The Malkames Legacy

You could say that the origin of the Malkames family's urge to preserve our cinema history could be traced back the moment Don Malkames first laid eyes on a projected image as a young boy.  



Don Malkames was a member of the ASC, IATSE and Life Fellow of the SMPTE. He received the IATSE Billy Bitzer award in 1977. Don’s fascination with the motion picture business began in 1909 when he was five years old. His mother took him to the local nickelodeon that was owned by his uncle in Hazleton, PA. He was transfixed not only by the picture, but by the beam of light coming from the projection booth. His uncle allowed him to climb up to the projection booth and Don never forgot the experience. Don’s father George was unimpressed with the movie business until the summer of 1915 when he took the whole family to see D.W. Griffith’s Birth of A Nation. Don’s father had a change of mind after seeing Griffith’s epic and felt that his son might pursue a legitimate career in this new field.   

When Don was seventeen he purchased a portable “suitcase” Devry projector. He began giving shows to small towns in the Hazleton vicinity.  Pathe’s Passion Play, Kalem’s From The Manger to The Cross, and the Italian spectacle The Last Days Of Pompeii were the most popular shows. His efforts earned him enough to buy a secondhand 35MM Williamson camera and he shot local scenes for showing at the hometown theatre.  

By 1922 Don was determined to seek his fortune in Hollywood. After some discouraging times not landing a job, he noticed, while sitting in a coffee shop, that cameramen returning with their equipment from locations were unchallenged by the gatemen at the Fox studio on Western Avenue. At this time, he had purchased a used Pathe camera, so he shouldered his Pathe camera case and walked through the gate with a group of actors and studio workers. He wandered about the lot and encountered a friendly cameraman named Earnest Miller, who was so amused by Don having crashed the gate that he introduced him to the head of the camera department. Within a week, Don was working as Earnest Miller’s assistant. For the next seven years, Don worked at Fox as well as other studios. He felt very fortunate to have worked with many great early Hollywood cameraman, including Joseph H. August ASC. He returned to the East Coast in the 1930s and continued his work as a DP on over 40 feature films, dozens of short subjects and over 100 TV shows and commercials.   

He started collecting early motion picture equipment in the late 1930s and began his film restoration work in the late 1960s. He was able to obtain the actual cameras that shot the films that piqued his interest and ignited his passion for the film industry when he was a child, including cameraman Billy Bitzer’s Studio Pathe camera and the Moy & Bastie camera that cameraman George Hollister used to shoot From the Manger to the Cross.

In 1972 Don reproduced a collection of Lumiere films that had been discovered in a basement storage area of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. He used Lumiere Cinematographe No. 419 that he had acquired from Francis Dublier, who was one of the Lumiere’s pioneer cameraman and he used it in its printer mode to print the almost  80-year-old round perforation film to copy onto 35MM safety film.  Film historian and preservationist, David Shepard produced the film Lumiere’s First Picture Shows, which was a compilation of this earliest work of the Lumiere brothers.  Don’s film restoration and preservation work was carried on by his son Karl.



Karl Malkames was an ASC, IATSE and Life Fellow of SMPTE. He received the Billy Bitzer Award from the IATSE posthumously in 2016. After serving in the Pacific as a submariner in WWII, Karl started his career in the motion picture industry working as a machinist for the Wall camera factory in Syracuse, NY. In the late 1940s, he worked as an assistant cameraman and early 1950s as a cameraman with Warner Pathe News, where he wrote, directed and shot dozens of newsreel shorts.  

He later traveled the world shooting theatrical and commercial films. He shared the interest that his father, Don Malkames had for early motion picture industry and the passion to preserve the earliest films. He adapted old motion picture printers and designed and built specialized printers that resulted in saving hundreds of early films  - usually too fragile or deteriorated to be handled by the then conventional methods. Much of the extensive output of The Biograph Company (and thus the early work of D.W. Griffith) was preserved by Karl Malkames for the Museum of Modern Art. Karl performed restoration for the Library of Congress, The American Film Institute, and had a long association with film historian and showman, Paul Killiam for whom he restored dozens of Silent Era classics for the Emmy award winning television series The Silent Years.  

Key works by D.W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Mary Pickford, John Barrymore, Buster Keaton, Clara Bow and Tom Mix were saved for posterity thanks to his efforts. 




Karl Malkames has reproduced over a million feet of film in his lifelong efforts to preserve early cinema work for museums and archives worldwide. Among the hundreds of films Karl has restored over the years are these notables:

  • THE CORBETT - FITZSIMMONS FIGHT (1897)  -  Veriscope

  • LIME KILN CLUB FIELD DAY (1913)  -  starring Bert Williams - produced by The Biograph Company

  • THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915)  -  directed by D.W. Griffith

  • INTOLERANCE (1916)  -  directed by D.W. Griffith

  • HEARTS OF THE WORLD (1918)  -  starring Lillian & Dorothy Gish - directed by D.W. Griffith

  • BROKEN BLOSSOMS (1919)  -  starring Lillian Gish - directed by D.W. Griffith

  • DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920)  -  starring John Barrymore

  • WAY DOWN EAST (1920)  -  starring Lillian Gish - directed by D. W. Griffith

  • THE MARK OF ZORRO (1920)  -  starring & produced by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. - directed by Fred Niblo

  • THE TOLL GATE (1920)  -  starring & produced by William S. Hart

  • ORPHANS OF THE STORM (1921)  -  starring Lillian & Dorothy Gish - directed by D.W. Griffith

  • THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1921)  -  starring & produced by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. - directed by Fred Niblo

  • BLOOD AND SAND (1922)  -  starring Rudolph Valentino & Nita Naldi - directed by Fred Niblo

  • DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS (1922)  -  starring Clara Bow

  • AMERICA (1924)  -  directed by D.W. Griffith

  • THE IRON HORSE (1924)  -  hybrid edition using both the US-UK versions - directed by John Ford

  • THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924)  -  starring & produced by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. - directed by Raoul Walsh

  • THE EAGLE (1925)  -  starring Rudolph Valentino & Vilma Banky - directed by Clarence Brown

  • LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY (1925)  -  starring & produced by Mary Pickford - directed by William Beaudine

  • THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)  -  starring Lon Chaney, Sr.

  • RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (1925)  -  starring Tom Mix

  • SALLY OF THE SAWDUST (1925)  -  starring W.C. Fields - directed by D.W. Griffith

  • TUMBLEWEEDS (1925)  -  starring & produced by William S. Hart

  • THE GREAT K&A TRAIN ROBBERY (1926)  -  starring Tom Mix

  • THE SON OF THE SHIEK (1926)  -  starring Rudolph Valentino & Vilma Banky - directed by George Fitzmaurice

  • SPARROWS (1926)  -  starring & produced by Mary Pickford - directed by William Beaudine

  • WHAT PRICE GLORY (1926)  -  starring Victor McLaglen & Edmund Lowe - directed by Raoul Walsh

  • THE BELOVED ROGUE (1927)  -  starring John Barrymore & Conrad Veidt - directed by Alan Crosland

  • IT (1927)  -  starring Clara Bow - directed by Clarence G. Badger

  • 7TH HEAVEN (1927)  -  starring Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell - directed by Frank Borzage

  • SUNRISE (1927)  -  directed by F.W. Murnau

  • STEAMBOAT BILL, JR (1928)  -  starring Buster Keaton

  • TEMPEST (1928)  -  starring John Barrymore - directed by Sam Taylor

  • THE IRON MASK (1929)  -  starring & produced by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. - directed by Allan Dwan

  • THE BIG TRAIL (1930)  -  starring John Wayne, directed by Raoul Walsh - Fox Grandeur 65mm