BATTLE OF THE BULGE, John & Evelyn Kibar, 1960 (from the Ron Doerring Collection)
The amateur film is another kind of home-made movie that tells a story. Made by devoted hobbyists, scholars and world travelers who honed their cinematography and editing skills, amateur films cover all sorts of topics and genres – from fiction and comedy films to documentary, travelogue and experimental subjects. But what all amateur films share in common is their motive – making films for the love of it. Throughout much of the 20th century amateur cinema clubs flourished in the United States and brought together these movie makers to share their work with each other and to collaborate on group projects. But whether made in groups or singularly, amateur films are fascinating (and often beautiful and entertaining) stories of our time, our society, and our encounter with the new technologies – like movies – that changed the way we see the world. Listed below are the CFA collections that include amateur works:
Though the Anti-Cruelty Society's film collection used to be more vast, the nine items in this collection are all that remains. This collection contains a cross between professionally produced educational shorts, as well as amateur film footage. The films feature imagery of petting zoos, animals getting check-ups at a Society clinic, animal training instructions, and the Anti-Cruelty Society's building on Grand Avenue circa 1940.
The Chicago Public Library film collection is Chicago Film Archives' (CFA) founding collection. CFA formed in order to care for this collection of about 5,000 16mm films that the library no longer could keep. The collection contains a broad sweep of genres. A large number of films are educational and travel films, but there are also silent films, foreign and American-made theatrical films, documentaries, industrials, newsreels, sports events and children's films. Together these films comprise a rich snapshot of an educational and cultural pathway the City of Chicago built for its citizens during the mid twentieth century.
The Margaret Conneely Collection contains the films and papers of Margaret Conneely, a prolific and respected Chicago amateur filmmaker. The collection includes medical films she made as a cinematographer for Loyola University, story films she made with other local hobbyists and professional filmmakers, films made by other amateur filmmakers, such as Carl Frazier and Nora Rafferty, and commercial films that she collected. Four of her films have been preserved by the National Film Preservation Foundation and the New York Women in Film & Television sponsored Women's Film Preservation Fund. The papers include a wealth of correspondence between Conneely and other amateur filmmakers, documents and publications from amateur film and photography associations, as well as photographs of Conneely and other filmmakers.
The Robert & Theresa Davis collection primarily consists of travelogue films created by the Illinois-based husband and wife duo, Robert & Theresa Davis. Places that are filmed include: Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Thailand, Tunisia, Sicily and Yugoslavia. The collection also contains a few amateur short films and musical productions as well as a handful of educational films. Additionally, the collection contains extensive papers and ephemera, including scrapbooks, photos, maps and diaries that describe the Davis' career as filmmakers, lecturers and tour guides.
The Ron Doerring Collection contains numerous award-winning amateur films made in the Midwest by members of the Society of Amateur Cinematographers. The majority of the films in the collection were made by John and Evelyn Kibar, a husband and wife filmmaking team from Racine, Wisconsin. The Kibar’s films include travelogues, documents of historical reenactments, and polished, often humorous, amateur shorts. The collection also contains amateur works by other members of the Society of American Cinematographers including Billy Meers, Will Marshall, George Ives, Sidney Moritz and two experimental films by Sol Falon.
The Richard J. Finnegan collection is a series of home movies, travelogues and amateur shorts shot by Chicago Sun-Times editor Richard J. Finnegan between 1929 and 1953. Many of the films in this collection creatively meld narrative inter-titles with non-fiction footage, and employ cinematic conventions such as slow motion and narrative-style editing. Subject matter spans trips to Yellowstone, Eureka, Bermuda and various parts of Northern and Southern California, personal films of notable events such as the 1929 Olympics in Los Angeles, and "classic" home movie family films of vacations, holidays and events, including birthday parties, baptisms, a wedding, Christmas and Halloween celebrations.
The Robert Ford Collection consists of four short films made by Robert Ford while he was living in Chicago in the 1960s. Ford was a student at Northwestern University, and the collection includes a film made while he was a graduate student, “The High Up Doll,” a whimsical look at childhood desire that includes both live-action and collage animation techniques. Ford’s three subsequent films were produced with the assistance of Northwestern University and examine subjects including the Chicago Vice Lords street gang in “The Corner,” the rehabilitation of individuals with physical disabilities in “The Way Back,” and homing pigeon racing in "The Homing Pigeon."
The Robert Frerck Collection consists of elements and different release prints of two documentaries created by Chicago-based filmmaker and photographer Robert Frerck: "Stella" documents the life of Ray Slupik, captain of the ship Stella and the last commercial fisherman in Chicago. "Al Andalus" (also titled Spain: The Moorish Influence) tells the history of the Moorish Culture of Spain, shooting on location in France, Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. Also included is stock footage and Kodalith artwork incorporated into the production of "Al Andalus."
The Julian Gromer Collection includes 15 travelogues and related papers by filmmaker Julian Gromer. The films depict his travels to Cuba, Nigeria, around Lake Michigan, Hawaii two months before Pearl Harbor, Canada, up the Amazon and Hudson rivers, and three films of cross-country cycling. Gromer was represented by the Redpath Bureau and co-owned Ralph Windoes Travelogues, Inc. His work is representative of post-World War II travelogue lectures that were exhibited in a variety of non-theatrical venues.
This collection includes ethnographic films produced or shot by the pioneering visual anthropologist, Paul Hockings. It covers films shot by Hockings as part of his reasearch on the Badaga people in the Nilgiris Hills in India; THE VILLAGE shot in western Ireland, on which Hockings was the consulting anthropologist; and work created under his mentorship at the University of Illinois at Chicago including Susan Stechnij's examination of a Mexican immigrant family, MI RAZA: PORTRAIT OF A FAMILY.
This collection contains amateur travelogue films and audio reels made by J. Gerald Hooper. Hooper was a member of a local amatuer film club, whose name and location have yet to be identified.
The Kinnally collection consists of 16 reels of silent and sound super 8mm and silent 8mm films made and distributed by Chicago filmmaker Tim Kinally. They depict various air shows and re-enactments involving vintage planes and bombers. Included in the collection is a film called Liberators Over Europe: The Crossing of the Rhine March 24, 1945, which appears to be a re-enactment of a wartime crossing of the 44th Bomb Group of the 2nd Air Division of the 8th Airforce and their B-24 Bombers. These air shows take place throughout the United States. Also included in this collection are a number of promotional pamplets and flyers for Timkin Films, located in Tinley Park, and founded by Tim Kinally.
In 2008, three experimental films made by Chicago-based filmmaker Don Klugman were preserved with the support of the National Film Preservation Foundation in 2008. NIGHTSONG is a portrait of the Chicago Near-North nightlife scene in the mid-1960s, centering on the struggles and romantic desires of an African American singer played by long-forgotten folk sensation, Willie Wright. I'VE GOT THIS PROBLEM traces the romantic relationship between a young man and woman (played by Klugman and Judy Harris) who meet in a downtown coffee shop. Their nonstop dialogue fluctuates between playful psycho-babble and sincere attempts to relay their innermost feelings. YOU'RE PUTTING ME ON seems to pick up the same couple (again played by Klugman and Harris) a few years later, as they attend a swinging bohemian party where they pilfer personal objects from the unsuspecting guests. The archival materials created from these three Klugman films comprise the Don Klugman Collection.
The Marion Kudlick collection contains home movies and amateur travelogue films shot by amateur filmmaker Marion Kudlick, Sr. Highlights include films shot in Chicago, Poland, western Europe and Mexico during the 1960s, family vacations in Florida, and Boy Scout activities.
The six films in this collection represent the early work of documentary filmmaker and Hollywood cameraman Peter Kuttner. The films include a student film made at Northwestern University, two films he made with students at Dillard University in New Orleans as part of the War on Poverty in 1965, and three kinescopes of shows he made at Chicago's public television station WTTW.
Home movies and short films shot or collected by Chicago artist and muralist Don McIlvaine. The collection primarily consists of home movies from Chicago's North Lawndale and Bronzeville neighborhoods, including footage of mural works in progress and scenes from McIlvaine's "Art and Soul" classroom in North Lawndale. The collection also includes home movies documenting McIlvaine's travels, including a trip to Haiti and a young Conservative Vice Lords camping trip. Also in the collection are interview films, one with Chicago Bear's football player Gale Sayers as well as a 1972 interview with American political activist and scholar Angela Davis.
This collection documents the dance legacy and artistic circle of choreographer, Ruth Page, named by the Dance Heritage Coalition as one of America’s 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures. As the largest collection of moving image materials related to Ruth Page, this is a worthy complement to the vast manuscript collection that resides at the Jerome Robins Dance Division of the New York Public Library and the Newberry Library in Chicago. The collection contains rehearsals and performances that date back to 1922 including footage of Rudolph Nureyev soon after his defection from the Soviet Union, Balinese dances filmed during Page’s 1928 Asian Tour, and performances of The Merry Widow on the Ed Sullivan Show. It also contains the original and master tapes of numerous interviews with dance critics such as Clive Barnes and John Martin, dancers such as Larry Long, Delores Lipinski, Anne Kisselgoff and Maria Tallchief, and a comprehensive series of interviews and oral histories with Page herself that date from 1957 through 1987. Among the dozens of Ruth Page ballets contained in this collection is an original 35mm nitrate print of Bolero danced in 1928 at Ravinia in Highland Park, IL. This collection is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
Spanning 5 decades and a wide range of subjects and styles, the Rhodes Patterson Collection documents the rapidly developing city of Chicago during the mid-century and the fascinating life of Rhodes Patterson, a designer, cinematographer, photographer and writer. Patterson’s diverse subject matter and style reflect the interconnected communities of industrial and graphic design, commercial and industrial film production, fine art, and architecture in Chicago during this period. Whether made “just for fun,” as documentation, or for commercial purposes, Patterson’s films reflect his humor, interest in art and design, imagination and creativity.
The collection includes footage of Mae West from 1938; numerous films Patterson shot while stationed as a WWII reconnaissance photographer on the Island of Tinian; the construction of the Marina City Towers, Playboy building and various skyscrapers in Chicago; films made during the early development of the Aspen Institute; commercial footage shot while Patterson was working at the Container Corporation of America; documentation of the construction of the Playboy West complex and grotto; early Playboy footage and burlesque films; footage of Lincoln Park, Lake Michigan and people on the streets of Chicago; and various home movies, commercial projects, and amateur and personal films.
The Steven Poster collection includes the 35mm film, Another Saturday Night, a whimsical portrayal of a weekend night in 1970s Chicago. Also included in the collection are the title's elements.
The John and Marilyn Sanner collection contains 16mm, 8mm and Super 8mm amateur and home movie films, with two of the Super 8mm films having a magnetic soundtrack. John and Marilyn Sanner were members of the Metro Movie Club, a local amateur filmmaking club (1940s-1980s), during the later years of the organization (1972-1987). John Sanner of Deerfield, Illinois shot the majority of the films in this collection. He shot both amateur films and home movies. The home movies include footage of Deerfield High School football games and the Chicago snow blizzard of 1979. His amateur films include a behind the scenes look at a Metro Movie Club production and a short documentary about the arrival of a Vietnamese family to Deerfield by way of a refuge camp in Hong Kong. The collection also includes an 8mm amateur travelogue film shot in Havana, Cuba by W.R. James in the late 1940s and a Super 8 film of unknown origin that documents a teenage girl's social club circa 1977.
The Soucie Collection is comprised of 85 reels of 8mm acetate films, an issue of the Sam Campbell Special newsletter sponsored by the Chicago and North Western Railway, and the original inventories created by the filmmaker. These films are amateur travel films of classic American festivals, rituals, amusement parks, parades, Civil War re-enactments, national parks, industrial shows, railroad fairs and Native American tribal ceremonies.
Chicago Film Archives has received two lots of films from the Warren Thompson Collection. The first lot consists of 2 reels of 16mm amateur films that document 35 years of citylife in Chicago and trips to Mackinac Island in Michigan shot from 1955 to 1965. In February of 2011, CFA received 21 more reels of 16mm Thompson films that document domestic and international travel from 1939 to 1981. They include footage from Japan, Hong Kong, Bangkok, the Caribbean, the St. Lawrence River, New England, the west, the Wisconsin Dells, and the Smokey Mountains. One reel is named "Fjord Mail Boat".
This collection of thirty-four 16mm "physique" or erotic films were donated to Chicago Film Archives by Chicago realtor Stephen Waters in 2010, who received the films from a former client. Because these films are essentially orphaned, their provenance and custodial history can only be approximated. However, it is likely that the films would have been shown in coin-operated Panoram Jukeboxes created by the Chicago-based Mills Novelty Company in 1939, which played closed-loop 16mm silent and sound films and were placed in numerous locations including train and bus stations. Jukeboxes exhibiting adult movies or “peep shows” would most likely have been found in penny arcades that were prominent in the Illinois Central Railway Station at the time. Some of the films may have also been distributed on the home-projection market. The films feature nude or barely clothed women and range from bedroom and interior scenes or created sets where these women undress in a variety of scenarios, to a series of films where the women model poses that are supposedly made for artists to study the human figure.