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Chicago Politics: A Theater of Power Part I

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Film Identifier: F.2005-08-0229
Run Time
0h 18m 14s
Mag Stripe
Date Produced
1978 - 1987
Observational documentary following the 1987 Chicago Mayoral election, with a focus on the Democratic Primary between Jane Byrne and Harold Washington. Loose and anecdotal, it features footage from public appearances, civic events, protests, and an interview with Studs Terkel.
00:02: Richard M. Daley speaks beneath a photo of his father, Richard J. Daley, about the latter's pride in the UIC Circle Campus.
00:21: Writer and Chicago radio personality Studs Terkel tells anecdotes about Daley, who he says once urged Chicago to aspire to “higher and higher platitudes” during a speech. He tells another story about Daley raging “like a house on fire” against an alderman who objected to Daley’s use of nepotism. “It was a great moment, I think, in American theater,” Terkel says wryly.
02:34: Several shots of an unidentified parade in downtown Chicago (most likely a Christmas parade). Mayor Jane Byrne looks on and even urges the crowd to sing along with her to “Silent Night.”
05:06: Shot of an elevated train (the “L”) moving on a bridge across the Chicago River.
05:17: Studs Terkel gives “a capsule history in two minutes of Chicago politics,” poking fun at the legacies of Chicago’s mayors since his boyhood. “Chicago, where Jane Addams had a dream of equity, defiled by the shallow women who run now in Chicago in nominating [then Mayor] Jane Byrne. They have demeaned, they have trivialized the feminist [movement],” he says.
06:58: Footage of a man cleaning a "Richard M. Daley" podium, a man campaigning via loudspeaker for Richard M. Daley’s mayoral bid, and followed by a clip of a man addressing a party at the Conrad Hilton, singing in front of a gigantic poster of Jane Byrne.
08:30: Segment on Cabrini-Green, a Chicago housing project. In an audio clip, Mayor Jane Byrne talks about the violence facing the neighborhood and her “consistent” dedication to improve conditions there. Marion Stamps, a black  aldermanic candidate then speaks at Cabrini-Green, saying, “White folks are the ones who are racist, not us. … There ain’t nothin’ in my heart but love.” Several kids begin to shout: “We want Washington! We don’t want no honky! We don’t want no honky! We don’t want no honky!…” Cuts back to man singing at Byrne’s fundraiser.
11:21: Return to man singing beneath Jane Byrne poster.
12:40: Mayoral candidate Harold Washington speaks in Daley Plaza, accusing City Council President Edward Vrdolyak of fomenting racism. “He has lowered this campaign to a base level which is insulting to the people,” Washington says. Random footage of Edward Vrdolyak and Harold Washington follow. An exterior view of the now-demolished McCormick Inn.
15:35: Clips follow of Jane Byrne, defeated by Washington in the Democratic primary, and Bernard Epton, Republican candidate for mayor in 1983. Other clips follow, including one of Neo-Nazis in Chicago.
16:16: Columnist Irv Kupcinet comments on a mayoral debate between Washington and Epton, calling it more “theatrical” than political. “Good theater is good anywhere; it’s particularly good in politics if you can bring it off.”
17:22: Footage from Mayor-elect Harold Washington’s 1983 victory rally.
MPI Home Video
Main Credit
MPI Home Video (corporate name)
Stamets, Bill (is filmmaker)
Additional Credit
New Art Examiner (is contributor)
Chicago Filmmakers (is contributor)
Loop Camera (is contributor)
International Center For 8mm Film & Video (is contributor)
Chicago Historical Society (is contributor)
Victor Turner (is contributor)
Palazzolo, Tom (is contributor)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Richard M. Daley (is actor)
Terkel, Studs (is interviewee)
Jane Byrne (is actor)
Jay McMullen (is participant)
Harold Washington (is actor)
Marion Stamps (is participant)
Edward Vrdolyak (is participant)
Bernard Epton (is participant)
Kupcinet, Irv (is interviewee)
Related Place
Chicago (represents)