Join the Chicago Film Archives for a stationary tour of our fair city’s recent past. This program of short films adjusts its zoom lens within 20th-century Chicago, weaving together broad city symphony films with intimate portraits of Chicago and its people. All films are presented in 16 mm.
Chicago Film Archives is a regional film archive dedicated to identifying, collecting, preserving, and providing access to films that reflect Chicago and Midwest history and culture.
Harry Mantel, Marina City Waitress
c. 1970s, 3 min.
One of a handful of short vignettes shot by local cameraman, producer, and journalist Harry Mantel. Funded in part by Encyclopedia Britannica for television broadcast, Mantel’s short spots offer bizarre portraits he constructed of the city and its people. This time around, we gain a voyeuristic view of a waitress’s busy lunch within a former Marina City Towers restaurant.
Margaret Conneely, Chicago City to See in ’63
1962, 14 min.
Produced and exhibited to encourage members of the Photographic Society of America to visit Chicago for the society’s annual conference in 1963, award-winning amateur filmmaker Margaret Conneely’s portrait of Chicago is one in which the city is both an omniscient narrator and a living, breathing, speaking, all-seeing organism. It edits together beautiful and dynamic footage of Chicago and then combines this with a deadpan commentary that pokes fun of commercial travel films: “‘Chicago is my town,’ the narrator says wryly, ‘and no other town will do.'” Conneely was awarded a special prize by the Photographic Society of America for this film. The Women’s Film Preservation Fund and Colorlab generously funded the restoration print of this film.
158 W Erie
1971, 6 min.
A University of Illinois Chicago student film that quietly documents the Chicago Fire Department house and officers of 158 West Erie Street. Without narration, images of the officers at work and play are interspersed with portraits of this River North firehouse, which is now occupied by the law firm of Sheldon Sorosky aka former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer (you can’t make these things up!). The film is part of a series of student films that all won awards at the Chicago Public Library’s 1971 Young Chicago Filmmaker’s Festival.
Roger Hammond, Rooftop Road
1977, 8 min.
A montage of shots from Chicago’s major transportation system, the elevated CTA. We watch the train travel through various Chicago neighborhoods and seasons to a soundtrack of train noises, piano, and blues. Distributed by Chicago-based educational films importer and exporter, International Film Bureau.
Lawrence Janiak, Hale House
1965, 11 min.
Chicago’s Hale House was once the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago’s headquarters. The historical roots of the society (a branch of the Hindu Ramakrishna Order) can be traced back to Swami Vivekananda’s visit to Chicago in the July 1893 to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions. With a devout interest in Eastern religions and as a member of the Society (now headquartered in the southwest suburb of Homer Glen), Larry Janiak went to the Hale House and filmed architectural details both inside and outside of the home. These images are paired with traditional Hindu music and prayers. The Hale home (located at 1415 North Dearborn Street) was demolished in the late 1960s, and a high-rise apartment complex was built on the site.
Gordon Weisenborn, Chicago Mural: Midwest Metropolis
c. 1960, 26 min.
A tongue-in-cheek promotional film made by documentary filmmaker Gordon Weisenborn for the Sperry and Hutchinson Company, who operated the S&H Green Stamps retail loyalty reward program within the US. Customers would receive these trading stamps at the checkout counter of supermarkets, department stores, and gasoline stations, among other retailers, which could then be redeemed for products in the S&H rewards catalog. The films narrator highlights many of our city’s downtown and lakefront attractions, including a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago and shopping down Michigan Avenue, where original viewers would have been more likely to acquire their prized S&H Green Stamps.
Tom Palazzolo, Tattooed Lady of Riverview
1967, 14 min.
Famed Chicago filmmaker Tom Palazzolo leads us to Riverview Park, where a now defunct amusement park was located near the intersection of Belmont and Western from 1904 to 1967. Here, we meet a tattooed lady who tells the story of her life, just months before the park was unceremoniously shut down.