Feature Video–11th July–Scott Nixon Home Movies

The Scott Nixon Home Movies Collection by Charles Sinclair

Anyone who browses the Scott Nixon collection will begin to get to know the man behind the camera.  Mr. Nixon had many passions which he explored and documented habitually.  The stories reveal that he had a great interest in the mechanical marvel which is the railway train, a respect and pride for his local and extended communities, and an expansive love for his friends and family.  The collection contains hundreds of stories, spans decades, trots the globe, and captures moments in time that exhibit the history and culture of America.

Whether riding the rails, rolling down the road, soaring through the skies, or sailing the seas, Mr. Nixon was a man on the move.  Featured prominently in his collection is the railway train of which he captured many types. While training his lens, he obtained many creative shots including angles from locomotives, cabooses, passenger car windows, and even shots that appear to be from atop trains.  He shot trains from fixed locations in stations and beside tracks, and from moving automobiles traveling alongside them as they sped off toward their destinations.  The most prominent subjects of the collection, though, are Mr. Nixon’s two children, Brailsford and Cobbs and his second wife, Evelyn.  He used up a great deal of film shooting them as they played at their home, as they celebrated birthdays and holidays, as they attended family functions, and as they vacationed to places near and far.  Mr. Nixon documented many of his trips to great American cities and landmarks.  The collection contains footage of the monuments of Washington, D. C., Central Park and Rockefeller Center of New York City, Theaters of Chicago, Michigan, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Colorado, Washington, California, Florida the Carolinas, Georgia, and many other fine places.  He filmed mountains, beaches, rivers, swamps, waterfalls, lakes, oceans, plants and animals, and he always seemed to find a beautiful sunset.  Other impressive footage comes from his international travels to Bern, Switzerland, the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.

Mr. Nixon also filmed sporting events including various college football games and the Masters Golf Tournament.  He documented political happenings as he followed the Eisenhower Bandwagon, and he was there with his camera in 1960 when then Vice President Richard M. Nixon gave a speech at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina.  On a more local level, he filmed events, parades, and fairs that took place in his Augusta community.  It is in these stories where the most tender moments of the collection can be found: children playing with toys and pets, family and friends laughing, a man and a woman sharing a dance, wedding ceremonies, and Evelyn, who always seemed to draw the focus of Scott’s camera whether she was lounging on a beach, reading a book on a blanket in the grass, strolling through a forest, or simply posing next to the sea.

The feature video shows a family trip to Hunting Island State Park in 1956 as they enjoy a nice summers day at the beach with a cook out and a picnic. You can watch the video here: http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=156 

“Tapping” the Liberty Bell for our Nation’s Birthday

Mayor Harry Mackey poses with the Liberty Bell, February 22, 1931

It takes time to prepare and transfer over eleven million feet of film; in fact, we’re still at it.  But discovery is one of the great joys of working with the Fox Movietone News Collection.  This week’s featured video is one of those pleasant surprises and it is now screened to the public for the first time since 1931.

Fox Movietone News Story 9-161: The Liberty Bell Rings Again documents a celebratory ‘ringing’ of the Liberty Bell to mark the 199th birthday of George Washington.  It was the first grand event of a bicentennial celebration that would reach its crescendo a year later. The Fox Movietone News film clearly shows an NBC microphone beneath the bell.  The New York Times radio schedule for February 22nd confirms that  NBC’s WJZ broadcast the event in its 2:30 to 3:00 pm time slot.

For this event, Mayor Harry Mackey of Philadelphia says a few words and “taps” the bell thirteen times in honor of the original thirteen colonies, whose names are read in the order in which the colonies ratified the Constitution.  The idea for the event originated with the George Washington Bicentennial Commission.  According to correspondence  held by the Library and Archives of Independence Historical Park, Congressman Sol Bloom (NY), wrote on behalf of the commission to Mayor Mackey.  This letter initiated an internal discussion between the mayor’s office and Charles W. Needle, Chief,  Bureau of City Property and H. T. Carpenter, Superintendent of Independence Hall.  Chief Needle and Superintendent Hall both expressed concerned about the physical health of the Liberty Bell and sought the advice of specialists at the Franklin Institute (a note of thanks to the park librarian, Christian Higgins, for providing access to this correspondence).  Mayor Mackey and Congressman Bloom prevailed–apparently politicians like to pose for cameras and speak to radio audiences…

While radio audiences across the country had the chance to hear the liberty bell, not all Movietone audiences did.  In an unusual (though not unprecedented move) the Liberty Bell story was not released to audiences in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

This wasn’t the first time the bell cleared its throat for mass media audiences.  In the mid 1920s the Liberty Bell was struck to ring in the New Year for radio audiences.  And one month before this this event the Mayor of Philadelphia posed for Fox Movietone News cameras and tapped the bell to celebrate Benjamin Franklin’s 200th birthday.  While this film still exists, the mayor spoke so long that the camera ran out of film before he tapped the bell!

The Liberty Bell cracked in 1846 when rung to commemorate Washington’s birthday–the crack ruined the bell’s harmonics but elevated its symbolic status because it was then put on display.  From 1885 through 1915 the bell traveled extensively and in the process became a truly enduring symbol of American freedom and liberty.  An exact replica of the Liberty Bell was cast in France on the 60th anniversary of D-Day.  We can reach back in time for an echo of the Liberty Bell’s tone by listening to that of its replica, http://www.ushistory.org/libertybell/more/normandybell.htm

Feature Video – 27th June – Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman

Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman

Lulu Belle and Scotty

Lulu Belle and Scotty ranked among the biggest country music stars of the late 1930s. Both launched their careers on WLS’s “National Barn Dance,” broadcast out of Chicago. Myrtle Eleanor Cooper started appearing on the Barn Dance as the comic character “Lulu Belle” at age 20, alongside Rambling Red Foley. When Foley got married, program director George Biggar needed a new straight-man to pair with Lulu Belle, and found one in recent college graduate Scott Wiseman.

According to folklorist William E. Lightman, Lulu Belle’s first impression of Scotty was that he was “stuck-up:” “He had a white shirt on, and a necktie, and his hair neat. I hadn’t seen anybody like that at the Barn Dance.” Nevertheless, she asked him join her road show beginning in the summer of 1934, and married him in December of the same year.

The pairing worked professionally, as well. Lulu Belle was arguably the bigger star, while Scotty was more famous for his songwriting. In 1936, she won Radio Guide’s National Radio Queen–something of a coup for a comedic country performer. He wrote many of the pair’s biggest hits, including the standard “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”, reportedly penned whilst he was recovering from colitis in a Chicago hospital.

Linda Wiseman feeds a squirrel at the zoo

Scotty and Lulu Belle’s daughter, Linda

Family life was not only vitally important to Lulu Belle and Scotty personally, it was also a cornerstone of their shared star image. They were, after all, both a real and a performed couple. Lulu Belle attributed her 1936 crown to the birth of their daughter Linda in January that year, just hours before a Barn Dance broadcast. Naturally, Scotty announced the happy event on the air.

Yet, the demands of Lulu Belle’s professional life presented very real obstacles to more domestic pursuits. In an interview with Lightman, she said it was difficult to set limits at the Barn Dance: “When I was expecting Linda, … the way they had me coming on stage was to come running in and fall over a chair. I’d been doing that all the time: falling over chairs! I was doing it when I was pregnant! They finally put a stop to it. They said, ‘You can’t have her doing that!’ But they were letting me do that, and I thought I had to.”

After the baby was born, the couple’s touring commitments remained grueling. In a typical week, Scotty and Lulu Belle would appear on “Barn Dance” on Saturday, and then “run like mad to get on a train.” According to Lulu Belle, “In the summers we were out on the road Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and usually Friday, and we’d come in late on Friday night and do the Barn Dance and go back out on Sunday. … I may have gotten mean or ornery once in awhile, having to be away from  the baby; that’s what really got me: having to be away from Linda.”

Lulu Belle and a Thanksgiving turkey

Lulu Belle shows off her turkey

The home movies in the Lula Belle and Scotty Wiseman collection are fascinating documents of the not-quite-public home lives of this far-from-private couple. At moments, these films could easily be mistaken for the home movies of any other Chicago family in the late 1930s or early 1940s (or at least, any other Chicago family that could afford to make home movies). At other moments, it’s possible to see glimpses of Lulu Belle the performer, as when she sticks her tongue out, curtsies, and laughs while pulling her Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven.

On the other hand, the collection also includes ample footage of planes, trains, stages, and performers. This week’s feature video was made while Lulu Belle and Scotty were shooting a movie at Republic Studios in Hollywood, probably the 1938 Roy Rogers feature SHINE ON HARVEST MOON. Lulu Belle and Scotty played themselves in the film, which was, like the majority of Roy Rogers’s films, a western with songs.

Roy Rogers on a rearing Trigger

Roy Rogers atop Trigger

The couple’s home movie footage is a lovely, color, moving-image document of low-budget Western production. Idle horses swish their tails between bounce boards. Lulu Belle’s hair is retouched under the shade of a tree while a palomino rides by in the background. Scotty rides alongside Roy Rogers on horseback. Roy Rogers and Trigger show off their iconic pose. Scotty and Lulu Belle pilot a fire truck down a backlot main street set.

Linda Wiseman as a toddler

Linda Wiseman and her toy horse

One of my favorite moments in the film, though, is a rather bewildering insert of young Linda, towing what appears to be a toy horse. It has a kind of resonance: her appearance in this particular home movie–about Hollywood filmmaking rather than family life–seems strange and out of place. On closer inspection, though, this image also conforms to a home movie trope. The preceding shot ends with Scotty leading his Hollywood steed toward the camera, so there is a sort of graphic match created between the two shots. Like father, like daughter?

You can watch the video here: http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=155

— Heather Heckman

Feature Video – 20th June – Amelia Earhart

My favorite part from this great clip of Amelia Earhart is actually the outtakes that are seen at the very end, which show Amelia on board of the Mayor of New York James Walker’s boat. She is being questioned by reporters in a light hearted manner about her solo transatlantic flight from which she has just returned. In the background there is much fanfare and blowing of boat horns and as a result Amelia’s answers are constantly being overwhelmed with noise. She laughs a lot as she tries to make her answers heard and it is in this moment that we see her in a more natural state than the official ceremony where she receives the medal of honor in front of the crowd.

According to some reports, she was discouraged from smiling in front of the camera and for official photographs because of the gap in her front teeth, so it makes an even nicer find to not only see her smiling but laughing out loud at the scenario that she is in despite the publicity and razzmatazz.

Another nice feature of this clip is that of Amelia, whilst talking about her courage in her acceptance speech, mentions her new husband, Mr Putnam, who she had wed the year previous to this event, and states that it is ‘much harder to stay behind than to go’.

You can watch the film clip here: http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=153

Images from Normandy, June 6, 1944–featured video

On June 6 1944, over 160,000 allied soldiers landed on the beaches Normandy or dropped behind the German coastal defenses.  The D-day invasion was the largest amphibious operation ever undertaken.  This week’s featured video draws on films of the event from the Fox Movietone News Collection and the C.E. Feltner, JR. Collection.

The first 23 seconds are from Feltner’s collection of Signal Corps films. The opening scene shows U.S. soldiers in a Royal Navy Landing Craft Assault (LCA) approaching  what may be “Dog Green” on the western expanse of Omaha Beach, the section of beach depicted in Saving Private Ryan.

Approaching Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944

The soldiers are likely from the 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division.  The second sequence features the more famous landing craft (the Higgins boat—technically called Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP) approaching Omaha at a different sector.

Scenes three through five show the desolation of the early morning at Omaha.  Exposed American soldiers struggle step by step forward.  One falls alone on the beach after being struck by a German bullet, which can be seen splashing into the surf after passing through the soldier. The final sequence from Omaha was taken from the safety of the chalk cliffs of the Omaha beachhead, looking westward as the Omaha landings founder.

Members of the Queen's Own Rifles land at Juno Beach

The Feltner collection also contains the famous film of Canadian forces from the Queen’s Own Rifles debarking from an LCA at Juno Beach—this sequence was filmed by Canadian Film Photographic Unit (CFPU) cameraman, Bill Grant.  There is also a still unidentified clip of British or Canadian forces landing somewhere along the beachhead.

The films from the Fox Movietone Collection begin one minute into this compilation and feature British forces in action at Sword Beach.  Unlike the films of Omaha from the Feltner Collection these films were censored and released to American newsreel companies.  Cameramen of the British No.5 Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU) shot all of these films.  The initial scenes of British forces debarking from the LCA depict elements of Lord Lovat’s 4th Commando coming ashore near Ouistreham. These sequences were filmed by Ian Grant as he is known to have come ashore with the Commandos. Other scenes feature units of what is probably the British 3rdInfantry Division fighting in and around Ouistreham off Sword Beach.  We can identify these cameramen by the hand written slates they used to indentify their films.

Slate for AFPU No.5 cameraman, Sgt. Richard Leatherbarrow

They are: Sgt. Richard Leatherbarrow, Sgt. George Laws, and Sgt. Norman Clague (who was killed in action six days later).  The comparison between the more rapid movement inland of the Canadian and British forces on Juno and Sword and the American struggle to hold onto Omaha is striking.

Why were films of British units distributed to American newsreel companies?  There simply wasn’t much motion picture film of the American beaches available to distribute.  Much of the film shot by U. S. Army Signal Corps was lost in the English Channel when the ship carrying the undeveloped film back to London for processing was sunk.

The complete film can be seen at http://library.sc.edu/mirc/playVideo.html?i=152

Feature Video – 23rd May – Bonnie and Clyde

The feature video on the MIRC website for this week is presented on the anniversary of the day that the wanted outlaws, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, were killed in a police ambush as they were driving a stolen Ford Deluxe along a road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. They were being hunted in the aftermath of the murder of three policemen. Two of these policemen were motorcycle police, H. D. Murphy and Edward Bryant Wheeler, that were shot down on a country road and witnessed by a farmer who lived nearby, in April of the same year. Sadly, for Officer Murphy, it was his first and last day on motorcycle duty. William Schieffer was that witness and in this newsreel he describes the shooting.

It was this event that apparently turned the tide against the couple, fuelled by Scheiffer’s account, which got widespread coverage in the press.  This graphic account, coupled with recent photos found of the couple showing off their gun collection, encouraged press reports to hound them as gun toting vigilantes and especially tarred Bonnie as the heartless ‘moll’. Schieffer stated that Bonnie stood over the body of an officer, finishing him off by rolling him over and firing into his chest. However further witnesses claimed they saw a tall man firing shots into a body on the ground. Scheiffer’s ever-changing story was soon discredited, but not in time for Barrow and Parker. After this event, the massive negative publicity, against Parker in particular, accelerated the public clamor for the extermination of the remaining elements of the Barrow Gang.

This featured video was a newsreel that came out just after these slayings at the intersection of Route 114 and Dove Road near Grapevine, Texas, now the neighboring city of Southlake. This event warrants the end of the downfall of the outlaws ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and predicted by Bonnie herself, in a poem found at one of their hideouts:

“Some day they’ll go down together

And they’ll bury them side by side

To few it’ll be grief,

To the law a relief

But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”

You can watch the feature video, entitled ‘The Hunt for Bonnie and Clyde’ here.


Feature Video – 17th May – Dambusters Raid

As we are changing our feature videos on a weekly basis, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of the interesting facts and research material that I find out for each video that we post on our website.

This weeks feature video is to commemorate the anniversary of Operation Chastise, carried out by Squadron 617 of the Royal Air Force on the water supply system of the Germans. This daring raid took place at night and the specially adapted Lancaster bombers were carrying bombs that had been specially invented for this task by the aircraft engineer Dr Barnes Wallis, the designer of the Wellington bomber. The raid became popularly known as the Dambusters Raid, and immortalized in a film in later years. (1954) Despite the high rate of casualties, amongst the bomber squadron, and on the ground, as well as the fact that the bombs did not disrupt the amount of water supply to the German war machine that was expected, the operation was considered a success.

This is all information that is well known to scholars, researchers and general interested parties of World War II events but gives you some background information to the historical day in question that we have chosen to display our featured video. In this case the clip, short though it is, shows footage from a medal ceremony at Buckingham Palace to honor the Canadian pilots that took place in the raid. The men shown on the video have been identified as:

Flight Lieutenant J. C. McCarthy, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Distinguished Service Order.

Flying Officer D. R. Walker receiving DFC.

Pilot Officer H. T. Taerum, DFC.

Pilot Officer K. W. Brown, Distinguished Flying Medal.

Pilot Officer G. A. Deering, DFM.

Sergeant S. Oancia, DFM.

They are accompanied by:

Royal Air Force Wing Commander G. P. Gibson receiving DSO and DFC.

The interesting thing about this clip is that 2 of these men were killed  a month after this film was taken, on the 16th of September 1943, in another raid over Germany, as a part of Operation Dortmund. These were: Pilot Officer H. T. Taerum and Pilot Officer G. A. Deering, Navigator and Front Gunner on Wing Commander Gibson’s crew for the raid. Gibson himself was killed a year later on the 19th of September 1944. As far as we know, this short film clip could be the only footage of these men together.

You can watch this video here.

Unidentified Fencing Object?

This wonderful piece of film shows a man displaying Japanese swordsmanship techniques but we have no idea who he is – do you? This was filmed for a piece that was included on Local Television station WBTW and aired in 1976. Please let us know if you have any idea about this person or remember seeing this news story on television. The whole of the film clip can be viewed here.

Unidentified Feline (?) Object

Still from "Unidentified," Vishniac 283

As Lydia mentioned, we plan to regularly post images of things, people and places that we are struggling to identify–Unidentified Filmed Objects, or UFOs, for short.

We’re kicking the series off with this little fella, who was shot by the pioneering microcinematographer Roman Vishniac. Although he is more famous for his work filming micro-organisms, Vishniac loved to photograph life on all scales–and sometimes, the large animals pose as many problems for our cataloging staff as the small ones. So speak up if you recognize this species! … And look for more critters (large and small) from the Roman Vishniac Film Collection in future UFO posts.

Learn more about the Roman Vishniac Film Collection here.

Hello world!

Welcome to the blog of MIRC -Moving Image Research Collections. This is where we at MIRC intend to give more information about individual films or new collections or even research or findings of items in our collections.

Here is where we can go into much more detail about objects, films, people and places, weird anomalies and the various bits and bobs that we come across in our work that we think that people outside of MIRC would be interested in.

Here is also where we solicit help from the public in identifying items, people, places and things that we come across in our films and videos that we need help in finding out more about. Basically this is our space to explore, more than our website, Facebook page, or University presence will allow.

So watch this space for more, coming your way in the near future!