Upcoming Screenings and Exhibits

MIRC footage may be coming to a town near you! Look for us this month in Florida, Arkansas, Washington DC, and of course, Columbia, SC. Here’s what you need to know about upcoming screenings and exhibits that highlight material from our collections:

At 5:30 pm on October 16th in the Hollings Library Program Room, Professor Bobby Donaldson, USC PhD candidate Ramon Jackson, and MIRC Newsfilm Curator Greg Wilsbacher will present “Bearing Witness: Documenting Columbia’s Civil Rights History,” a program of film clips drawn from Moving Image Research Collections’ rich Local Television Newsfilm Collections. These rarely-seen moving images bring to life Columbia’s important–but often neglected–role in Civil Rights history. Drawing connections between MIRC’s news footage and archival materials from the South Caroliniana Library, Richland Public Library, the State Newspaper Archives, and personal manuscripts from surviving Civil Rights activists, Donaldson, Jackson & Wilsbacher will tell a nuanced story of the quiet triumphs and sometimes troubling legacies of Columbia past.

Currently on display in the Hollings Special Collections library is an incredible exhibit of materials from a new MIRC collection. “From Omaha to St. Lo: Bob Blair, Movietone and the Battle of Normandy,” reconnects select footage of World War II in the Fox Movietone News Collection with the papers and artifacts of Moving Image Research Collection’s recently acquired Bob Blair Collection. Following the path of Bob Blair from his assignment to the European Theater of Operation, through his arrival on the shores of Omaha Beach shortly after D-Day, to the fall of Cherbourg and the hedgerow battles around St. Lo, the exhibit defines, in space and time, the image-making events of one particular news cameraman during one of the most dramatic periods of the war.

The exhibit, displayed in the Brittain Gallery of the University Libraries’ Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, runs through October 31st.  Special Parents Weekend tours will be held on October 5th at 10:30, 11:30 and 1:30. Learn more about Bob Blair and the new collection here.

For those visiting the new William H. Gross Stamp Gallery at the National Postal Museum, be sure to look for the Amelia Earhart exhibit. The program was created by Richard Lewis Media Group, and includes archival footage of Miss Earhart from the Fox Movietone News collection. Read more about the gallery here.

The golf documentary Before Babe: The Women Who Changed Golf, by Nancy Kapitanoff, also features archival footage from MIRC’s Fox Movietone News collection. The sixteen-minute documentary uses archival footage, photographs, and newspapers to highlight the female golfers of the 1920s who changed the way women played the sport and paved the way for Babe Didrikson Zaharias and the other women who would eventually establish the LPGA.

Before Babe will screen at the Hot Springs Film Festival, October 11-20, as part of the McKinnis Sports Documentary Series. It will also be showing at the Orlando Film Festival Sports Shorts program on October 17th and 18th. For more information, or to view the trailer, visit http://www.beforebabe.com/.

Last, but certainly not least, a selection of home movies from the MIRC collections will screen at the Home Movie Day event at the Nickelodeon Theatre on October 19th. The free, family friendly event goes from 9am to 2pm, and will feature archival films from MIRC before a juried screening of local home movie submissions. Details about the event and how to submit a film can be found here.

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Moving Image Research Collections at Orphans Midwest

The University of South Carolina will be well represented this month at the Orphans Midwest Film Symposium at Indiana University, September 26-28. Born in South Carolina in 1999 and now based at NYU, the Orphan Film Symposium is a gathering of scholars, archivists, and artists that celebrates moving images produced outside the commercial mainstream or forgotten by creators and copyright holders. Orphans Midwest is the perfect venue for Moving Image Research Collections to showcase its varied treasures, and this year there will be several presentations from MIRC and USC faculty and staff.

On Friday, the 27th, MIRC Newsfilm Curator Dr. Greg Wilsbacher will debut a new print of the never before released documentary, A Frontier Post, thought to be the only extant motion picture footage of American Buffalo Soldiers in the 1920s.

The film, shot in 1925 by the Fox Film Corporation as an installment of the news magazine Fox Varieties, documented the lives of the Buffalo Soldiers in the 10th Calvary. It was to be called “A Frontier Post,” and over 2700 feet of negative were exposed. The project went through the normal stages of development, resulting in a yellow tinted print ready for final review.  For reasons unknown, the project was cancelled, and the film never shown. Surviving examples of film magazines like Fox Varieties from the silent era are rare, and while never released, A Frontier Post is an excellent example of the news magazine genre.

The twelve-minute documentary is remarkable in its matter of fact portrayal of African Americans engaged in professional soldiering.  Troopers perform reveille, report for inspection, and demonstrate their equestrian skills.  At a time when racial stereotypes were a commonplace on the screen, Fox Varieties’ attempt to produce an honest portrayal of black soldiers is historically significant, even if it was never publicly screened.

A grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation helped to fund restoration work on the 35mm nitrate negative, which led to the creation of a preservation quality release print, tinted yellow to match the original. The new print will premier on Friday night, accompanied by a live performance of a musical score written by Gabriel Gutierrez Arellano.

Dr. Wilsbacher will also give a talk on Friday about the Fox Varieties series, highlighting Frogland, a stop motion animation from France, in addition to A Frontier Post. On Saturday, in a particular treat for Hoosiers, he will introduce a screening of the Fox Movietone footage of the Indiana University graduation from 1929.

In the Thursday session Un-Caging the Orphan: What Intersectionality Can Teach Us About the Educational Role of Orphan Works, MIRC Cataloging Manager Ashley Blewer and Cataloging Assistant Travis Wagner will discuss intersectionality in the context of orphan films.

Still image from The Black Cop

A theory that seeks to bring voice to individuals who are “othered” based on a combination of gender, race, class, and other non-normative identity signifiers, intersectionality can be applied to certain orphan films to uncover and understand the complex levels of oppression faced by disenfranchised groups. As an example, the presentation will highlight a piece from the Spartanburg Police collection, simply titled “The Black Cop.” The film focuses on the experiences of African-American police officers in 1970s New York, dealing with racist pressures from white colleagues on the one hand, and with distrust from peers in the black community on the other. Films from MIRC’s Fox Movietone and home movie collections will also be screened and discussed, creating a narrative of intersectionality as diverse as the very issues brought up with this important theoretical framework.

On Saturday, Dr. Craig Kridel, Professor of Educational Studies and Curator of the University of South Carolina’s Museum of Education, presents a very rare screening of a film from a Humans Relations Series of classroom films produced in the late 1930s. The print forms part of the rich collections of Indiana University Libraries Film Archive.

Given the Orphan Film Symposium’s SC roots, MIRC is especially thrilled with the generous exchange of research and resources between USC, NYU, and IU. This is shaping up to be a fantastic event, and Moving Image Research Collections is proud to be a part of it.

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Home Movie Day at The Nick

USC Libraries’ Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC) and Nickelodeon Theatre are teaming up to host Columbia’s National Home Movie Day 2013 event. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. October 19, members of the community are invited to attend the free, family-friendly screening at the Nickelodeon, located downtown at 1607 Main Street. Refreshments will be available and prizes will be awarded.

National Home Movie Day is a worldwide celebration of amateur films and filmmaking, held annually in October. The event provides an opportunity for attendees to bring in their own movies for inspection, learn how to care for films and videotapes, discuss how home movies capture history, and actually see films and videos from their local community.

“Home movies have immense cultural and historic value. This year we were very proud, for example, to see Scott Nixon’s amateur film The Augustas added to the National Film Registry,” said Heather Heckman, Interim Director at MIRC. “Even footage that seems mundane when it is originally made — like vacation or holiday films — becomes fascinating with the passage of time.

Their appeal goes beyond just historic value; they are fun, as well.

“Home movies can be utterly charming,” Heckman said. “Who doesn’t enjoy kittens, puppies and kids?”

And it seems only natural to be hosting this year’s event with Nickelodeon.

“We’ve had a number of partnerships with MIRC over the years, and they produce something for our Indie Grits event every year,” said Andy Smith, Nickelodeon’s Executive Director. “It’s always a real treat to work with them.

“With Home Movie Day being a national event, it is fun to bring the celebration to Columbia audiences,” he said. “It’s a free event, so the people who participate will be a real mix. Certainly you’ll have families that bring in their material that they want to watch together, but you’ll also get general film lovers. There aren’t too many events that can bring together lots of different people.”

During Columbia’s Home Movie Day, films from the MIRC collections will play from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and attendees are welcome to join the festivities at any point. An official juried program of films submitted by community members will begin at 12:15 p.m. Door prizes for attendees will be drawn during a brief intermission after the program, and juror and audience awards will be announced at 1:45 p.m. The grand prize-winning movie will be preserved at MIRC and screened in its entirety at next year’s event.

MIRC staff will be on hand throughout the day to inspect attendee films and discuss home movie preservation. Film cameras, projectors and equipment will also be on display. Visitors are encouraged to bring in items for inspection, but anyone wishing to have their movie presented in the program must submit it to MIRC no later than Friday, October 4. Accepted formats are limited to 16mm film and VHS tapes.

The first ten participants to submit will see their home movies on the big screen on October 19th, and will receive one free DVD transfer of their film or video. For longer submissions, MIRC staff may select brief clips for public screening. This year, MIRC also will be accepting up to ten digital submissions until the October 4 deadline. Maximum run time for digital videos is three minutes.

Email MIRC at MIRC@mailbox.sc.edu for more information about electronic submissions.

For more information about Home Movie Day in Columbia, contact Lydia Pappas, MIRC Assistant Director, at pappasl@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-777-3791.

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Feature Video–May 2nd–Caribbean Cruise


Everyone loves to go on vacation and so did the Scott Nixon family, as shown here in this week’s feature film.  The Scott Nixon Family boarded the Norwegian Cruise Line’s MS Bergensfjord for a 1960 Easter Cruise to the Caribbean.  The MS Bergensfjord was built by the Swan Hunter Yard in Newcastle, Great Britain, in 1956. It operated cruises and crossings until 1971, when she was sold to Compagnie Générale Transatlantique and renamed De Grasse.  In my research I came across some internet postings of former passengers who stated that they were impressed by the finely polished furnishings, wood-paneled walls and rich Scandinavian carpets. Another passenger had fond memories of skeet shooting on the stern and fabulous meals.

The Nixons took their cruise vacation about the time that the modern cruise ship concept was evolving from the “ocean liner” industry to the “cruising for pleasure” industry, mostly due to competition with the booming airline industry.  Eager to reclaim their business, idle ocean liners were retrofitted to function as cruise ships and many more built with this new purpose in mind.  Marketing strategies were adopted which included promoting voyages as holiday cruises, not unlike the Nixon’s 1960 Easter Cruise. Other strategies included building pools on the lido deck, booking entertainment, planning on-board daily activities, serving great food and providing comfortable accommodations. Advertising pamphlets touted “Carefree Cruising” with color photos of well-appointed state rooms, lounges, public areas, dining facilities and exciting ports of call. As their investments matured and the money rolled in, new and bigger cruise ships were built.

Then … in 1977 The Love Boat TV show debuted and actually put cruising in the spotlight, especially Princess Cruises.  Many of us remember The Love Boat song:

Love, exciting and new
Come aboard – we’re expecting you . . .

(The lyrics of that classic theme song were written by Paul Williams.)

Corny but catchy . . . some folks loved the show . . . some hated it but in the end, “The Love Boat” helped launch a new era of attractive luxury cruising for middle-class consumers.

Today the cruise industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with amazing ships that support a huge array of entertainment, dining options, high-class accommodation, on board services and the list goes on and on. With an influx of exciting new ships, interesting ports of call (most lines have their own private resort), affordable prices, and luxury amenities, I believe cruise vacations are here to stay.

The American Association of Port Authorities, Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, published the following interesting statistics on 11/27/2012:

The Cruise Ship Industry Statics

Annual cruise industry revenue for the US economy – $37.85 billion

Number of cruise industry jobs in the US – 314,000

Number of cruise passengers in 2010 – 14,300,000

Number of cruise passengers in 2009 – 13,445,000

Number of cruise passengers in 2008- 13,005,000

Average annual growth rate of the cruise industry since 1980 – 7.4 %

Total number of cruise passengers since 1990 – 154,000,000

Number of cruise passengers that originated in North America – 10,290,000

Number of new cruise ships currently on order – 26

Amount being spent on new ships – $15 billion

Percent of cruises that were in the Caribbean – 37.02 %

Number of North American embarkation ports – 30

Number of embarkation ports around the world – 2,000

These statistics are expected to rise in the upcoming years, which make the future bright for the cruising industry despite its current notable difficulties.

I’m sure the Scott Nixon family had no idea that the cruise industry would grow as quickly and lucrative as it has.  Our feature film is a treasure as it gives us a window into what it was like to be a passenger aboard a cruise ship while the industry was beginning to evolve to where it is today.

My husband and I have chosen cruising as our favorite choice of vacation and have taken many through the years.  We’ve done the math and have discovered that the same amenities on land are much more expensive than what you would find on a cruise vacation. Booking during non-peak months is another way we keep our cost down.  We board a beautiful ship with luxury accommodations, turn off our cell phones, and smile at each other as we sail into the sunset.  No one can find my workaholic husband . . .  he is all mine for 7 days.  We don’t worry about where we will eat for each meal and our hotel travels with us.  We enjoy beautiful beaches, take a lot of afternoon naps, take in some interesting shore excursions from time to time, and enjoy each other’s company.  It is true that many things have changed in the cruising industry, but some things have not and I hope they never do. The stunning sunsets are the same, the Caribbean waters are still crystal clear and deep blue (captured well on Mr. Nixon’s footage,) the beaches are soothing, and the peace one gets by getting away from your everyday worries for a while is what a vacation is all about.

Blog by Cherrie Redd Brown, April 2013

You can watch the film here: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A2323

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Feature Video–April 2013–Camp Jocassee

Camp Jocassee–Lever-Karst–home movies

This week the feature video on MIRC’s DVR is a home movie from the Lever-Karst Collection, featuring a camp that now lies underneath a body of water in the Northwest corner of South Carolina.  Camp Jocassee for Girls was located in Jocassee Valley on the banks of the Whitewater River from 1921 until 1970, when the Jocassee Valley was flooded. The camp was moved to Lake Keowee in 1971, but it ceased operation after the 1976 season. This film is one of the few remaining known films of the camp, a place of many memories for some South Carolinians.

This blog was written by Debbie Fletcher, whose family owned Camp Jocassee, and who spent many summers at her family’s homestead, Attakulla Lodge, in Jocassee Valley. The lodge was a big part of the Jocassee Valley community, where for half a century it operated as a bed-and-breakfast and haven for visitors to the area, including families of girls staying at the camp. The lodge was named after Cherokee Chief Attakullakulla

(“Little Carpenter”). He was the father of the famed Princess Jocassee (“Place Of The Lost One”), who, legend has it, drowned herself upon learning of her lover’s death.

Debbie tells us about the story of the camp:

I’ve spilled many words – and tears – about Jocassee, the quaint, unspoiled mountain valley that was sacrificed in 1971 to satisfy the growing demands for electric power.  Every time I write something about Jocassee, I think to myself, “That’s it.  There’s nothing left for me to say.”  And then I am graced with another opportunity reminding me that my childhood summer home is not as far away as I might think.  I never expected to see again the Jocassee and Whitewater River signs, then round the bend in the road to follow my childhood path across the river at the camp.  This film kindles such warm memories of carefree days spent at Jocassee, as it does for hundreds of young ladies – now grown women – who attended the camp.  They reminisce about horseback riding, leaches in the lake, vespers, baths in freezing water every morning in the river, loving kitchen duty just because of access to hot water, talent nights, picking berries on hikes,

mail call, and shaving their legs in the river!  Clearly, Jocassee was a special place that worked its way into the hearts of many young women. These old home movies transport us back to a place that no longer exists, and we are grateful.

Lake Jocassee – known as South Carolina’s Crown Jewel – was full pond by 1973.  Beneath its deep, cold waters which reach depths of well over 350 feet lie beautiful childhood memories that sometimes surface as if the water has been parted. It was the most perfect day in August, 2010, when she welcomed us back.  This time something was different.  I was not alone in my memories.

A highly skilled team of deep divers once again toiled to load the boat with a myriad of scuba gear: tanks, dry suits, sophisticated wrist-mounted computers – so much gear that you might think they were going to the Moon.  I guess in a way they were.  I would imagine that 318 feet of water is as alien to the human body as going into space.  Our destination on this summer morning was Camp Jocassee for Girls, a magical place that had delighted young girls from all over the country.  A steel bridge crossed the Whitewater River, marking the entrance into the valley.  Nestled at the foot of the bridge, the camp’s stone pillars and white picket gates had greeted happy girls since 1922.  The main house at the future girls camp was built by my Great-Grandfather, W. M. Brown, as the home in which he and his bride would start their family.  As the children grew older, they built a Walhalla home which later became the Davenport Funeral Home.  It still stands on Main Street and has gone through several metamorphoses over the years.  Their Jocassee property remained in the family, and the house was later named the Whitewater Inn, a lovely seasonal hotel prior to becoming Camp Jocassee for Girls.

One of my earliest Jocassee memories was listening for the sound of the horses coming down the dirt road from the girls camp.  Every late afternoon, a group of girls would ride past Attakulla Lodge, my family homestead which has also been located in 300 feet of water and regularly greets daring divers who come to visit.  I was so enamored with the idea of horseback riding.  I’d scamper to the bank that overlooked the road and expectantly wave at them.  They always waved back.  Little did I know that decades later, I would be swimming in water 300 feet above the girls camp with one of the horsewomen I had waved at many times before.  Her name is Anna Simon, a retired reporter with The Greenville News.  Anna and I connected through a picture she provided for the book Keowee.  I wrote a random letter to her at the newspaper, and the connection began.

Anna had joined us on the boat the previous day as we dove on Attakulla Lodge, but her heart was full of anticipation as she thought of the girls camp dive the next day.  Anna spent five summers at the camp, and those memories are still as precious to her as the day they were made.  As we waited for the divers’ return from the camp, she reminisced about the best summers of her life – summers spent at Camp Jocassee.

Anna expressed in a simple paragraph what would take me pages to say:  “The most amazing thing that impresses me is that Jocassee still weaves its spell . . . little girl campers and grown men divers, it doesn’t matter. Jocassee is still a magical place. It warms my heart to know how much Jocassee means to so many of us . . .grown women now, with little girl Jocassee hearts still filled with the wonder. We are so blessed. We ARE so blessed.”

Anna still rides horses. I still just watch.

Debbie Fletcher



You can watch the film here: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A2935

It is a part of the Lever-Karst Collection, which you can explore here: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc-test%3A172


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The 7th Chinese Film Festival

The 7th Chinese Film Festival

Screening of Five Films

Friday, February 8 to Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nickelodeon Theater

A Simple Life – Friday, February 8 at 2:30 p.m.

Dragon Friday, February 8 at 5:30 p.m.

Let the Bullets Fly Friday, February 8 at 8:30 p.m.

The Three Swordsmen – Saturday, February 9 at 12:00 p.m.

Love in the Buff – Saturday, February 9 at 2:00 p.m.

The Confucius Institute at USC, in partnership with Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC) of USC University Libraries, presents the 7th Chinese Film Festival. We will be screening five recently released award-winning films from Hong Kong, including one from the Chinese Film Collection at MIRC. Each film was chosen carefully from various genres in the contemporary Hong Kong film industry: from romantic comedy to martial arts, and from drama to crime, to give a general look at the depth of Hong Kong film. This festival offers the opportunity to think about the role that the Hong Kong film industry plays in the global film context and the ways in which Hong Kong filmmakers collaborate with the Chinese mainland film industry. For information about tickets visit: http://www.nickelodeon.org/

The Chinese Film Festival Series includes:

A Simple Life is a 2011 film directed by award-winning filmmaker Ann Hui and starring Andy Lau and Deanie Ip. Based on a true story, A Simple Life not only exquisitely captures the unique relationship between the amah and the family for which she cares, but also deals with the many abandoned old people in Hong Kong. Delivering what may be the best performances of their careers, Lau and Ip display perfect chemistry and restraint as two people who have known each other all their lives. (Cantonese with Simplified Chinese and English subtitles)

Screening at the Nickelodeon on Friday, Feb.8, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.

Dragon is a 2011 Hong Kong martial arts thriller film directed by Peter Chan, starring Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tang Wei. The film’s action director, martial-arts actor Donnie Yen, has become one of the world’s busiest action stars and rivals Jackie Chan and Jet Li for dominance in Asia. In “Dragon,” a cat-and-mouse martial-arts thriller, he plays a man living a simple life with his wife and two children in a remote village in early 20th-century China.  After he kills a pair of bandits trying to rob a local shopkeeper, using masterful kung-Fu moves, a police detective investigating the case uncover Liu’s true identity. Director Peter Chan’s clever art-house spin on a popular genre pays homage to the stylish Hong Kong kung-Fu movies of the 1960s and ’70s. (Cantonese with Simplified Chinese and English subtitles)

Screening at the Nickelodeon on Friday, Feb.8, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.

Let the Bullets Fly, a 2010 action comedy blockbuster featuring Chow Yun-fat, has been one of the highest-grossing recent films in mainland China. Set in 1920s Sichuan, the film tells the tale of the bandit “Pocky” Zhang Mazi, who poses as a local governor in a rural town but finds himself at odds with the local mobster, who is not eager to share his turf with another drifter. A complex and deadly series of mind-games ensues between the two crooks, which are as violent as they are hilarious. Fans of Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars will appreciate this reinterpretation.  (Mandarin with English subtitles)

Screening at the Nickelodeon on Friday, Feb.8, 2013 at 8:30 p.m.

The Three Swordsmen, from the University of South Carolina’s Chinese Film Collection comes this 1994 martial art film featuring Brigitte Lin (Chungking Express) and Andy Lau (A Simple Life) as two famous martial arts masters, Samurai and Smiling Sam. On the night before the big martial arts competition, someone murders the Empress, and the two swordsmen are framed for the crime. Together with Big Knife, they then become involved in a plot to recover the Holy Sword and also avenge the murder of the Empress. (Mandarin with English subtitles)

Screening at the Nickelodeon on Saturday, Feb.9, 2013 at 12:00 p.m.

Love in the Buff is a 2012 romantic comedy, a sequel to the 2010 comedy ‘Love in a Puff’ directed by Pang Ho-Cheung and starring Shawn Yue and Miriam Yeung. In this film, Cherie and Jimmy, who met through an indoor smoking ban in Hong Kong, have moved in together and then split up. They both move to Beijing and meet new partners but fate has a way of drawing them back together again. A blend of comedy drama about the real life of relationships in a modern world makes this an interesting film with good performances and some sharp dialogue. (Primarily in Cantonese, has some Mandarin with both Simplified Chinese and English subtitles)

Screening at the Nickelodeon on Saturday, Feb.9, 2013 at 2:00 p.m.

This series is co-sponsored by the USC Confucius Institute, in conjunction with the Moving Image Research Collections at USC, and reflects a growing emphasis on Chinese film studies in the Film and Media Studies program, as well as Chinese language-teaching program at USC.

Moving Image Research Collections: http://library.sc.edu/mirc/

Confucius Institute at USC: http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/ci/

Nickelodeon Theater: http://www.nickelodeon.org/

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Feature Video–January 29th 2013–Rubenstein mystery films

Here at MIRC, we invite our staff members to contribute to the feature video selection and write a blog piece about why they chose the film that they did. This week’s video and blog is by Brittany Braddock, our film scanning technician, who works magic with the 2k Kinetta scanner we have for our more delicate films. The feature video this week was a mystery film from a collection donated to us which is currently being processed in more detail. Film collections at MIRC can consist of a mixture of film content, some of which may need more investigation than others, as in this case and Brittany will explain more about this here:

I spend the majority of my time at MIRC in what we call the Kinetta room. It houses our high-definition, frame-integrity film scanner with which I am well-acquainted as well as a super fancy (industry term) film inspection bench, the Debrie. The latter is responsible for a great deal of distracted curiosity.

Often, our curators will inspect their collections in this room and I’ll hover over the more interesting bits or offer a hand with Google searches if we think we may be able to uncover more information about a film. This is one of my favorite things about working at MIRC. The film stock itself already offers a wealth of information encoded on its edges in the form of shapes and numbers that allow us to date the item, determine what kind of editing has been done, and in some cases tell us what camera was used to film it.

Several weeks back, our assistant director and curator, Heather Heckman was processing some of the Rubenstein collection. Our website offers this blurb:

“This collection is eclectic. It includes news footage, home movies, prints of major Hollywood productions (most 16mm), several hundred Castle films, Castle film distribution catalogs, and equipment.”

Heather came upon a film in Rubenstein that appeared to be shot on-location from two different film sets. The beginning of the footage is shot on a beach featuring men in various styles of military uniform while the end is a western scene complete with shoot-outs and attacks on horseback. A family appears on both sets and in the scenes that make up the middle of the home movie – beach vacation shots, Girl Scouts, tennis, etc.

It was enough to draw me in. I HAD to know what these films were. Days of searching the Internet ensued.

Aided by edge code, Heather and I were able to date the film stock to 1953 which I compared to the production dates of my movie candidates collected from the AFI, IMDB, and TCM movie databases.

I inspected my HD transfer of the film frame by frame, capturing the faces of actors and actresses that flashed on the screen too quickly in some cases to be seen at regular playback speed. Then I pored over photos of actors and actresses of the time comparing their features. I collected stills from the home movie and compared them to stills from my film candidates – which, by the way, was no easy task as there is not exactly a surplus of information about the films that I would eventually identify as the winners.

Heather had already proposed that the first film was possibly El Alamein (1953) directed by Fred F. Sears.

My quest to confirm it, was probably (as pointed out by MIRC curator and my boss, Greg) overly exhaustive. It took a half-second glance of a woman’s face captured in my frame-by-frame analysis of the first on-location shoot to appease me that in fact, the actress Rita Moreno, the star actress of El Alamein,  was present.

A further search of Fred F. Sears’ work and production locations, a quick shot of a young boy’s hat from Camp Junipero Serra, and a meticulous study of actress Peggie Castle’s face were eventually enough to mostly convince me that the second film being shot at the end of the home movie footage is Overland Pacific (1954). 

Whose home movies are these? I don’t know. Perhaps the family featured is in fact that of Fred F. Sears. Or, possibly, a crewmember he tended to work with on multiple productions. I’d need some pretty advanced resources to find that out. I have scrawled so many ridiculous notes in my search to solve the mystery and have only really highlighted here a minute selection of the evidence and theories that bore fruit. Either way, this film is a unique look at this family’s life. It encompasses all the mundane summer vacation details familiar to all home movie collections, but it is juxtaposed against these Hollywood productions that were also this family’s not so ordinary experience. It was a fascinating find. Feel free to pick it apart as well. Enjoy!

Blog written by Brittany Braddock, Scanning Technician at MIRC

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Feature Video–Dec 10th–Uproar in Heaven

Here at MIRC, we invite our staff and student workers to contribute to the feature video selection and write a blog piece about why they chose the film that they did. This week’s video and blog is by Ran, our new cataloguer of the Chinese Film Collection. Ran arrived from the Beijing Film Academy a few months ago and is spending her time watching, researching and cataloguing the many documentary films in the collection so they can be more easily accessed. The feature video this week is an excerpt from a very famous chinese animated film, that is a favorite with staff, as well as Ran, who explains why here:

Uproar in Heaven- An Everlasting Dream

a MIRC blog by Ran Wei, Chinese Film Collection Cataloguer

I have to admit that I choose Uproar in Heaven without hesitation, when I have a chance to introduce one Chinese film in this blog. It is a film that I am so familiar with. Monkey King is a friend who accompanies my entire childhood.

Maybe I can say, Monkey King is the hero that is admired by all Chinese of the same age or older than me.  I still remember when we sat together to watch the TV series, a cartoon about Journey to the West every summer vacation, though we had watched it millions of times, we still felt amazed and excited. It was such a fantastic story that I always dreamed that I could fly as high and as fast Monkey King did, that I could transform into different things like Monkey King. At that time I did not understand what dreams were, but when I went to Orlando Disney world this Thanksgiving break, seeing the whole dreamland created for children and how parents cherished their children’s dream, I realized how important Monkey King was to me and how sweet my childhood was spent with my dearest friends together wanting to cheer for Monkey King.

When I begin to learn film systematically, I found that Uproar in Heaven plays a vital role in the history of Chinese film, especially Chinese animated film. WAN Laiming, WAN Guchan, WAN Chaochen and WAN Dihuan, created a new Chinese animation and pushed it into different stages. Uproar in Heaven is their most renowned masterpiece. All of the animations were drawn by hand. This film influences generations of Chinese and its charm does not fade as time goes by. WAN Laiming once said that it was him dream to film stories about Monkey King, so it is another story about dreams. About fifty years have passed since it came out and when the 3-D version of Uproar in Heaven was released in China, I saw many viewers like me reviewing childhood memories and trying to find the dream we had forgotten for a long time in the cinema.

As to the ending, it is quite different from the original one of Journey to the West. Monkey King lives happily with other monkeys in Huaguo Shan in the film while in the novel finally Monkey King is defeated by Buddha and after 500 years imprisonment he accepts the task to protect Monk Tang’s Journey to the West. And it is the main part of the novel. Some may think that when Monkey King becomes Buddha’s followers, he is no longer the Monkey King who uproars the heaven.  His courage to rebelling the bigwigs , his eager for freedom and respect disappear once the Journey to West begin, so they may be disappointed. As to me, I regard it as the inevitable procedure of growing up. No one can enjoy freedom his whole life. Once we are assigned a task, we need to dedicate to it, it is a sign to show that we are already adults, and so is Monkey King.  I am glad Monkey King can still be my dream after saying goodbye to my childhood and starting the journey heading to the world of grown-ups. I hope that after watching the film you can also find or retrieve your dream.                                                                                                                                                                         Ran Wei

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Feature Video–Thanksgiving 2012–Mr Zero gives to the needy

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Turkey, family gatherings, football, Macy’s parade, pumpkin pie, Pilgrims?

Historically, Thanksgiving began as a tradition of celebrating the harvest of the year, as Harvest festivals are celebrated around the world, usually in Sept/Oct time. Here, in the United States the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated on the third Thursday of November, and was established by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Previous to this official recognition by Lincoln, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer”.

In reverence to the giving of thanks, some people are able to use the holiday time to remember the things they have received over the year and extend the hand of fellowship and generosity to those fellow human beings less fortunate than themselves. Our feature video this week gives respect to a man who was dogged in his work to help the more unfortunate in life. His is a name forgotten by most but his deeds should not go unnoticed and perhaps in the fluctuating world we live in today we should remember the good Samaritans of the past.

This video shows Mr Ledoux with some of the men that he helped to feed and clothe in the holiday season in New York City in the 1920s. I also include a brief biography of him here to highlight the good work that he did throughout the year and not just at Thanksgiving or at Xmas. This man was a frequent sight on the streets of New York and in the newsreels and newspapers in the 1920s and it seems such a shame that his name is no longer known. 

Urbain J. Ledoux, also known as Mr. Zero, (1874 – 1941)

This man was a godsend to the homeless and jobless of not only New York City but of the entire nation.  Perhaps a deep religious instinct sent Urbain J. Ledoux among the poor and disinherited on the street of forgotten men. He would say that he was inspired by biblical text from the Sermon on the Mount, but we don’t really know what led him to dedicate his life to helping the men and women that he saw on the streets of the cities that he lived in. Not much is known about him. He was born in Quebec, of a poor family, who had worked the cotton mills of Conneticut. He was an educated man, who was appointed to the United States consulate at Quebec at the age of 21 and was later the commercial consul at Bordeaux, and Prague. He was noted there for having introduced the first file index system Prague had ever seen. He later became an executive for a firm producing denatured alcohol and about this time began to preach the universal brotherhood of man. He worked for world peace and even went to the Hague as a United States delegate.

In 1917, Ledoux worked for the Government War Camp Community Service, helping to feed and shelter transient soldiers.  The sight of so many dispossessed soldiers who had fought for the liberty of the nation affected him deeply and after the war he took up the cause of jobless soldiers. He opened a bakery in Broadway to feed and shelter them. In January 1921, he led a ragged delegation into Trinity Church in silent appeal for aid. He then hit on the idea of selling jobless soldiers at auction to highlight their cause, referring back to the auctioneering of slaves in previous times. “Here is an ex-soldier,” he would say. “He was with the sixth Marines in France. He was wounded. He is a carpenter. Who will bid?” The auction won country-wide attention but not universal approval.

Here is a picture from the Library of Congress showing Ledoux auctioning off one of his soldiers:


In September, 1921, Ledoux tried to auction soldiers in Bryant Park in Manhattan, and on the steps of the Public Library but the New York City police would not let him.

The New York Times reported: “Scenes of wild disorder ensued upon the refusal of the police to allow Urbain Ledoux, to auction off jobless men in Bryant Park. Thousands of persons had gathered to witness the novel effort to find work for the men, and there were some thousand workers on hand, their indignation already whetted by the action of the police earlier in the day in refusing to allow Ledoux to feed them a wagon load of buns he had bought for them, or to permit him to hold a meeting in their behalf in a hall he had hired for that purpose.

“Milling crowds fought with police in front of the public library between 11 o’clock and midnight last night when the police, in heavy force, descended upon the jobless and drove them away. The police throughout the day, had exorted themselves to an extraordinary degree to thwart Ledoux’s efforts in behalf of those out of work. They had broken up and chased his crowds and prevented his meetings, as well as preventing his efforts to feed those he wanted to aid. Efforts were made last night to learn the purpose of the authorities in adopting such tactics but communication with Chief Inspector William J. Lahey and others failed to elicit any explanation. When Chief Inspector Lahey was asked for an explanation, he said: “No, I won’t give you any explanation. Good Night.”

“Liberty is dying in America,” Ledoux said. “You have seen today that the right of assembly and the right to petition have been denied. Freedom in America is slowly dying. What hope is there for it? Simply that public opinion may, in it’s great common sense, rise and protect these violated liberties which are guaranteed by the constitution. If New York stands for such things as I have seen today, what hope is there? My God, what will the end be? ”

Quotations like that remind me of the Occupy Wall St protestors that were seen last year in New York City, and his words are eerily prophetic of such scenes as the clearing of Zucotti park in which the protestors were encamped in November 2011. History repeating itself 90 years later?

In 1925, Ledoux opened a restaurant called ‘The Tub’ near the Bowery to feed and shelter the homeless. Ledoux himself explains “The Tub is one of the cleanest little restaurants in New York, where you can get meals for 5 cents – all you can eat. There is a barber shop where expert tonsorial work is dispensed for [almost nothing], and a tailor who cleans, presses and repairs a suit for 10 cents. There are expert electricians, carpenters, stationary engineers, pipefitters, plumbers, and other artisans temporarily out of work. A bookkeeper, a former C.P.A., accounts for every cent taken in.”

In 1928, Ledoux was responsible for saving many lives as the temperatures in New York City over the winter hit record lows. Lodging houses were turning away unfortunates after they had been filled to capacity. About 200 men, ranging in age from 20 to 75 years, were befriended by Urbain Ledoux, who distributed overcoats, sweaters, socks and shoes and other clothing to those most in need and even gave them entertainment in the form of songs, dances, and recitations, as well as soup and coffee at the Tub.

At holiday times Ledoux’s efforts were needed and appreciated even more, especially after the start of the Great Depression in 1929. This film featured from our collection of Fox Movietone News, shows Ledoux himself, with the men he was feeding and clothing, at Thanksgiving in 1929. The New York Times also reported on this generosity:

“Thanksgiving Feast Stewing At the Tub”  New York Times – 11/27/29

The special Mulligan Stew, with 1,000 turkeys to give it body, which will be served at The Tub, 12 St. Mark’s Place, on Thanksgiving Day, is being concocted, according to Urbain Ledoux, the owner, who is known as “Mr. Zero.”

The Mulligan, together with 1,000 pies and bread and coffee and other food, will be served to the Bowery’s wayfarers at the nominal price of 5 cents, cripples and others being exempted from any charge, Mr. Zero said, and he added that there would be a surprise feature for the day.

That will be the distribution of scores of overcoats and hundreds of leather jerkins, woolen shirts and other warm clothing, as he said a survey of the Bowery had revealed an unusual number in need of these articles.

This program will include prizes for songs, dances, recitations, jokes, the longest noses, feet, ears and legs, and the handsomest man and the homeliest man. The entire celebration being the largest Mr. Zero has ever planned.

This video, which you can watch in full here, http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A1951 is the outtakes of the newsreel about Mr Zero, an event which was covered by several newsreels at the time. It shows Urbain as he speaks with the men who are being fed and shows them feasting on huge turkey legs.

Thanks to another newsreel from Universal, we have managed to name a few of the men featured. 4-5 mins into the newsreel two older gentlemen are shown, who we can name as Alfred Powell, 65, to the right of Mr Ledoux, and John Rist, 83, shown here on our left.

They seem to be enjoying their turkey to some kind of musical accompaniment. Urbain is then seen handing out turkey stew and later chatting with the men as he helps them into overcoats to help them survive the winter.

“What do you think of me as a tailor?…I got you well you couldn’t do any better on Baxter street…watch out that the tinpan market doesn’t get it …You wear it well… a muffler for you and what colour? …your eyes sparkle.”

A charming man, who seems to care for the men that he is helping. This was before the Great Depression fully kicked in and brought the country to its knees and soup kitchens weren’t as prevalent at this time as they were to become a few years later. Most places that would accept transients or down and outs were city run houses which were very strict and poorly resourced for helping the needy. Mr Zero was able to fill a gap in the system that for some people, especially returning soldiers, was a life saver.

Urbain Ledoux died in 1941, at the age of 66. The advent of the New Deal ended the desperate need for his labors. Men who had swarmed to his “Tubs” for hot coffee and unbuttered bread found that they could do better on government relief, a plan he had always urged. Mr. Zero became Urbain Ledoux again, having helped and been an inspiration to so many. Think of him this Thanksgiving and give thanks for the many unsung heroes in this world, like Mr Zero, who dedicate their lives to helping others in need and ask no thanks in return.

–Lydia Pappas, Curator, MIRC

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UFO – mystery film

Nesting birds–Gibbes–home movies

Its time for a UFO again and this month our Unidentified Filmed Object consists of 2 items, the area and the subject. This film is of nesting birds in a lake or wetlands area and we would like you to name the species of bird and, if possible, the lake or area that is filmed.

We don’t have much to go on ourselves. We do know that this film is from the Gibbes collection and was probably shot somewhere in South Carolina around 1939. What can you tell us about this film? Do you know where it was shot? We would love to be able to add more information to our description of this film and need your help to do so.

Please comment below or email us at: MIRC@sc.edu


Watch the entire video here: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3A1375

View more films from this collection: http://mirc.sc.edu/fedora/repository/usc%3Agibbes/-/collection

Lydia Pappas, Curator, MIRC

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