In 2013, the George Eastman Museum, the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF), the Cineteca del Friuli, and Cinemazero, an art house in Pordenone, Italy, announced the recovery of Mercury Theatre's long-lost Too Much Johnson, directed by Orson Welles in 1938.
The nitrate work print of the film—left unfinished by the Mercury Theatre and never shown in public—was found in a warehouse by the staff of Cinemazero. The film was transferred to the Eastman Musem in order to be preserved with a grant from NFPF.
Too Much Johnson was originally intended to be screened in conjunction with Welles's stage adaptation of an 1894 play by William Gillette. The Mercury Theatre planned to show the three short films as prologues to each act of the play with the accompaniment of music and live sound effects, but it was never finished. Joseph Cotten was cast in the lead role, with supporting roles going to Mercury Theatre actors Eustace Wyatt, Edgar Barrier, Ruth Ford, Arlene Francis, Mary Wickes, Orson Welles, and Virginia Nicholson. The play ultimately opened without the film on August 16, 1938.
Too Much Johnson received its world premiere on October 9, 2013, at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy; its North American premiere on October 16, 2013, at the Dryden Theatre at the Eastman Museum; and its NYC premiere on November 25, 2013, at the Directors Guild of America Theater.
Partners in this film restoration include:
Cinemazero (Pordenone, Italy)
Cineteca del Friuli (Gemona del Friuli, Italy)
National Film Preservation Foundation (San Francisco, California)
Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia
Laboratory services provided by:
Janice Allen and Michael Kolvik (Cinema Arts, Newfoundland, Pennsylvania)
Erik Vrolijk (Haghefilm Digitaal, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)