Malibu filmmaker Leslie Schwarz has discovered hours of footage using archival scanner
by Dean Robinson
a Special to The Malibu Times
Leslie Schwarz has spent the last 14 years researching her private collection of original spy mission films. She has accumulated nearly 1,000 hours of rare and unseen films, and her collection has become a priceless library of films and stories that bring into question a plethora of controversial, geopolitical, and entertaining moments in history.
Last year, Schwarz purchased one of the best archival 4K film scanners available today. This allowed her to uncover and preserve some amazing treasures, including Anheuser-Busch family movies, original car racing films from Bridgehampton, and childhood films of Queen Elizabeth.
Schwarz has scanned a couple of hours of Elizabeth films, which seem to have been shot over a period starting around 1929 and continuing through 1933. Scanned at 4K, the 90-year-old films and frame grabs look like they were shot yesterday.
What appears to be on this set of films:
The footage was shot long before Edward VIII (Wallis Simpson) abdicated the throne to George VI (as dramatized in the Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech”), at a time when Elizabeth was just a little girl and not even considered in line to be queen. These films show a great relationship between a semi-normal 20-something pre-Queen Mother and her precocious child Elizabeth.
It is as if someone just followed them around with a camera and filmed everything they did: birthdays, costume parties, beach vacations with the queen mother’s parents (Cecelia Bowes-Lyon and Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore), along with footage of friends like a young Winston Churchill.
A trip on the Royal Yacht Britannia to India to attend a Viceregal garden party for the recently placed Viceroy of India, Lord Willingdon (Delhi, 1932). At the Viceregal event, Queen Mary (Mary of Teck) was filmed having an argument with the Nizam of Hyderabad (the richest man in the world). India was in the midst of a Great Depression and less than a month before the party, Lord Willingdon had imprisoned Mahatma Gandhi for his Civil Disobedience Movement (as depicted in the movie “Gandhi”).
Elizabeth riding horses in Shimla at Wildflower Hall. A large military parade, exhibition, and horse show officiated by Queen Mary; attended by George VI.
Maharajah, Sir Hari Singh was the big trophy winner for his horses (Sir Hari Singh is the reason that Jammu and Kashmir is disputed to this day). The films end with three or four years of Elizabeth’s elaborate birthday and costume parties spanning between the ages of 3 and 7.
Leslie’s film collection backstory:
Schwarz’s obsession with collecting films started after the death of her great aunt. While the family was clearing out her aunt’s house, Leslie saved a cache of dusty old films that were destined for the Dumpster. Hundreds of old films neatly stacked in fiber film boxes, metal cases, and wrapped in 60-year-old newspapers had sat hidden in a crawlspace forgotten for decades. The family rarely talked about her famous uncle’s films or details of how the films were thought to have been destroyed by a suspicious fire.
Initially, Schwarz tried to see the footage by hooking film reels to her painting easel and viewing individual frames using a magnifying glass and flashlight. Many cut fingers and headaches later, she bought an antique Moviscop film viewer. Through the Moviscop, she was able to watch her footage come to life: a 1933 voodoo ritual in the jungles of Suriname, Princess Grace at her wedding, Bulgari craftsmen making jewelry earmarked for Elizabeth Taylor, the first footage ever shot of the Pope inside of the Vatican on Easter Sunday, a cold war suicide mission through India, the assassination of Iranian Prime Minister Haj Ali Razmara, the first moving footage of Venezuela’s Angel Falls, the first footage of Columbia’s Popayan Procession, and many others.
Schwarz’s collection of films is a time capsule of luminaries, religious icons, world leaders, and controversial geopolitical history, filmed just before a coup, invasion, genocide, or event changed the country forever.
Schwarz doesn’t fit the profile of a typical film nerd obsessed with collecting and saving old films.
Graduating from UCLA with a degree in economics and a passion for film; she went to work at Warner Brothers Studios for Peter Guber’s production company.
In her mid-20s, Schwarz’s career trajectory took a downturn when she was hit by drunk drivers in two separate car accidents. This triggered a series of life-threatening events culminating in a doctor telling her to go home and put her affairs in order.
Schwarz has survived massive head trauma, paralysis, mercury poisoning, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, and numerous death sentences. She brought herself back through excruciating alternative medicine, spiritual practices, and equestrian therapy.
During the Iraq War, Leslie acted as liaison for Malibu’s adopted 101st Airborne “Gators”; wrote “Ponying-Up,” an ongoing column on equestrian therapy for The Equestrian News; taught handicapped horseback riding at Ronald McDonald Camp and SERT (Special Equestrian Riding Therapy); and served on the board of Malibu’s Trancas Riders and Ropers.
With a degree in economics and a Ph.D. in life, Schwarz is a courageous, compassionate, complex woman profoundly impacted by her personal struggles.
Whether through God, Djinn, Deity, spell, talisman, spirit, or submission, a series of inexplicable events has guided and driven Schwarz throughout this 14-year journey of discovery, as if otherworldly forces have made her story one with these films.
Malibu Times articles about Leslie and her projects:
Uncle Art was a Spy pepperdine.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/PDNP01/id/29205/
Anne Frank Film pepperdine.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/PDNP01/id/36085
Top stories of 2014 #9 malibutimes.com/article_925c9bda-8fbb-11e4-afad-c7436668495d