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329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

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Warren Thompson Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2007-02
Preservation Sponsor: National Film Preservation Foundation
Extent of collection
23 reels of 16mm film totaling 24,780 feet
Inclusive Dates
1939 - 1983
Bulk Dates
1953 - 1983
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".
The entire Warren E. Thompson collection was shot on color reversal filmstock, the prints themselves are silent - presumably because Thompson would narrate live during their screenings. The films evince an attention to composition and editing that points to Thompson's skill as a filmmaker.

"Camera on Chicago" was filmed from 1949 to 1983. Thompson documents the intense post-war growth of the city through shots of everyday Chicago life. The film shows the changing architecture of the skyline and neighborhoods; shots of workers at the stockyards, construction sites, and smiths who made horse shoes; traffic on Lake Shore Drive; leisure activities at the lake front such as fishing and sunbathing; State Street at night including an exterior shot of the now-defunct United Artists Theatre promoting the world-premiere of Alfred Hitchcock's "North By NorthWest"; vibrant ethnic neighborhoods like Maxwell St. and Chinatown; ships at Navy Pier; the Water Tower covered in Christmas lights; and the construction of the Hancock Building.

"Around the Lake and Across the Bridge" documents 10 years of trips to Mackinac Island in Michigan from 1955 through 1965. It shows the Tulip festival in Holland, Michigan; children playing at the Dunes on Lake Michigan; the Mackinac bridge under construction; a ship passing through the locks at Sioux St. Marie; and tourist activities on Mackinac Island including travelling around the island in a horse-drawn carriage, sight seeing, and close-ups of the island's flowers.

The content within the remaining 21 reels of 16mm is yet to be confirmed and determined, as these reels have yet to be fully processed.
Thompson, Warren E. (was created by)
Chicago Film Archives is still in the process of tracking down relatives of Warren Thompson to research and create a biography of the filmmaker.
Custodial History
After the death of Warren Thompson, his relatives, the Carry's, split his collection between Chicago Film Archives and the San Diego Film Commission Foundation (SDFC). CFA received the two films related to Chicago and the Great Lakes while the bulk of Thompson's films went to San Diego. After CFA opened up a dialogue with the SDFC in 2010, they gladly agreed to donate their Warren Thompson films to CFA and were added to CFA's existing Warren Thompson Collection upon their arrival in February of 2011.
Language of Materials
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Chicago Film Archives holds the copyright for the films in this collection.
Related Materials
The San Diego Film Commission holds 8 trays of 35mm slides from Warren Thompson. See for contact information.
America the Beautiful
Around the Lake and Over the Bridge
Beautiful California
Best of the West, The
Camera on Chicago