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

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William Franklin Grisham Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2017-12
Extent of collection
Approximately 20 boxes of film, paper ephemera, and audio material. Includes 422 16mm reels of prints and outtakes, 14 cassette tapes, 41 open reel-to-reel audio recordings. Paper ephemera consists primarily of photos, scripts, and other documents focused on early film history in Chicago.
Bulk Dates
1960 - 1979
The William Franklin Grisham Collection consists of release prints and outtakes of two major films Grisham directed about Chicago film studios in the 1970s: The Very Last Laugh, which documented the history of Ebony Studios; and A Beautiful Lady, a documentary exploring the career of actress Beverly Bayne and the landmark Essanay Studios. In addition, the collection includes 16mm prints of the all known existing works produced by Ebony Studios in the early 1900s (the original 35mm nitrate prints are believed to have disintegrated long ago). There are also numerous commercial films which Grisham either directed or provided copywriting for during his long career as an advertising executive - which ran parallel to his professional life as a film historian and documentarian. Alongside this, the collection consists of audio tapes capturing interviews with Luther J. Pollard, producer (and possibly the sole founder) of Ebony Studios, as well as Charles David who worked as his cameraman, and other notable figures who were instrumental in the shaping of Chicago's early film history. There are also several boxes of paper and ephemera relating to Grisham's work on both of his documentary films, as well as the extensive history conducted on the history of Essanay Studios.
Grisham, William Franklin (was created by)
William Franklin Grisham, a St. Louis native, resided in Evanston, IL for most of his life and was committed to documenting the dynamic early film history of Chicago. He received a PhD from Northwestern University in film history, and taught at Roosevelt University. He also worked as an advertising executive for many years, writing copy for some of the most popular advertisement campaigns of the 1950s and 60s. He passed away in 2016. 
Custodial History
Stored by Grisham's son-in-law, Luke Grimm, before being transported to CFA in May 2018.
Language of Materials
Access Restrictions
Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives for on-site access. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Beverly Bayne Documentary
Beverly Bayne Documentary
Luther Pollard Ebony Film Co. The Very Last Laugh
Reckless Rover / Mercy the Mummy Mumbled / Spies a la mode
The Beautiful Lady (3rd Trial Print)