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Once a lab was able to separate the layers, Benaquist reached out to Schmidt.
"I was really stunned, because a lot of those early films, you just figure they're gone," Schmidt said Monday. "For that one to turn up was really exciting."
Pickford had been known only as "Little Mary," "The Girl with the Curls" and "The Biograph" girl, after her former studio, but that changed after "Their First Misunderstanding," Benaquist said.
"Now she was an actor with clout, and I think she used that to great advantage," he said.
One clip of the restored film shows Pickford bounding into the room and confronting her husband about an invitation from someone she doesn't particularly like.
"You see the whole range of emotions in that clip -- playful, annoyed, loving and worried," Schmidt said.
Massie, who also rescued an old projector from the barn in the town of Nelson, said the owner had told him he could keep whatever he found. Not realizing the nitrate film was highly flammable, he kept the reels in his truck for a while -- while he smoked cigarettes -- and later stored them near his woodstove at home.
"Then I found out I could've exploded," he said.
Ninety percent of the movies made before 1930 are gone, Benaquist said.
"So, the odds are if you find a stack of films, you might find something that hasn't been around," he said. "With this stack of films, it was like striking gold. It was just amazing. So I've learned never to say no when someone calls me up and says, 'Hey, I've got some old films in my attic, do you want to come look?'"
"I always go," he said. "Always."
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