the application for unpublished registrations to include a few frames from the film.
Unfortunately, many of these frames were on nitrate stock and deteriorated over the years. I looked at our microfilm of the copyright descriptions (the paperwork we received) for the material received for "The Fighting Deacon."
There was a two-page synopsis that was mostly illegible because of large holes in the paper. These holes are usually the result of nitrate frames being clipped to the paper. At some point, staff went through the copyright descriptions and separated the frames and other still images from the paperwork.
Unfortunately, most of the nitrate material was beyond saving.
It does seem unlikely that Jacobs would confuse Tunney with Theodore Flowers, but whether the frames were from "The Fighting Deacon" or another film, I do not believe they were from a copyright application for "The Tunney-Greb Boxing Match" (1922). Also nothing I've found supports the theory that the film was stolen from the AFI or the Library.
The Library Of Congress
I then asked the Library of Congress about the current status of the Tiger Flowers Film "The Fighting Deacon"1926. Here was there response:
When film frames and other stills images were separated from copyright paperwork many years ago, the materials that were salvageable were conserved and inventoried. The materials, usually nitrate, that could not be preserved were destroyed. None of the frames accompanying the copyright registration of "The Fighting Deacon" survived.
When I pressed the issue of the American Film Institute possibly having the film instead of the Library of Congress I recieved this response:
I am afraid you still have some confusion regarding the AFI Catalog. The Catalog is a reference work identifying feature film produced in the U.S., not a listing of the films once held by the AFI.
Here's what the AFI had to say:
Your e-mail and recent letter to the AFI have been forwarded to the Library.
The AFI Catalog records enclosed in the letter are not an inventory of films owned by the AFI. The Catalog is an ongoing research project to document all American films released. Unfortunately, much of film from the first half of the 20th Century did not survive. The Catalog is a project designed to document that lost history.
AFI's collection of preserved films are placed on deposit with the Library of Congress. Since you have already contacted the Library of Congress the film is not part of the AFI collection.
There is no universal database of films housed at various film archives , so it is impossible to check with each one. I can only suggest that you contact each individually (some of the larger ones are Eastman House, Rochester, NY, MOMA in New York, American Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, NY , UCLA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences).
It would appear that J. C. Clark Productions made only the one film (the fight promoters perhaps?) so there is no company information.
So to summarize, both the Library of Congress and the American Film Institute NEVER had the 1922 Tunney - Greb Boxing Match. They only DOCUMENTED THAT IT ONCE EXISTED. As for the Tiger Flowers film that had footage of Greb in it, THE FILM WAS DESTROYED BECAUSE IT WASN'T SALVAGEABLE. Maybe someone out there has a copy of one of these films, but the Library of Congress AND the American Film Institute don't.