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waynebretl

35 minutes high-quality amateur movies of 1933 fair

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Black and white film made by Haskell Pruett documenting his trip to the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago. Title sequence claims "Member of the Amateur Cinema League" and it does show in the quality of his camera work. Preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society, Pruett's home state.

 

 

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Did the filmmaker really mean to write “Bored Censors” rather than Board Censors?  Considering how his camera (he was a member of the Amateur Cinema League) lingered over the nude statuary, it’s difficult to tell.

This is a wonderful film.  Seeing the daily life of the Fair is quite remarkable.  Clearly the photographer had some real money.  Although 1933 was the year of the nationwide bank panic and the near collapse of the entire economy, he made two trips to the Fair (from Oklahoma) and, apparently, bought a new Pontiac.  

The similarity between the 1933 Belgian Village and Sinclair Dinosaur exhibit and those exhibits in NY in 1964 is very evident.  

It was a beautiful exposition although I’m not sure, using 21st Century eyes, which is more disturbing:  the cruelty of the Alligator wrestling or the racism of The Old Plantation. While they provide an academic insight into 1933 thinking,  both are, thankfully, no longer tolerated. 

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The new Pontiac is followed by a return trip starting in Michigan - seems like they may have driven to Detroit to buy it.

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I have been watching this wonderful film again and, for what it's worth, I found ubiquitous nuns at 6:22.  They are walking through the religious group near The 
Golden Pavilion of Jehol.

They appear to be with a line of grammar school kids.  I cannot quite tell what order they might be but I am interested to see if they might be BVM nuns.  That order operated four or five Chicago area schools including Our Lady of The Angels school on Chicago's west side.  That was the site of the terrible fire on December 1, 1958 that took 95 lives (92 children and three nuns).  Those nuns each died trying to protect her students.  The BVM nuns operated OLA school for many decades prior to that fire.

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Thanks for noticing that. I can't identify the order either. I was in Wednesday afternoon catechism at the nearby Lutheran church when the fire occurred. The church secretary came in and told us to study quietly because Pastor Boehm was busy. We found out later that he had run to OLA to help in any way he could.

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1 hour ago, Bill Cotter said:

...I wonder why they tinted it like they did...

Probably because very few people (even those who could afford home movie gear) could do that, so just showing off, I think. In showing he had access to special technology, he was very amateurish in using tinting for no good purpose. Another bit of showing off is the titles double-exposed over a background scene. He did it, but didn't get the exposures really correct. So, I would say the photographer had good camera technique, mediocre special effects technique, and rather poor artistic judgement.

Regarding color, the public reacted positively to any attempts at color, almost from the time when they realized the train coming at them on the screen really wouldn't run them over. SMPE (Society of Motion Picture Engineers) meeting notes during the thirties show that the public were so crazy for color of any kind in commercial motion pictures that studios were working on two-color process films and complaining about the production costs while admitting that they had to keep up with the trend in order to compete. At the same time, they recognized that the color was unsatisfactory until a natural-looking three color system could be available (which eventually was provided by Technicolor's system #4).

Imagine the temptation today if you were one of a only few amateur photographers who had Photoshop and various effects plug-ins - kind of like the fad for obviously overdone HDR [high dynamic range] effects when that came out. It would take some artistic discipline to tone it down to where it didn't distract from the subject. 

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Wayne, I had a friend who was in grade four on the day of the OLA fire.  She recounted her story on film a dozen or so years ago.  She said she didn’t know if she jumped, fell or was pushed from the windows of her classroom but she remembered how high the window sill was from the floor of the classroom.  She remembered her best friend’s final words to her and the last time she saw her:  “I’m so scared.”  It was a terrible day and one of the worst in all of Chicago history.  All those kids and their devoted teachers lost.  It destroyed the entire neighborhood.  My friend survived but when sent to a nearby Catholic school, she insisted her mother wait for her in the main office and refused to go to the second floor.  As an adult, she became the head of special education for the Chicago public schools.  Sadly, she died on the 49th anniversary of the OLA fire.

Do you have other memories of that tragic day?

 

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No other personal memories. If I recall correctly, my sister had a friend whose sister went to OLA, or something along those lines. Don't recall if she was one of the survivors. 

I do recall the subsequent discussion that the church-sponsored schools should not be exempt from having to install fire sprinklers. Chicago had an early history of enacting some of the most progressive fire safety measures, but usually after some tragedy and with some loopholes. Houses and apartments are required to have two exits at opposite ends of each floor, something that typically isn't included in modern suburban development.

Having been exposed to such tragedies even at a distance, I keep an escape ladder on the second floor of my home, and always lay out my clothes with essentials (keys, wallet) in my pants pockets next to the bed at night. And of course, I have functioning smoke and CO detectors. The house I am in now has sprinklers, as they were required in new construction for a few years here (since rescinded). I had the broken pressure gauge replaced, but found there apparently is only one place in all of Tucson qualified to work on systems. I guess most people don't think about it and RE agents don't mention it, but when I found some homes have sprinklers, I felt it was a plus.

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