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Modern Metropolis: Mid-Century Chicago on Film

October 24, 2015 at 2pm

Chicago: City To See in ’63 (Margaret Conneely, 1962)

Chicago Film Archives is teaming up with the Chicago International Film Festival to present CFA films at the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial – a multi-platform event geared at facilitating radical new thought about what the built environment should be in the 21st century.

This selection of short films from the Chicago Film Archives’ vault explores the architectural and design legacy of mid-century Chicago. An exceptional cinematic tour of our great metropolis, the program weaves together dynamic “city-symphony” films, which celebrate the city’s unmistakable skyline; an ode to stainless steel; and an admiring portrait of Louis Sullivan’s Stock Exchange building.

The program will be introduced by architecture critic, Lee Bey…one of Chicago’s keenest observers of architecture and urban planning. For four years he published the WBEZ blog, “Beyond the Boat Tour,” and before that he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Central Area Committee  and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Planning and Design for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Chicago: City To See in ’63 (Margaret Conneely, 1962, 13 min., digital projection, found in CFA’s Margaret Conneely Collection)
Produced and exhibited to encourage members of the Photographic Society of America to visit Chicago for the society’s annual conference in 1963, award winning amateur filmmaker Margaret Conneely’s portrait of Chicago is one in which the city is both an omniscient narrator and a living, breathing, speaking, all-seeing organism. It edits together beautiful and dynamic footage of Chicago and then combines this with a deadpan commentary that pokes fun of commercial travel films: “Chicago is my town,” the narrator says wryly, “and no other town will do.” Conneely was awarded a special prize by the Photographic Society of America for this film. The Women’s Film Preservation Fund and Colorlab generously funded the restoration print of this film.

The Building: The Chicago Stock Exchange Building (Wayne Boyer, 1975, 12 min., digital projection, found in CFA’s Wayne Boyer Collection)
The Building documents the 1972 demolition of the landmark Louis Sullivan designed building at 30 N. LaSalle Street. The story, however familiar, constitutes an important historic record of an almost barbaric act. Photographer Richard Nickel, to whom the memory the film is dedicated, died tragically during the demolition of the stock exchange building. He spent twenty years documenting the buildings of Adler and Sullivan and tried desperately to prevent their continued destruction.

The New World of Stainless Steel (Wilding Studios, 1961, 16 min., digital projection, found in CFA’s Chicago Public Library Collection)
Originally found in a film can labeled “Iran,” The New World of Stainless Steel is a wonderful example of the industrial film genre that flourished with the creation of 16mm film gauge. Chicago’s Wilding Picture Productions provides us with an introduction to the wonders of stainless steel in all of its various forms and applications.

Chicago Breakdown (Gary Brown, 1976, 15 min., digital projection, found in CFA’s William O’Farrell Collection)
A montage style film of the sights and sounds of 1970′s Chicago. Subjects and locations range from a boisterous Mercantile Exchange to a behind the scenes Playboy photo shoot. Repeating and revved up footage of Chicago’s various transportation systems connect the films wide ranging subjects, which also include Wrigley Field, WCFL (with Larry Lujack) and the University of Chicago.


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