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“The New Willamette” (1974)

28 Jul

“Here in Oregon we listen to water all the time.”

umbrella

Homer Groening (1919-1996) was an ad man, cartoonist, and industrial filmmaker in Portland, Oregon (also father to Matt, creator of The Simpsons). The Army Corps of Engineers sponsored Groening’s 1974 film The New Willamette, which looks at environmental clean-up efforts on the mighty Willamette River.

mcall

Oregon Governor Tom McCall (1967-1975)

The film features environmentalist Governor Tom McCall, who led multiple efforts to protect Oregon beaches, waterways, and forests. He famously encouraged people to visit Oregon, “but for heaven’s sake, don’t come here to live.”

The film won the Golden Eagle Award for outstanding non-theatrical films in the United States in 1975, and the U.S. Information Agency entered it in several international film festivals.

boat

Fisherman Jim Conway

Thanks to an inquiry from a retired Lane County teacher who used to show the film to her students, I was able to track down what is likely the sole surviving print, which resides in the Indiana University Libraries Film Archive. The staff graciously digitized it and put it online.

Skip Elsheimer of A/V Geeks has compiled a Homer Groening filmography.

USIA Films and the Smith-Mundt Act

23 Jul

We have a couple of films in our library (Himalayan Awakening and Arts of Japan) produced by the U.S. Information Agency which was the “public diplomacy” (aka, propaganda) arm of the State Department from 1953-1999. So I’ve been intrigued by the recent news about the fresh loosening of the The United States Information and Exchange Act of 1948, which prohibited domestic distribution of propaganda created for international audiences. The USIA made hundreds of films and very, very few were ever seen in the United States before the Act was first revised in 1987. Unfortunately, however, because U.S. distribution was effectively illegal for so long, very few copies of the films have survived, at least as far as I’ve been able to find so far. The National Archives holds the records of the USIA’s Motion Picture and Television Service, but few of the films are available for viewing outside of NARA.

The word “propaganda” gets people all worked up because it seems inherently manipulative and deceitful. Arguably, the USIA’s mission was an ideal non-violent alternative to the Cold War arms race against the perceived Communist threat. Show movies! Of course the movies were infused with an ideological agenda to promote the so-called American way of life; ahem, “to understand, inform and influence foreign publics in promotion of the [U.S.] national interest, and to broaden the dialogue between American and U.S. institutions, and their counterparts abroad.” And thanks to the Hollywood- and auteurist-minded George Stevens, Jr., who ran the the Motion Picture Services unit from 1962-1967, several notable filmmakers got their start working for the USIA, including Carroll Ballard (O how I long to find a copy of his Beyond this Winter’s Wheat, shot in eastern Oregon in 1965!), Charles Guggenheim, Bruce Herschensohn, and University of Oregon alum James Blue (go Ducks!). Like the best (read: most insidious) propaganda, these films are an aesthetic pleasure; the dogma is muted by the skill of the filmmaking. James Blue’s The March walks an especially tricky line as it tells the story of the pivotal 1963 March on Washington for a foreign audience. Amidst the gross injustices and inequality that made the march necessary, Blue had to convey how awesome the United States is for allowing such a peaceful demonstration to occur at all.

Fortunately, there is a growing amount of scholarship on the USIA’s film production. Currently on my shelf:

  • The Cold War and the United States Information Agency, by Nicholas Cull (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008)
  • Inventing Public Diplomacy: The Story of the U.S. Information Agency, by Wilson P. Dizard (Lynne Rienner, 2004)
  • The People’s Films: A Political History of the U.S. Government Motion Pictures, by Richard Dyer MacCann (Hastings House, 1973)
  • Hollywood’s Cold War, by Tony Shaw (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2007)
  • “Auteurs of Ideology: UISA Documentary Film Propaganda in the Kennedy Era…,” also by Cull (Film History, v.10, 1998)
  • “Experiments in Propaganda: Reintroducing James Blue’s Colombia Trilogy,” by Jennifer Horne (The Moving Image, v.9(1), 2009)

 

Limits to Growth (1973)

14 Jun
Director Bruce Bittle
Producer Portland OR. : Teknifilm

Eugene: Lane Council of Governments

Contributors Club of Rome

Narrator, Larry Chusman

Length 30 min
B&W/Color  Color
UO Library Catalog description:   Examines pros and cons of continued worldwide economic growth as compared to a leveling off of growth in population, capital investments, and material goods to the point of a steady economy
Call # Mc176
Genre  Government-Sponsored
Rare  YES
Online  NO
Copyright status  Public Domain
Physical condition  Poor/Fair
Oregon-related  YES

Notes:

We have two copies of this film in the Univeristy of Oregon’s archives.  Our first copy is in poor condition.  The emulsion degradation has rendered the image extremely pink and red.  It has been subjected to many splices, some poorly done, and the film itself is extremely brittle.  I would not suggest screening with this copy.  Our second copy is in fair condition and also has about 20 seconds more footage at the beginning of the reel.  We can assume that the first copy was damaged and the first twenty seconds of that reel was spliced out.  I replaced the leader of the second copy as it had extensive perforation damage.  The color has only a slight orange tint and though there are dectable emulsion scratches, the image is fairly clear.  Obviously, if one were to screen Limits to Growth they should choose Copy #2.

Bruce Bittle is an Oregonian photographer with a B.A. and M.S. from the University of Oregon.  He has worked in collaboration with Lane County on numerous occations.

We have numerous films in our archive authored by Bruce Bittle:

The Springtime of Autumn

Mankind at the Turning Point

You conquered me not : a short history of the Klamath & Modoc tribes

and Confrontations of Death

 

 

County Outline (1956?)

9 Jun
Director  Harry Paget (and photographer)
Producer  Multnomah County Library
Contributors Made under the auspices of Elizabeth H. Harmond Fund of the Library Association of Portland.

Musical score by Robert Crowley

Length  30 min
B&W/Color  Black & White
UO Library Catalog description:  Portland, Or. : Multnomah County Library
Call # Mc24
Genre Government-Sponsored
Rare  YES
Online  NO
Copyright status  Public Domain
Physical condition  Fair
Oregon-related  YES

Notes:

The Multnomah County Library produced this film about Multnomah County in which the city of Portland is contained.  It details nearly all aspects of the county including geographical, geological and economical filming surrounding landscape and industry.  The film details the processes of government such as voting practices, city planning, and property taxes.  Local schools, children, and social workers within the juvenile detention system are filmed as well.

The University of Oregon’s medical school is mentioned in their filming of the county hospital, the Multnomah Hospital.  The medical center was run by medical faculty from the U of O and educated medical interns.  Local law enforcement and so much more is highlighted in this report which recounts nearly all infrastructures in the county.

This film obviously holds great historical and cultural value for the University of Oregon, the city of Portland, Multnomah County, and the state of Oregon.  In our catalog the date is listed as 1956 but it’s true production date is unknown as of yet.

Oregon Today (1962)

9 Jun
Director  Don Horter
Producer  Don Horter Productions
Contributors Oregon Dept. of Planning and Development

Narrator, Tex Antoine

Music, Al Corelli

Photographers, Fred Miller, Eric Horter, and Harold Laney

Length  28 min
B&W/Color  Color
UO Library Catalog description:   Describes the industrial production of Oregon from the basic forest products to new electronic space devices. Includes views of the scenery in Oregon and shows the activity on farms and in cities.
Call # Mc213
Genre  Government-Sponsored
Rare  YES
Online  NO
Copyright status  Public Domain
Physical condition  Poor
Oregon-related  YES

Notes:

I found that in 1956 Don Horter made a film called White Peril which, according to a plot summary of the film on imdb.com, detailed the snow patrol on duty in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. Also on eos.web I found a film that he also made called Of Ships and Cargo in 1960, which is a promotional film to draw in business to Portland, OR.  This seemed very similar in intention to Oregon Today.

While screening this film an old splice broke and I was obliged to repair it.  The film is extremely brittle, has extensive emulsion scratching, surface damage, and color degradation.  The film is extremely red and in poor condition.

Growing Up Japanese (1975)

20 Mar
Director  Michael Berger
Producer  Gordon Newsfilms Inc., The U.S. – Japan Trade Council
Contributors  Released by Modern Talking Picture Service, Inc.
Length  25 minutes
B&W/Color  Color
UO Library Catalog description:  Helps promote an understanding of the Japanese people and way of life by examining Japanese ways of learning to get along together
Call #  FILM MC228
Genre  Documentary
Rare  Yes
Online  No
Copyright status  Public Domain
Physical condition  Fair
Oregon-related  No

Notes:

Growing Up Japanese was released by the U.S. – Japan Trade Council (now known as the U.S. – Japan Business Council) to promote good relations between Japan and the United States.

The film is prefaced with this announcement, as required by the Counterespionage Section of the National Security Division of the U.S. Government:

“This material is prepared, edited, issued, or circulated by Charles Von Lowenfeldt, inc., San Francisco, which is registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as an  agent of the Japanese government through the U.S.-Japan Trade Council, which is also registered under the FARA. The Japanese Government provides almost all funding for the council. Dissemination reports on this film are filed with the Department of Justice. This statement is made in compliance with the FARA.”

This sort of statement was common, at the time, for films produced by foreign governments but released in the United States. However, it’s requirement by the National Security Division and its mention of dissemination reports provide a sour and suspicious note at the beginning of an otherwise pleasant documentary.

An American woman narrates the film with an even voice as we see many facets of the young Japanese students life in Japan. We watch them study, play baseball, and perform morning aerobic exercises (a daily ritual which carries through to adult life in the workplace).  Students engage in a balloon popping relay and other activities, not unlike spirit-weeks of students in the United States. Later, students take difficult tests and decide which advanced schools to enter based on their grades. Schools are very competitive in Japan, and some students develop phobias and aversions to the rigorous testing regimen.

The film emphasizes a particular focus on the sense of community shared by the Japanese. Although very different countries, the viewer is encouraged to draw positive parallels between Japan and the United States.

The Springtime of Autumn (1971)

16 Mar
Director Bruce Bittle and Bud Lawrence
Producer Oregon Center for Gerontology
Contributors Oregon State Program on Aging, Administration on Aging (Washington, D.C.)
Length  20 minutes
B&W/Color  Color
UO Library Catalog description: Follows volunteers from the Foster Grandparents Program as they work with and teach developmentally disabled children from Fairview Hospital and Training Center in Salem, OR
Call # FILM MB221
Genre  Documentary
Rare  Yes
Online  No
Copyright status Protected
Physical condition  Fair
Oregon-related  yes

Notes:

This film documents the Foster Grandparents Program set up by the Oregon Center for Gerontology. The program is designed to couple senior citizens with mentally challenged youth in a one-on-one setting. This serves not only as a learning aid for the children, but also as therapy for the older generation.

In a review published in The Gerontologist magazine, University of Oregon’s own Professors Carl Carmichael and Larry Wittnebert had this to say about the film:

“Seeing a ‘Grandmother’ teach a retarded child how to thread a wire through a spool or a ‘Grandfather’ prepare a physically handicapped child for swimming therapy causes the viewer to transcend the specific material at hand, and consider such things as the appropriateness of some of the normal characteristics of aging in dealing with the special problems of these children. The film subtly but clearly leads the viewer to consider how the elderly are especially well equipped to fill some of the gaps in our present medical assistance systems with a little extra patience, compassion, child-rearing experience, and time.”

Soft guitar music accompanies the film, provided by musician Dick Cooley.

The film was primarily shot at Fairview Hospital in Salem, and includes scenes from a visit to the Portland Zoological Gardens.

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