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May 1, 2013

Mike Gray 1935-2013

I feel this is one big mistake. Mike has been working on multiple projects (books and films) with his partner and wife Carol Gray. He sprints when he moves, never lollygagging from one place to the next. By the way, he is not finished with THE ORGANIZER featuring the work of community organizer and Black Panther Bobby Lee (also known as the Mayor of the 5th Ward in Houston). Mike and his former partner Bill Cottle (The Film Group) donated to CFA one of our first documentary collections…the Urban Crisis series. This series of seven modules were actually educational films culled from the massive footage they shot during the civil rights marches in Chicago and the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Eventually CFA had them preserved with the blessing of the NFPF. One of them – CICERO MARCH – has been twice nominated for the National Film Registry. Trailer for THE MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON In 1968/69 Mike had been making AMERICAN REVOLUTION 2 (and after that THE MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON), two feature-length documentaries that pretty much represented the race and anti-war unrest of that time. Directing AR2, Mike invited Howard Alk (another Chicagoan with considerable editing talents) to review the miles of footage and co-direct his film that was in progress. Alk did and gave the film its direction. They went on to make MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON, and after that, Mike skedaddled off to Hollywood with his screenplay CHINA SYNDROME. In 2004, Mike came up to see our chilly vault and hear my spiel on what we at CFA intended to do with these Midwest film collections and the Chicago filmmakers who, as a rule, are neglected, in the shadows and often forgotten. CFA was only about a year old at the time. After finishing the tour of the vault, we sprinted across the bridge to my car for a lunch at Mannys. We sat down and Mike told me what to do. He insisted that CFA do a retrospective on the brilliant Howard Alk who for a brief shining moment in history crafted some films that cut to the core. Mike was not shy about singing Alk’s praises. He more than shared the credit for AR2 and MURDER. He did the same with the films he collaborated on with Chuck Olin. You will see Mike’s name again on the newly preserved CFA film 8 FLAGS FOR 99 CENTS which will be showcased this fall. We have found Mike’s name on numerous films that reside in our archive, in particular the Film Group and Olin Collections. He produced, shot, directed, recorded sound, begged for money; he did everything and anything on films to make them happen splendidly. He has authored many books, was a great journalist, a voice that could add clarity to complicated things, an activist, whatever… What sets Mike apart from the rest of us, he did not have an outsized or even medium-sized ego. Mike was always always the boy from Darlington, Indiana. I miss him already. You can view some of Mike’s work here and here.

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