Many of the most iconic films in cinematic history — “Casablanca,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Citizen Kane” — were recorded on nitrate, the earliest form of motion picture film, yet the material has a terrible reputation.
Used from the late 1800s through the 1940s, nitrate film was incredibly flammable and caused countless fires in movies theaters. These tragic chapters in cinematic history have been revisited in films such as “Cinema Paradiso,” “Inglourious Basterds,” and “The Artist.” Later, once nitrate film was phased out, many archives were intentionally burned, simply to destroy the hazardous material.
In this great video by Wiki4All, we’re introduced to the 1937 Fox Vault fire, in which more than 75% of 20th Century Fox’s films made before 1930 were destroyed.
Want to get a peek at how intensely nitrate film actually burns? Skip to the 4 minute mark of the additional video we’ve included below.