Jul 6, 2008

George R. Willeman Presents . . .

George Willeman (r) explains it to Rob Silberman at Orphans 5 (University of South Carolina, 2006).

George Willeman loves being the Nitrate Vault Leader (great job title, eh) at the Library of Congress, Division of Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound (Moving Image Section), National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, Packard Campus, Culpeper, Virginia, USA. He has been called "the antithesis of a stereotypical government worker" and proves it by co-hosting a radio show, Filmically Perfect, with the Coen brothers' storyboard artist.

But in his job at the LOC MBRS NAVCC, Geo. W does the people's business: saving films, often in the nick of time. In 2006, the NYU Tamiment Library found the missing reel of the legendary Passaic Textile Strike (1926) in its newly-acquired archive of the Communist Party USA. It was George who was entrusted to salvage the gooey nitrate. Earlier this year, he showed some still highlights at Orphans 6.

This week Mr. Willeman reports finding one of Melton Barker's "Kidnappers Foil" movies from the 1930s. If you haven't seen one of these babies, they are recommended Orphans viewing. Itinerant filmmaker travels America for twenty years shooting short scripted movies "starring" local, amateur casts -- mostly kids. Hundreds of filmed variations of the same script. The definitive source for background on all this is, of course, MeltonBarker.com. If that's not enough detail for you, contact the Barker fan/scholar/obsessive Caroline Frick at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI). Or archivist Dwight Swanson of the Center for Home Movies.

The lone Kidnappers Foil print was part of a recent LOC acquisition. As George report (on Orphans' Facebook)

We acquired a very large collection of nitrate from a collector in Tennessee and this was in a can marked "nitrate clip!" This has been one of the most amazing collections of recent years--many pre WWI reels and many unique films--lotsa Orphans, too!
There may be a million orphans in the naked city, and apparently a million more in Tennesse (ask the founders of the Tennesse Archive of Moving Image and Sound, aka TAMIS).

Next time: TAMI vs. TAMIS -- heavyweight title fight, live, from the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas!