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Robert Ford Collection, 1962-1964

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Collection Identifier: C.2012-04
Extent of collection
4 reels of 16mm film totaling 3,500 feet.
Inclusive Dates
1962 - 1964
Bulk Dates
1962 - 1964
The Robert Ford Collection consists of four short films made by Robert Ford while he was living in Chicago in the 1960s. Ford was a student at Northwestern University, and the collection includes a film made while he was a graduate student, “The High Up Doll,” a whimsical look at childhood desire that includes both live-action and collage animation techniques. Ford’s three subsequent films were produced with the assistance of Northwestern University and examine subjects including the Chicago Vice Lords street gang in “The Corner,” the rehabilitation of individuals with physical disabilities in “The Way Back,” and homing pigeon racing in "The Homing Pigeon."

The Robert Ford Collection consists of four films made by Robert Ford while he was living in Chicago in the 1960s. Ford’s films were all produced with the assistance of Northwestern University. 

His dark and whimsical tale of childhood desire, “The High Up Doll,” was made in 1962 while Ford was a graduate student at Northwestern University in the Radio, Film and Television department. The film centers around a young girl’s admiration of a doll in a store window and the lengths she has to go in order to make the doll hers. Alluding to the young girl’s purposeful exploitation of her beauty and feminine allure in order to trick a wealthy, lecherous man out of money, “The High Up Doll” is a biting look at American consumerism and sexism. It features a dream sequence made using collage animation techniques. 
Ford’s 1963 film “The Corner” provides an unprecedented window into one of Chicago’s most notorious street gangs, the Vice Lords. The film was made over the course of seven months and is constructed from a series of audio interviews with the teenage Vice Lord gang members as they reflect on their lives, daily struggles, and the law of the streets. Filmed at the corner of Lake Street and Homan Avenue on Chicago’s West Side, “The Corner” captures the raw energy and grit of the urban city and the kids who call this street corner home. 
“The Homing Pigeon” is a sponsored documentary about homing pigeon racing and features numerous grand, sweeping shots of pigeons in flight. “The Homing Pigeon” details all of the stages and aspects of homing pigeon training, banding, logging, timing and racing, and ends with the triumphant return of the birds home to their lofts after a race. 
Ford’s award winning film “The Way Back,” was shot at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and follows the rehabilitation of a paraplegic woman (played by actress Audrey Potter) following a car accident. Written using the reflections of patients at the Rehabilitation Institute, the film focuses on the emotional and psychological aspects of coping with physical disabilities. The film was shot on location at the Rehabilitation Institute and explores the various ways in which the Institute helps its patients regain their independence. 
Ford, Robert (created by)
Robert Ford was born in 1938 in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Bay Village, a small community located just west of Cleveland on Lake Erie. In 1956, Ford moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University. He completed his undergraduate degree in 1960 and earned his masters degree from the Department of Radio, Television and Film in 1962.

While a student at Northwestern, Ford worked on a number of film projects with the support of the University, including “The High Up Doll” which was completed in 1962 with the assistance of faculty member Jack Ellis and a graduate assistant, Rod Whitaker. He continued on to make a number of sponsored documentary films with the support of Northwestern University on subjects ranging from Chicago street gangs to homing pigeons and the rehabilitation of children and adults with physical disabilities. Ford’s films from this period, including “The Corner,” “The Homing Pigeon,” “The Way Back,” and “Bridge to a Wider World,” won numerous international prizes and paved the way for his career as an independent producer.

In 1965 he worked for the Harvey Olson Tour Company, a Chicago-based travel agency, shooting commercial films of the company’s European tours. 1965 was also the year that Ford got married and joined Wilding, Inc., as a film director. Wilding, Inc. was an industrial film company that was based in Chicago and had large studio sound stages on Argyle Street.

In 1967, Ford transferred to the New York office of Wilding, Inc. in the position of Executive Producer and Branch Manager. After Wilding, Inc. was purchased by Bell and Howell, Ford left the company to pursue a freelance career that has included numerous diverse film and writing projects. Ford has written and produced films and videos, marketing and training programs, and other media promotions for major corporations including Jeep, Mercedes, Audi, Xerox, Met Life, Hyatt, and American Airlines, among many others. He is currently working as a digital and web entrepreneur, and is the founder and CEO of SK Media Holdings. He and his wife live in Stamford, Connecticut and New York City.
Custodial History
The films in the Robert Form Collection were donated to CFA by Robert Ford.
Language of Materials