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45 years ago….the Chicago Apollo 11 Parade

As Collections Manager at CFA, I love finding connections among our collections, or better yet, finding documentation of the same event spread across various collections. Whenever this happens I admittedly find myself daydreaming of filmmakers crossing paths…possibly chatting with each other, comparing cameras and stocks. 

In the context of our collections, having multiple films shot on the same day of the same subject is a fairly common phenomenon for big and notable public events. Examples of this include the ’33 Chicago World’s Fair, the tumultuous 1968 Democratic Convention, or more generally, rowdy Chicago parades. One of my favorite Chicago “same day” subjects is the Apollo 11 parade, which took place 45 years ago this month (August 13, 1969 to be exact) in downtown Chicago. Thousands gathered to get a glimpse of the first humans on the Moon aka Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, Jr. To celebrate this sapphire anniversary, here are stills and films of the parade found across genres and collections…plus one special guest appearance courtesy of Tom Palazzolo!

Our first example is a social-issue documentary by Dewitt Beall….

LORD THING (DeWitt Beall, 1970, 16mm.; found in CFA’s DeWitt Beall Collection)

This Thursday, CFA is delighted to premiere the 16mm restoration of LORD THING as part of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s 20th annual Black Harvest Film Festival. The film chronicles the genesis and transformation of the Conservative Vice Lords, one of Chicago’s oldest street gangs. In one particular scene, an “LSD” (Lords, Stones & Disciples) coalition marches on city hall during the Apollo 11 parade festivities. Along with LSD protests at various Chicago construction sites, the march took place to encourage the hiring of black youth for city sponsored construction projects. Unlike the other examples highlighted below, LORD THING doesn’t attempt at capturing the astronauts or parade as a whole, but rather keeps it lens tight on the LSD and their colorful berets.

Now from social-issue documentary to unedited B-Roll….

APOLLO 11 PARADE (Rhodes Patterson, 1969, 16mm.; found in CFA’s Rhodes Patterson Collection)

Chicagoan Rhodes Patterson wore many professional and artistic hats during his lifetime; he was a designer, cinematographer, photographer and writer. In the mid 1950s, Patterson started working for the Container Corporation of America (CCA), writing much of their advertising material, designing internal publications, and documenting various aspects of the corporation and its activities. The diverse subject matter and style of Patterson’s films reflect the interconnected communities of industrial and graphic design, commercial and industrial film production, fine art, and architecture in Chicago. Whether made “just for fun,” as documentation, or for commercial purposes, his films reflect his humor, interest in art and design, imagination and creativity. One unedited reel in his collection captures the Apollo 11 parade from various vantage points. Here it is streaming in full below:

+ my favorite shot of the film…a girl with her 8mm camera:

and now from B-Roll to home movie…

ASTRONAUTS PARADE 1969 (Carl Godman, 1969, 8mm.; found in CFA’s Carl L. Godman Collection)

CFA recently acquired the Carl L. Godman Home Movie Collection- a collection of films documenting the Godman family of Chicago and Evanston from the early 1960′s to mid 1970′s. It contains a whopping 95 reels of 8mm film, the majority of which were shot when 8mm Kodachrome was at its most saturated prime – the early to mid 1960′s.  Included among birthday, holiday and vacation films was a single reel documenting the family’s experience at the parade as well as attempts at capturing the famed three – Buzz, Neil and Michael. Stay tuned as we begin to publish streaming films of this exciting new home movie collection on our site. In the meantime, here are stills from the aforementioned reel appropriately titled “Astronauts Parade”:

and now from home movie to educational film…

THE METOOSHOW: “Where Does My Street Go?” (Gordon Weisenborn, c. 1969, 16mm.; found in CFA’s Jack Behrend Collection)

The MeTooShow was a Chicago produced educational program, focusing on children’s interactions and interpretations of the world around them. It was made by Chicago-born Gordon Weisenborn, a prolific director of educational and sponsored films (and creator of a CFA favorite, MURAL MIDWEST METROPOLIS). CFA is lucky to have a handful of Weisenborn titles in our Jack Behrend Collection, including two episodes of the Meetooshow. Unfortunately, though, both episodes are severely color faded. In the show’s  “Where Does My Street Go?” episode, footage of the city and its people are intercut with children at play within the classroom, providing real-world examples of their imaginative play. One of these city scenes features footage of our topic at hand, including shots of the astronauts and a streamer-lined LaSalle Street (pictured below with the show’s opening title card).

and now from educational film to experimental documentary…

YOUR ASTRONAUTS (Tom Palazzolo, 1970, 16mm.; courtesy of  Tom Palazzolo)

Chicago filmmaker (& legend) Tom Palazzolo generously offered us permission to stream his 1970 film YOUR ASTRONAUTS, which captures his distinct and witty perspective of the parade. During a recent phone conversation with Tom, he described the parade as “just one of those electric days.” He found it most intriguing that the majority of the crowd schlepped in from the burbs. To emphasize the strangeness of this suburban takeover, Tom added a soundtrack of cafeteria noise over footage of parade attendees (interpret as you will). Here it is in full courtesy of Tom:

+ one of my favorite shots from the film:


For the time being, that’s it for Apollo 11 Parade footage at CFA. We’ll continue to add to this post as we come across any additional footage. And this may be stating the obvious, but loads and loads of photographs and films (especially home movies) of the parade exist outside of our vault. I recommend checking out the Chicago Tribunes collection of photos here (the bunnies!).  


Earthkeeping, Episode Six: “Help Yourself”

The final episode of Earthkeeping delves into behavioral concepts such as nature vs. nurture, and investigates the ways in which the environment shapes personal behavior. Several psychological questions are raised, such as the degree to which an individual may act independently of his/her environment.

The work of Dr. Roger Park, who spent 25+ years living in and studying a small Kansas town, is used as a case study for understanding how social etiquette is informed by different environments. This relationship is introduced as the “behavior setting”, and described as the “intersection of two environments: the physical and the social”. The “environment” in Oskaloosa is depicted as continuously in flux; it is constantly evolving depending on the actions of Oskaloosa’s citizens.

Once again, the members of Second City provide interludes to the program by staging a parody game show. On “This Was Your Life”, the host (Jim Fisher) runs through some of the important chapters of Jesus Rodriguez’ (John Belushi) life. These events include the destruction of Jesus’ childhood home due to urban renewal developments and making various acquaintances with characters like Harry the Junkie (Harold Ramis). The selected events of Jesus’ life are presented as a snowball effect, leading Jesus to life on the streets with a $90/day dope habit, and eventually doing multiple stints in prison (convicted by “an all-white jury and an all-white judge”).

Thanks for watching and reading, and please check out the other DeWitt Beall works we have streaming here! Additionally, stay tuned for more information regarding the “Lord Thing” restoration premiere at the Siskel Film Center this fall.

Earthkeeping, Episode Five: “Sodbusters”

The historical approach taken in “Sodbusters” differentiates the episode from the others in Earthkeeping – the narrative draws a comparison between the pioneer mindset of westward expansion/Manifest Destiny and the sense of entitlement possessed by corporate developers in the twentieth century. How much have modern practices of resource exploitation changed since the days of John Jacob Astor and the American Fur Company?

On The Yesterday Show, Robert Trashman (John Belushi) stands up for the environment, squaring off against cowboy star Jack Crabbe (Joe Flaherty) and industrialist C. Steel Mills (Harold Ramis).

Second City’s “Yesterday Show” sketch (l-r: Joe Flaherty, John Belushi, Harold Ramis)

Also in the episode, David Rasche recites a stanza from Walt Whitman’s poem, “Pioneers! O Pioneers!”:

We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines within,
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Earthkeeping, Episode Four: “Megapolis”

Architect Harry Weese describes the structural design of Park Forest South, IL (today known as University Park)

Over the next six weeks, CFA will present newly digtized episodes of Earthkeeping – a series produced in the early 1970s for WTTW that explores environmental, ecological and sociological issues. In presenting this series, we hope to reintroduce DeWitt Beall, a Chicago-based filmmaker primarily active in the 1960s and 70s. Now to episode four, “Megapolis” (pardon the color fade):

[*Stream the episode here, on the CFA website]

“Megapolis” contains insightful interviews with Lewis Mumford, who was a prominent early figure in urban planning and the history of cities. Mumford predicted the expansion of cities into megalopolises in the 1930s in his book, The Culture of Cities, and in this episode reflects on how cities will continue to evolve. The episode also looks at Illinois-specific neighborhood development through an interview with architect Harry Weese. At that time, Weese was working on the design of Park Forest South, IL (today known as University Park). As Weese predicted for the community in 1972, “Park Forest South is not going to be an instant Paris, or anything of its kind, but it will be a community big enough to encompass many activities, including employment, education… it also provides for varying lifestyles and income groups.” (Any Park Forest South/University Park residents out there care to comment on this prediction?) Weese and the narrator put emphasis on the neighborhood’s innovative walkway system, which allows for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel without intersecting with major roads.

Much of the content in “Megapolis” is common knowledge today (cars are bad for the environment, etc.), but it is necessary to consider the episode in context, looking at how it relates to the history of environmental activism. The Earthkeeping series was produced only three years after the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, and as the other episodes of the series attest, during a period of rapid urban growth and industrialization. The episodes of Earthkeeping are by no means objective; the series is less documentary and more a call to action. The content of Earthkeeping greatly reflects the personal ideology of the filmmaker. In an email correspondence, Elina Katsioula-Beall (DeWitt’s second wife) pointed out how important the issues of the series were to DeWitt’s personal life: “It is certainly safe to say that DeWitt was very interested in all sociological and ecological issues. He had a respect for earth and for all life, long before this was fashionable.”

Just as the “City Life” episode concludes with a plea for community participation, so does “Megapolis” implore viewers to take action. Architect Richard Saul Wurman (who later co-founded the TED conference) expresses his disdain for public inaction: “Apathy has destroyed the city more than wanton destruction. I mean, there has to be a change of attitude to save the city.” Ultimately, it is up to the citizens of the city to control the growth of our man-made environments.

Earthkeeping, Episode Three: “Little Big Land”

Over the next six weeks, CFA will present newly digtized episodes of Earthkeeping - a series produced in the early 1970s for WTTW that explores environmental, ecological and sociological issues. In presenting this series, we hope to reintroduce DeWitt Beall, a Chicago-based filmmaker primarily active in the 1960s and 70s. Now to episode three, “Little Big Land”:

Last week’s episode, “Greenbacks,” introduced the “external costs” tied into urban expansion, looking at how the real costs of development exceed the explicit dollar value.  “Little Big Land” further explores this by visiting the rapidly disappearing farmlands and diminishing areas of nature.  The growth of cities like Chicago and the expansion of the highway, while beneficial to a growing urban population, have also come at the cost of the landscape. The episode looks critically at land privatization, and warns that “if present trends continue, the urban blanket will be drawn indiscriminately across the landscape – house by house, shopping center by shopping center.”  Some potential prevention strategies are introduced, including the idea of instituting a green belt.

The challenges of balancing urban expansion and environmental preservation are further complicated by the increasing birth rate in the United States.  The episode features a brief interview with Dennis Meadows, who had just recently published his co-authored study, The Limits to Growth.  The study utilizes computer models and programming, plugging in a number of variables to examine the rate at which population will exceed production. Although the results found in The Limits of Growth have been somewhat polarizing, it is still interesting to see the ways in which computers were used for environmental predictions and calculations some forty years ago.

Second City’s David Rasche has a solution to the increasing demand for new urban developments: Grand Canyon Estates, which has transformed “a useless hole in the ground into the most unique community you’ll ever be fortunate enough to invest in.”  The new development will feature the world’s deepest artificial lake, as well as the “largest collection of plastic vegetation ever assembled in one place.”  It’s an exciting investment opportunity too good to pass up.

Early in the episode, the narrator predicts that in the future, “Chicago will grow outward, as will Indianapolis, Gary, Milwaukee, forming one giant megapolitan region around Lake Michigan.”  This introduction to the megalopolis serves as a nice segue into next week’s episode.

We’ll be taking a quick break next week, but stay tuned Monday (March 31st) for our next episode, “Megapolis” …

Earthkeeping, Episode Two: “Greenbacks”

Second City’s “Pass the Buck” sketch (from l-r: Eugenie Ross-Leming, Jim Fisher, Ann Ryerson, Harold Ramis)

Over the next six weeks, CFA will present newly digtized episodes of Earthkeeping- a series produced in the early 1970s for WTTW that explores environmental, ecological and sociological issues. In presenting this series, we hope to reintroduce DeWitt Beall, a Chicago-based filmmaker primarily active in the 1960s and 70s. Now to episode two, “Greenbacks”:

Aside from the explicit financial cost, what is the true price of industrial production? Further, how are these costs transferred to the public?

Greenbacks” takes us to two sites to explore these various hidden (or “external”) costs. The first stop is America’s “carpet capital,” Dalton, GA.  On the one hand, the influx of new industry that moved into Dalton after the Second World War can be seen as an economic boon. However, while the new factories provided many jobs for Dalton residents, the resulting air and water pollution created long-term environmental detriments – the Conasauga River and nearby Drowning Bear Creek have become so polluted that nothing can live in their waters.  Although a secondary water treatment facility was constructed in Dalton as a response, the water cannot be truly pollution-free without a more expensive method of tertiary (advanced) water treatment.  The price of tertiary treatment is only more expensive in the short term – without it, Dalton’s water supply remains polluted and the treatment facility is only a token to assuage local fears of water pollution.

The St. Louis district of Soulard, surrounded by a Monsanto plant and the Anheuser-Busch brewery, is used as another example of these hidden costs.  As the episode’s narrator explains, “… a one percent increase in sulfur trioxide was matched with a similar decrease in property values, so the pollution was paid for – not by the sources that produced it, but by the homeowner whose home was worth less.”  Economist Robert Heilbroner illustrates how these types of hidden costs, which also include increasing health problems for local residents, are not reflected in the cost of products. Therefore, the companies can get away with charging less than what the product really costs (Heilbroner refers to the Consolidated Edison energy company in his example.)

Finding a culprit for these environmental concerns often entails much finger-pointing and blame-shifting, a process satirized in the Second City game show sketch, Pass the Buck: the regular panelists are representatives from Government (Joe Flaherty), Management (Harold Ramis), and Labor (David Rasche).  These three contestants face off against one another, as well as a representative of the public (Ann Ryerson), in trying to quickly create a scapegoat for hypothetical environmental problems.

Stay tuned next Monday (March 17th) for our next episode, “Little Big Land” …

Online Launch of DeWitt Beall’s Earthkeeping series

Opening title card of Earthkeeping

Over the next six weeks, CFA will be presenting episodes of Earthkeeping, a series produced in the early 1970s for WTTW that explores environmental, ecological and sociological issues. In presenting this series, we hope to reintroduce DeWitt Beall, a Chicago-based filmmaker primarily active in the 1960s and 70s.

Earthkeeping was written, directed and produced by DeWitt, who himself professed a personal interest in the same topics examined in the series. Originally born in Sherman Oaks, CA, DeWitt moved to Chicago after graduating from Dartmouth College in 1962. His filmography illustrates a balance between ‘filmmaker-for-hire’ works (commercial work for Sears, educational films for the National Safety Council and the National Dairy Council) and the projects closer related to his interests.  These more personal projects include a documentary about the formation of the Conservative Vice Lords (“Lord Thing”, a film that provided the Vice Lords with a platform to tell their own story), and a sponsored film about the challenges black Americans face in entering the workforce (“Making It”).  Further evincing his commitment to social change, DeWitt was a co-founder of a scholarship program called Foundation Years.  This program provided disadvantaged black Chicagoans the opportunity to attend his alma mater with a chance to matriculate (two of the interviewees in “Making It” were participants in this program). [1]

Although the footage in Earthkeeping is largely rooted in Chicago, the series also travels to other Midwest locations (and even makes a quick jaunt down to Dalton, GA in the “Greenbacks” episode).  The series features interviews with prominent scholars from different fields, including economist Robert Heilbroner, ecologist Barry Commoner, and sociologist/urbanist Lewis Mumford.  Additionally, the series utilizes topical interludes written and performed by members of the Second City, including the recently departed Harold Ramis and pre-SNL John Belushi.  This gives us an opportunity to glimpse performances from these comedians that would go otherwise unseen.  Just like network programming, we will upload and stream one episode of Earthkeeping per week for the next six weeks.  Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments on the series below.

[1] The Foundation Years program was, regrettably, short-lived.  In 2011, Chicago Magazine did an in-depth piece on the program, which can be read here.

This week’s episode: City Life

“City Life” focuses on the sociological consequences inherent in the rapid growth of urban landscapes.  The episode first orients the viewer by explaining how city growth has transformed the concept of ‘community’: the transition from village life to city life has necessitated the development of neighborhoods, which are established in order to retain the same sense of community once found in the village.  Without these new forms of community, the narrator asserts, the city would be nothing more than “…a collection of strangers; an anonymous and faceless place,” despite its size and population.

Additionally, the narrator makes the claim that our cities “have been built for profit, not people,” and the episode employs two architectural examples to evidence this.  The first is the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis, MO, a thirty-six building development which is equated to a “prison for the poor.”  The design of Pruitt-Igoe favored minimizing expenditure over benefiting its citizens – for example, designing the development without a single playground, despite the projected high number of children that would be living there.  This idea of housing projects as a ‘prison’ is reinforced through interviews with urbanist Lewis Mumford and economist Robert Heilbroner.  Both interviewees elaborate on the effect of large-scale migration from rural to urban environments:  whereas the first generation to move to the city had family in the country to fall back on should things not work out financially, that is no longer the case for most impoverished city dwellers.

On the other side of the socioeconomic scale is the architectural example of waterfront properties developed along Chicago’s Lake Michigan waterfront.  “City Life” documents the efforts of the Chicago’s Citizens’ Action Program (CAP) as they seek to prevent further impediment on the city’s waterfront.  Lewis Mumford, among other interviewees, encourages citizens to engage in their local politics, as doing so is the only way that positive changes may be affected within a city.  In a fiery hearing, CAP representative Paul Booth testifies that the construction of new waterfront high-rises would benefit only a small minority at the cost of destroying the lake’s beauty for the rest of the city. The hearing eventually devolves into a screaming match between CAP members and Illinois State Senator Hon. John L. Knuppel.  However, the episode concludes with an empowering message, returning to the idea of the ‘village’ and the duty of the citizen to politicize and participate in city affairs:

“At the heart of a healthy city is the village, the small community, the neighborhood.  At the heart of the neighborhood is the individual who feels that if something is wrong, he can do something to change it.  A healthy city is one in which the people, all the people, have a stake in the functioning order; something to lose if that order breaks down; a sense that it is responsive to their needs.”

Stay tuned next Monday (March 10th) for our next episode, “Greenbacks”….

LORD THING Restoration Complete

Reel 1 & 2 of the new restoration print of LORD THING

We recently received the 16mm restoration print of LORD THING, and boy is it beautiful! DeWitt Beall’s LORD THING (1970) is a film that documents the Conservative Vice Lords of Chicago’s near-west side and dozens of small neighborhood gangs from different parts of the city, that in time, unite forces in a common cause. Only a muddy VHS copy of the film had been circulating until CFA recently discovered 16mm prints & original elements in storage and under the care of Beall’s widow (these prints & elements now reside within CFA’s Dewitt Beall Collection). Thanks to a 2012 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, CFA was able to create a new restoration print from original production elements.

Maryland based Colorlab did an exquisite job creating the two reels of LORD THING from original A/B Rolls and a master 16mm magnetic track. We’re especially impressed by the improved audio quality, which is significantly richer in comparison to our existing composite prints (meaning, prints with synced imaged and sound) of LORD THING currently stored at CFA.

Interested further in the restoration process of LORD THING? Read on!

Inspection bench detail of the new restoration print of LORD THING

We were really lucky to have original production elements (A/B Rolls, Mag Tracks, etc) to create a new composite print of LORD THING. A lot of the times with restoration projects, we’re left having to make a new print from an original or master positive print (no complaints! It’s just not an ideal scenario since it often leads to some degradation of image and sound). Having original elements allowed Colorlab to produce a print comparable or perhaps even better to the original composite prints struck by Dewitt Beall & co in the early 1970′s.

We were also fortunate to have three composite prints on hand for reference during the restoration process of LORD THING. The tricky issue with these prints, though, is that we began this process with two complete copies of LORD THING (Version 1), and only 1 copy of LORD THING (Version 2), which happens to have French subtitles. In others words, there was no composite print of Version 2 without subtitles (CFA considers Version 2 of LORD THING to be the more complete as well as final version of the film). This restoration project has remedied this tricky situation, giving us (a universal “us”) a presentable preservation print of Version 2 (without subtitles) for the first time! Be on the lookout for a restoration premiere sometime this fall – we’ll be sure to keep you posted! We recommend joining our mailing list if you don’t want to miss out.


DeWitt Beall Collection Update

About a year ago, CFA went on a quest to find the film materials for LORD THING (1971), a documentary on the Conservative Vice Lords made by Chicago filmmaker and adman Dewitt Beall. Soon after our search began, film researcher Bucky Grimm found the film materials with Elina Katsioula-Beall, who then donated the films to CFA. Elina cared for her husband’s films since his passing in 2006 and took it upon herself to carefully inventory Dewitt’s collection of films and ship them our way.

In addition to the the 27 prints and elements associated with LORD THING, the Dewitt Beall Collection also contains a handful of other 16mm productions made by Dewitt. These productions are a mix of documentaries, commercials, sponsored films and a PBS television series (Earth Keeping) that never quite came to fruition.

Two stand outs from this mix of films are the sponsored documentaries, MAKING IT (1966) and A PLACE TO LIVE (1968).

MAKING IT, which was made by Beall for the American Can Corporation, looks at the obstacles African-American males face when building a career. As the narrator states, “this film is about his chances, about the changes that have been made and the problems still remaining.” The film includes interviews with men who are “making it,” or who are some of the first African-Americans in their field. These men discuss how they feel about their struggle at large and what changes they think have been made since their current career path began. Some of these men (Allen “Tiny” Evans and Henry Jordan), later became part of Dartmouth University’s Foundation Years Project – a program that transported members of the Vice Lords from Chicago to Dartmouth from 1967 to 1973. Beall, a 1962 graduate of Dartmouth, spear-headed this short-lived 1960s-era program, even suggesting potential candidates that he met while shooting MAKING IT and LORD THING (read more about this Dartmouth-North Lawndale connection over at Chicago Magazine).

I can’t help but draw obvious parallels between MAKING IT and Chuck Olin’s A MATTER OF OPPORTUNITY (1968). Both films are sponsored documentaries that look at the limited career opportunities afforded to African-Americans. A MATTER OF OPPORTUNITY, though, narrows its focus within the field of medicine and also expands the discussion to include African-American women. Both of these films arose from the burgeoning civil rights movement in the United States and gave voices to African-American professionals at a time when obstacles to their careers were still firmly in place.

MAKING IT (Dewitt Beall, 1966)

Two years after MAKING IT, Beall made A PLACE TO LIVE (1968) for the City of Chicago’s Department of Urban Renewal. This film attempts to defend the city’s redevelopment plan for residential and commercial urban renewal, and explains how relocation officers can assist those who have been recently displaced. As the narrator states, “we are tearing down what stands in the way of a better city. Some buildings must go simply because they occupy space needed for something else, but for the most part, it’s the worn out areas of the city that are making way for the new.” Surprisingly, the film also gives a voice (albeit, brief) to recently displaced home owners who express their rightful frustrations and distaste of the city’s urban renewal process. Instead of analyzing these opinions, though, the film shifts back to its main goals – convincing viewers of the necessity of urban renewal and highlighting the relocation services offered by the Department of Urban Renewal.

A PLACE TO LIVE (DeWitt Beall, 1968)

At this time, it’s unclear how these films were originally seen. We’re left with only can markings and speculations – MAKING IT was found in a can addressed to a PBS affiliate, while A PLACE TO LIVE was undoubtedly used for outreach (or propaganda, depending on your definition) purposes by the City of Chicago. To the best of our knowledge, these two prints may be the only ones out there in existence (perhaps this is a world premiere of sorts?!..but we don’t want to get too ahead of our selves).

We’re still in the process of wrapping our heads around this complicated collection, with loads of hand inspections, digitization & cataloging to go. We’re also looking forward to receiving a newly struck print of LORD THING from our friends over at Colorlab (thanks to a grant from the NFPF!!). We’ll be sure to keep you posted as more on these films and filmmaker unfold…

LORD THING materials found!

Well it happened more quickly than we thought it could.  Last year South Side Projections and the South Side Community Arts Center presented a program that included CFA’s THE CORNER (1963, Robert Ford) and a VHS copy of LORD THING, a documentary on the Conservative Vice Lords shot from 1954 to 1969 made by Dewitt Beall.  Over the years, the film materials to the LORD THING had disappeared.  Mike Phillips of South Side Projections gave us some preliminary leads to trace the film elements and prints, but all became dead ends.  That is when CFA contacted Buckey Grimm who said, “If it’s out there, I will find it.”  And BAM, he did!

CFA has received the extensive film materials used to create this extraordinary documentary that over the span of 15 years examines the evolution of the Chicago street gang called the Vice Lords. It “begins in the ghetto streets of the mid-Fifties— a virtual combat zone for dozens of small neighborhood gangs from different parts of the city [that in time unite] forces in a common cause.” The film unfolds within a period that begins when the Supreme Court struck down the practice of segregation to when the civil rights movement was at its height (1954-1969). In 1970, it won the Silver Medal in the Venice Film Festival, but never got into distribution.

A huge debt of gratitude goes to film researcher extraordinaire Buckey Grimm who located the film materials with Elina Katsioula-Beall in California.  She has cared for her husband’s films since his passing and is donating the Beall Collection to Chicago Film Archives. CFA will be submitting a proposal to the National Film Preservation Foundation to preserve this film that documents a typically inaccessible part of Chicago’s past.

If you would like to be a preservation partner of our newest acquisition, the DeWitt Beall collection, give us a call at 312-243-1808 or email

- Nancy