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Rome (AFP) – A long-lost film by legendary U.S. director Orson Welles is being shown in Italy on Wednesday for the first time in decades after being mysteriously recovered in a removal company warehouse.

The discovery “is a real detective novel of a story,” said its restorer Paolo Cherchi Usai, who also helps organize a silent film festival in northeast Italy where the showing is taking place.

“Too Much Johnson” (1938) is believed to be the first professional film by Welles and was intended to be shown as part of a play, as the theatre director was making his transition to film-making.

Cherchi Usai said the last known screening of the film was in the 1960s and the reels lay undiscovered in storage in Italy for 30 years.

“It is a real mystery. I only have a few facts,” Cherchi Usai said.

Welles worked for many years in Italy and Spain.

“The reels were in surprisingly good shape even though they were not kept in the right conditions, except for one where you could not see a thing which was restored in the Netherlands,” he said.

Film expert Cherchi Usai carried out most of the restoration himself at the George Eastman House film institute in Rochester in the U.S. state of New York, where the original is now being stored.

The festival is being organised in Pordenone, the same Italian city where the film was found.

The short film — a slapstick comedy — is considered his first professional film work and shows early signs of the director’s signature style of shooting his subjects from below pointing up, giving them a statuesque, monumental quality.

Cherchi Usai said film buffs and journalists from around the world are coming to the showing on Wednesday, which will be followed by a screening in the United States later in the month.

“We have been inundated with requests and the showing has been booked out for months. We have been forced to organize two more showings on Friday to accommodate all the requests,” he said.

AFP Photo/Pierre Guillaud

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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