Classics We Will Likely Never See

Two weeks ago, I brought up several literary, musical, and artistic works that were widely misinterpreted. That got me thinking about classics in film and literature generally, and I wanted to do another “factoid” blog about them. So, here’s a look at some classics that have been lost to history, actively suppressed, or for some other reason really, really hard to come by. These are classics the likes of you and I will probably never see.

Valley of the Dolls

This classic tale from 1966 about fame and drug abuse sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and was adapted into film the very next year. It was a runaway hit – striking the right balance between celebrity gossip, new-wave feminism, and warnings about drug abuse and self-destruction. It spoke to a generation, and became a quintessential summation of the swinging ’60s. And you won’t find it in bookstores.

Why you’ll never see it: It’s been out of print for years.

To be fair, it’s not like you can never see it. It’s just that you have to shop a used bookstore or something like Amazon. Like anything else, publishers stop printing if the book stops selling.

That said, the story of the Dolls is far from over – NBC will soon air a miniseries based on the novel. So we can also get the story that way.

I’m not certain where I first learned this, but a quick online search confirmed the information via those sites I cited.

Song of the South

This 1946 Disney movie was based on a series of children’s books, and combined live-action and animation to tell folk tales to children. At the time, the film was incredibly popular, and added to America’s soundtrack the immortal Zip-A-Dee-Dooh-Dah.

Why you’ll never see it: Racism.

The film portrays a runaway white boy who discovers a magic black man telling folk tales. Who lives in what looks like either a log cabin or shack. And talks in a stereotypical accent. And who is accompanied by a little black boy (his son? a neighbor?) that works on a plantation. And they’re all just oh-so-happy about their situation. Zip-A-Dee-Dooh-Dah.

The film essentially portrays an idealized vision of the old-timey South. A vision that would offend many Americans today. So, Disney has refrained from ever releasing the movie on video in the U.S., and as of last year Disney CEO Robert Iger said there were “no plans” to release it on DVD.

Information from Wikipedia

Love’s Labor Won and Cardenio

William Shakespeare’s influence on the language, literature, and popular culture of all English-speaking nations is tremendous, to say the least. So imagine that one of his works was lost to history. What great story and dialogue are we missing? What information on Shakespeare’s mind might those pages uncover if only we could find a copy? What would we do?

Turns out any English teacher can answer that. It happened twice.

Why you’ll never see it: There are only two records of Love’s Labors Won ever existing. One is a bookseller’s list including the title among Shakespearean works; the other is a passing reference by Francis Meres when he lists off Shakespeare’s best comedies. It is often interpreted as a lost sequel to Love’s Labors Lost, though some scholars think it might be an alternative name for a comedy that we do know about.

Cardenio‘s existence is much more clear. We know from records kept by Shakespeare’s theater company that such a play was performed, and that Shakespeare did co-write it with John Fletcher. We also know that Cardenio is a character in the tales of Don Quixote, so it is likely that the plot was based on the Don Quixote stories. But, over the centuries, whatever manuscripts there were of the play have been lost, and the main early sources we have collecting Shakespeare’s work failed to include it.

Information from The Norton Shakespeare

Most early TV shows from before the 1950s

Ah, the classic days of television. I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Addams Family, Leave It To Beaver. Good stuff.

But did you know television has been around since the 1920s? And that there has been regularly scheduled public broadcasts since 1939? What happened to all that early stuff?

Why you’ll never see it: In our modern age when we are so used to all of our TV shows being recorded and edited beforehand, we forget that in the beginning to television, everything was live. The technology to record what was being broadcast to the world didn’t exist. You would only see what you were watching on TV once, and never again.

It was the TV show Amos & Andy that pioneered the idea of filming the show with a motion picture camera while simultaneously using a TV broadcast camera to broadcast the same show. That way, the broadcast could be preserved and “rerun”. Four months later, I Love Lucy picked up the technique. Eventually, videotape made the dual-camera method irrelevant, and opened up the world of television to shows produced well beforehand and edited later. But as for those earlier broadcasts? Sorry, they have been lost to history.

Information from Wikipedia.

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