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March 2, 2018

Inspecting Millie Goldsholl’s Personal Reels

By Olivia Babler

Since joining Chicago Film Archives as a transfer technician last October, one of my main long-term projects has consisted of inspecting, stabilizing and digitizing films from the Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection as part of the “Woman Behind the Camera” project. While the couple are best known for their mid-century graphic design and advertising campaigns with Chicago-based Goldsholl Design & Film Associates, this grant has enabled CFA to spend more time focusing on the home movies and travel footage Millie Goldsholl (1920–2012) shot across the U.S., Japan, Africa and Europe in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

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Label taped to an otherwise untitled reel in the Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection

Our first step towards making Millie’s films accessible was to complete inspection of the vast collection, which was donated to CFA in 2006 and 2010. Just last week, the CFA team wrapped up inspecting all 322 16mm films in our Goldsholl collection. In addition to completing condition reports and collecting metadata for each film, we also prepared the films for digitization by attaching fresh leader, measuring shrinkage, and testing the resilience of splices. While there was the occasional unpleasant surprise (Mold! Masking tape splices! Vinegar syndrome! Indecipherable handwriting!), we were delighted to find that almost all of Millie’s films have maintained their vibrant colors (thanks, Kodachrome!) and had not shrunken too much to be transferred on our Tobin telecine. As we inspected, we came across stunning footage and lovely family moments that we are excited to share in the coming months.

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Frames from “Lake Placid Holiday 1941 (M+M 1st vacation)” (1941)

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Frames from “Moss Park & Sand Shrine” (ca. 1964)

Fellow transfer technician Justin Dean and I have also been busy digitizing Millie’s films for access. The films so far have featured a range of activities and settings across the globe—art fairs and carnivals in Chicago, safaris in Kenya, anti-war protests in Washington, D.C., cormorant fishing in Japan—all shot with beautiful and surprising compositions. Millie also captured many tender family moments featuring Mort and their children, Harry and Gleda, laughing and creating art together. My favorite film we have transferred so far is a gorgeous black-and-white film of students playing drums and dancing on the campus of the Dyer-Bennet school of minstrelsy in Aspen, Colorado (it also features a very adorable kitten, as well as a game of croquet!). This film, along with many other films shot by Millie, will soon stream on CFA’s website.

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Still from “Dyer-Bennet School – Aspen” (1949)

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