A Day at the Archives … William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

Erin Wiegand, Northumbria University

3 April 2019


This February, I had the pleasure of visiting the William H. Hannon Library at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. I was there to conduct research within a single collection the library holds: the Samuel Z. Arkoff papers. Donated to the library in 2008 by Arkoff’s children, Donna Roth and Lou Arkoff, the collection contains over a hundred boxes of archival materials primarily relating to Arkoff’s work as a film producer.


Arkoff is best known as the cofounder of American International Pictures, an independent studio which he acted as producer for, and later president of, from 1954–1980. American International Pictures became successful producing and distributing low-budget, quickly made films packaged as double bills, particularly for drive-in circuits, and specialized in science fiction, horror, biker, and other genre films. Above all else, AIP became synonymous with the newly identified ‘teen market’, which they aggressively targeted in both marketing campaigns and the teen-oriented content of the films themselves. In the 1960s, AIP pioneered the ‘beach party’ genre, anchored by stars Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, while also finding success with horror fans in the ‘Poe cycle’, a series of films directed by Roger Corman that adapted (often very loosely) the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Arkoff and AIP also launched the careers of many now-famous actors and directors, including Francis Ford Coppola, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, and Martin Scorsese.

The archive contains a wealth of information on AIP and Arkoff’s career, including a huge collection of pressbooks, film stills and photographs, lobby cards and posters, and continuity scripts, as well as financial materials, release schedules, contracts, correspondence, and publicity materials for a wide range of films, from How to Stuff a Wild Bikini to The Amityville Horror. Multiple boxes also contain Arkoff’s personal correspondence, speeches and interviews, press clippings, and materials relating to his charitable work. A full eight boxes of the archive document the production details of Arkoff’s unreleased film Nightcrawler (which he had worked on for years after leaving AIP in 1980 and establishing his own production company), including contracts, scripts, and financial documents; another box contains details of Arkoff’s plans to remake AIP’s hit film I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) in the early 1990s. In short, the collection is pure gold for anyone interested in Arkoff himself or in the workings of AIP, as it provides an incredible variety of materials.

But it’s also a great resource for anyone researching American exploitation and B-films of the 1950s–1970s—like I am. What led me to the archive was not an interest in Arkoff or AIP specifically, but rather the fact that it was a rare source for publicly accessible archival materials of any kind relating to exploitation films. Film historians investigating exploitation films have particular challenges when it comes to archives, for several reasons: first, the producers and distributors responsible for these films generally regarded them as disposable, uninteresting beyond their ability to make money quickly, and relatively interchangeable with one another. Unlike major studios and prestige production outfits, it would have been unusual for anyone to have kept any records such as production notes, correspondence, budgets, and the like, and such documents are extremely hard to find for exploitation films. Additionally, what materials do exist have typically not been considered a priority by most archives, given the low cultural status and poor quality of exploitation films (and the relative lack of interest in researching them). Thus, to find an archive housing something as large and detailed as the Arkoff collection is a real treat!

My own research project is concerned with the relationship between exploitation films and conceptions of documentary sobriety, veracity, and education, examining a wide range of exploitation films that employed a documentary mode and highlighted this aspect in their marketing. Since I’m particularly interested in this latter aspect, the Arkoff collection’s abundant assortment of pressbooks was a big draw for me. After reviewing the collection catalog, I was able to identify about twenty films on my list that I had not yet found pressbooks or marketing materials for, including Mondo Teeno, Ecco, Africa Uncensored, Witchcraft 70, Kama Sutra, and Helga. In addition to pressbooks and posters, I also found a few interesting bits of correspondence, including a telegram from an Oklahoma City drive-in exhibitor to exploitation producer Bob Cresse congratulating him on the ‘sensational’ success of his film Ecco (a re-edit of two Italian ‘mondo movies’), which Cresse had worked with AIP to distribute. Additionally, a letter and press campaign sent by AIP to exhibitors for its film Helga (a German sex-education film repackaged as exploitation fare) provided some fascinating insights into promotional strategies around the film, which (contrary to what I’d expected) AIP suggested would benefit from heavy targeting of ‘women’s audiences’, such as buying ad spots during daytime soap operas and game shows. Taken together, the material I collected from the archive in just one day was enormously invigorating to my research and absolutely worth the trip.

The special collections reading room is small but comfortable, and I was the only researcher there for the entire day. Lockers are available just outside the room for storing personal belongings—the only things allowed inside the reading room are laptops, phones, notepaper, and pencils. The archive does allow photographs for personal use, so the bulk of my time was spent taking photos with my phone (using the CamScanner app) to review in more detail later.

The library itself is located on the Loyola Marymount University campus in Los Angeles, close to the Los Angeles International Airport. While I did see a few campus shuttles running, I would advise those considering a visit that public transportation may be tricky for visiting this archive; I had rented a car, and easily found parking in a campus lot near the library ($12.50 for a full day). Other tips for visiting researchers: while I packed my own lunch to eat on the patio outside, there is a Starbucks adjacent to the library and a number of food options in the Lair Marketplace in the Malone Building, about a five-minute walk away.

While I spent my day working entirely within the Arkoff collection, Cynthia Becht, head of archives and special collections at the library, suggested that film scholars might also be interested in their largest film history collection, the Arthur P Jacobs collection. Jacobs, initially a PR agent for stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Warren Beatty, and Gregory Peck, was also the producer of the original Planet of the Apes series, and the archive contains a treasure trove of materials on these films: multiple screenplay drafts, storyboards, production notes and correspondence, publicity materials, and more.

A final note to fellow exploitation-film researchers: if visiting LA, it is also worth a trip to the Margaret Herrick Library, where I also found a handful of interesting bits of correspondence, draft scripts, and notes brainstorming ideas for advertising slogans for a few films on my list. Of interest as well is the Dan Sonney collection at the UCLA Film and Television Archive (write to the archive for a PDF catalog), although unfortunately most of the films it contains are not in viewable condition. (However, researchers can make special requests in the case of a film essential to their study, though assume at least six months between the request and an appointment, given the complex and delicate work involved.)

To browse the inventory of the Arkoff Papers, see http://pdf.oac.cdlib.org/pdf/clloy/arkoff.pdf

To search the complete holdings of the library, including the Samuel Z Arkoff and Arthur P Jacobs collections, visit https://oac.cdlib.org/institutions/Loyola+Marymount+University,+Department+of+Archives+and+Special+Collections,+William+H.+Hannon+Library


Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Cynthia Becht, Lauren Longwell, and the student staff at the William H Hannon Library for all their assistance!


Erin Wiegand is a postgraduate researcher at Northumbria University, where she is completing her doctoral dissertation on exploitation documentary films. She is also the web editor of the JCMS Teaching Dossier and a programming volunteer at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne. For more about her work and publications, visit http://erinewiegand.com or follow her @erinewiegand on Twitter.


Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

A Day at the Archives… Film & Diplomacy in Rome’s State Archives (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Central State Archives)

Carla Mereu Keating, University of Bristol

8 February 2019


In the spring of 2014, the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust awarded a small research grant to my project entitled “The Language and the Image of a Nation: Diplomatic Relations between the Italian Foreign Office and the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) during the 1930s”. The scheme is notoriously very competitive, so when my project was selected, I couldn’t quite believe it.

As detailed in my plan of action, I was going to carry most of my research in Rome at the historical diplomatic archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [Ministero degli Affari Esteri (MAE)] to study the correspondence exchanged in the interwar period between the Italian Foreign Office and the MPPDA, the North American film trade association headed by Will Hays most commonly known as the Hays Office. I also planned to visit the Central State Archives [Archivio Centrale di Stato (ACS)], to document the level of interference exercised by Mussolini’s administration in the circulation of foreign-language films in Italy during the fascist regime.[i]

I stayed in Rome between September 2014 and March 2015. From September to December, I visited the MAE archive; between December and March, I mostly worked at the ACS. These two state archives are located in two different areas of Rome. The ACS is located in the South West, in the wealthy EUR district, only a 5-minute walk from the Laurentina stop of the Metro B line. The journey to the MAE archive, located in the North West, is not as straightforward. Because I visited the archive before during my PhD, I was aware that this area, and Rome in general, is not often serviced well by public transport, and if I wanted to commute easily to the various archives and libraries scattered around the Eternal City, [ii] I needed to stay somewhere not too far from Termini Central Station, where the two main metro lines A and B intersect. I was lucky to share an apartment near San Giovanni, which is served by the Metro A line and only a couple of stops away from Termini.

Central State Archives (ACS):

 

Historical Diplomatic Archive (MAE):

MAE’s historical diplomatic archive is open to researchers only between 9:00 and 14:00, Monday to Friday. To get access researchers need to make an appointment through the online system, submitting copy of their ID and a reference letter from their supervisor/mentor/funding body. Citizens of foreign countries are required to submit further documentation as to why they need to carry out research in Italy. They will also likely need to have some knowledge of Italian or work alongside someone who does when making their application and during their time at the archive.

The entrance to the archive is on the left side of the Ministry’s imposing building. Upon my arrival, I reported to reception and then went through security and bag checks. Once inside, I was asked to leave my belongings in one of the small lockers outside of the reading room. I was allowed to bring my own laptop, phone, notebook, camera (or scanner) inside the room. Personal reproduction is free but previous authorization is required. There is also a photocopying machine, but it can’t be used if records are in poor physical condition (and if working on pre-WW2 collections, it is likely that they are dusty and/or have deteriorated).

The ACS is open to researchers Monday-Friday 9:00-18:45 and Saturdays 9:00-13:00. A photo ID will be required each day to access the reading room, and small lockers are available on the ground floor. On the first floor, first-time visitors will need to register and to briefly describe their research. Photocopying and photography are allowed but at a fee set by the archive. Inside the building there is only a small area with a few vending machines, but the outside area is better served if one is in need of a short break.

During my time at MAE’S archive, I collected textual evidence of a diplomatic dispute between Italy and the United States concerning film trade. The production by US film companies of films spoken partially or wholly in Italian and which portrayed characters of Italian heritage and/or episodes and figures from national history – such as, for example, Scarface (1932), Farewell to Arms (1932), Idiot’s Delight (1937) – triggered a remarkable exchange of correspondence between the two countries: Rome accused the North American film majors of insulting the prestige and the dignity of the Italian nation and people, repeatedly requesting through the Italian embassy in Washington (but also drawing the large Italian diplomatic network in the US and across the world into the dispute) a halt to the production and the international circulation of any film which could offend Italian sensibilities.

General Administration, Political Affairs, 1931-1945, United States, b. 5, 1931, f. 12, Italy and the Italian language in American cinema

The Hays Office, alongside the US State Department, communicated regularly with the Italian Office via Washington and New York to reassure the Italian government of their intention to treat any foreign background sympathetically as to avoid disturbing in any way “the progress of international amity”. The Italians were not the only ones whose complaints the MPPPDA had to deal with  ̶  the Mexicans and the French, for example, also protested strongly against Hollywood’s negative stereotyping and inaccurate historical portrayals (one can read more on the subject in Ruth Vasey’s pioneering The World According to Hollywood 1918-1939).

General Administration, Political Affairs, 1931-1945, United States, b. 12, 1932, f. 11, Italy in American cinema; Scarface and others

MPPDA’s contacts with Italian officials in the US were generally very amicable. Consuls, ambassadors and representatives of the film industries occasionally met to discuss office matters, but also for private film screenings, dinners and other social outings. Aside from some occasional unresolved episodes of friction, mostly caused by Rome’s unabashed political interference in Hollywood’s business, this seemingly cordial relationship lasted until 1938, when the majors embargoed the Italian market in reaction to the fascist monopoly laws of the same year.

The ACS conserve rich documentation related to the development of the Italian film industry under Mussolini, such as, for example, finance and legal documents attesting to the state’s involvement in the film industry, correspondence, screenplays and photographs. I was interested in providing textual evidence for Mussolini’s infamous decision to silence and later ban from theatrical distribution early sound films spoken in a foreign language. I was also looking for further examples of state censorship to complement the data that I previously collected at MAE and during my PhD at the Italia Taglia archive of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali e il Turismo (MiBACT) [Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism]. Other interesting archival records were also discovered serendipitously, such as evidence of the cordial relationship between Mussolini and US film companies such as Fox and Columbia, or correspondence discussing the organisation of the dubbing industry in Rome in the 1930s.

General Administration, Political Affairs, 1931-1945, United States, b.18, 1933, f. 16, Mussolini Speaks

However, research into materials that interested me was not as straightforward as that at MAE. Several hours were spent inspecting the existing ACS catalogues for relevant information. A systematic enquiry into their vast collections was significantly complicated by the fact that documents related to the development of the Italian film industry and to the political personalities involved in the film trade 1) are not always inventoried/catalogued; 2) are sometimes missing from the folders; 3) appear erratically under different offices such as the Ministries of the Interiors, of Corporations, of Trade, of Finance, of Press and Propaganda, of Popular Culture, as well as in the Duce’s Office, the State Press Agency Stefani, the Office for Propaganda abroad and so on (including respective sub-offices!).

Research into the textual records of MAE and ACS expanded my existing knowledge of the relation between the fascist Italian government and the US film industry between the two world wars. It also enriched my understanding of the inner workings of the Foreign Office and of the role that ambassadors and consuls played in the international traffic of films. Some of the archival findings have since found their way in my first monograph, while others are forthcoming in chapters published in edited books. A case study on 1932 Scarface can be found here.


[i] The project also allowed for a period of research in Los Angeles (the Margaret Herrick Library, UCLA’s Film and Television Archive and the Warner Bros. archive).

[ii] I also visited the National Central Library, the Biblioteca Alessandrina, the Biblioteca Luigi Chiarini of the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia and the Cineteca Nazionale.


Carla Mereu Keating obtained a PhD in Italian from the University of Reading (UK). She currently holds a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship in the School of Modern Languages at the University of Bristol (UK). Her research project investigates Hollywood’s film translation industry and the introduction and developments of dubbing in Europe. She has published several articles on media translation history, censorship and ethnicity and is the author of The Politics of Dubbing. Film Censorship and State Intervention in the Translation of Foreign Cinema in Fascist Italy (Peter Lang, 2016). She co-organises Migrating Texts, an annual series of seminars and masterclasses exploring subtitling, translation and adaptation.


 

A Day at the Archives… The IFI Irish Film Archive, Dublin

Ciara Chambers, University College Cork

27 November 2018


The IFI Irish Film Archive recently launched The Irish Independence Film Collection on the IFI player amidst a flurry of media attention in Ireland and beyond. The project, funded by the Irish government’s Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht through the 2016 project office, has repatriated newsreel stories covering Ireland by Pathé and Topical Budget between 1914-1930. The IFI Irish Film Archive worked closely with British Pathé and the British Film Institute, encouraging a return to the original nitrate stock to digitise it to the highest possible quality, offering much sharper digital transfers than the older, low resolution standard-definition telecines. This is groundbreaking work in the preservation of newsreel material, and it has happened at a time of acute reflection, nostalgia and re-evaluation of national identity. Setting aside Ireland’s complex relationship with Britain as the Brexit crisis unfolds, the country is currently in the middle of a ‘decade of centenaries’, a period between 2012 and 2022 marked by a range of public commemoration as modern Ireland reconsiders the twentieth-century events that were part of the founding of the state, with a particular focus on the Easter Rising (1916), the War of Independence (1919-21), the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-23).

Courtesy of LMDÓC / Patrick Jordan / Roman Garcia Albir

This is just one of a range of innovative projects undertaken by the Irish Film Archive. It recently restored, digitized and catalogued 8000 rolls of 35mm film containing a large collection of Irish advertisements. An important focus of this project, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, was to make the material accessible to the general public, and it can now be viewed here: https://ifiplayer.ie/adverts/ The Irish Film Archive also collaborated with University College Cork on Capturing the Nation (funded by the Irish Research Council) which focussed on the digitization and cataloguing of small-gauge Irish amateur film. With innovative projects like these, the IFA strives to achieve a balance between preservation and access, always ensuring that material is made available to the general public through screenings, the IFI player and DVD projects (some of these, for instance GAA Gold – depicting archival material covering Irish sports – were bestsellers in Ireland). The expert team, headed by Kasandra O’Connell, works tirelessly and often with limited funding to preserve and contextualise Ireland’s filmic heritage. The innovative nature of IFA projects has not gone unnoticed by the International archive community; Access and Digital Collections Developer Kieran O’Leary was awarded Focal International employee of the year in 2018.

Founded in 1986, the IFI Irish Film Archive includes in its vaults a range of indigenous film production from 1897 to the present day including feature films, documentaries, newsreels and amateur material. The work of prominent industry directors is preserved alongside films made within local communities, capturing representations of Ireland that chart shifting social attitudes and conditions.

Odd Man Out

The Quiet Man

The portrayal of Ireland on film has been a largely problematic one due to a lack of a sustained indigeneous film industry until the 1970s.  Prior to this, in narrative filmmaking, Ireland was depicted by external filmmakers and often appeared as rural idyll (particularly in American depictions like John Ford’s The Quiet Man, 1952) or as dark, violent and dangerous territory (as in some British portrayals like Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out, 1947). Even the majority of newsreels produced for cinema audiences (and the only source of onscreen news available to the Irish population before the advent of television in the 1950s) were, with a few exceptions, produced by external companies with a tendency to depict scenes of rural primitivism and an inherent violent Irish disposition. This meant that Ireland watched a portrayal of itself which was tinged with postcolonial connotations and often at odds with day-to-day reality.  However, throughout this time amateur local filmmakers were capturing events which hold valuable clues to an internal social and historical perspective on twentieth-century Ireland. Digitizing and exploring this material poses questions on how the Irish amateur gaze depicted modern Ireland and offers the possibility of constructing an alternative narrative to that of mainstream cinema. Sitting alongside professional representations of Ireland in the Irish Film Archive’s facilities in Dublin and Maynooth, this material is a significant cultural resource for researchers keen to understand the development of filmic portrayals of Ireland.

Visiting the Irish Film Archive, located in Temple Bar, the heart of Dublin city centre, is a pleasure. It is attached to the Irish Film Institute, a bustling three-screen arthouse cinema space which hosts a range of festivals and special events and runs an extensive lifelong learning education programme. Local filmmakers and artists often use the IFI’s busy café bar as a meeting spot and you never know who you might bump into there at any time of the day or evening.

Bookings need to be made in advance, and often the viewing facilities are booked out for extended periods of time so it’s vital that you make a reservation and liaise with staff about the material you’d like to see, particularly since the catalogue is not available online. Preliminary enquiries should be made in writing, addressed to access@irishfilm.ie. If the material you need to view is held on film and has not yet been digitized, it will be added to the transfer list and this could take up to six weeks to complete, so it’s important that you plan your visit well in advance. The staff are generous in sharing both their time and expertise and it’s likely that after a visit you’ll come away with even more information about the collections than you anticipated. And if you’re looking for contextual material, the IFI also hosts the Tiernan McBride library, one of the largest collections of film-related publications in Ireland.

https://ifi.ie/archive/research-library/

A large collection of books and DVDs are also available for purchase in the IFI shop:

https://ifi.ie/shop/

Ever proactive in facing the challenges of a small nation with a contested and problematic history, the Irish Film Institute is currently compiling a Moving Image Register to better assess the range of material in need of preservation. A similar survey of archival material is being conducted in Northern Ireland, which does not have a dedicated physical space for the preservation of moving images. However, in 2000, the Digital Film Archive (DFA) was launched by the Northern Ireland Film Commission (now Northern Ireland Screen) and a range of material has been added to it since. The DFA holds narrative and experimental film, television, news, animation and amateur material from 1897 through to the present day and is currently available at a range of museums, libraries, universities and heritage-related locations in Northern Ireland. A full catalogue and a range of the collections are available for viewing here: www.digitalfilmarchive.net

If you are looking for material related to Northern Ireland, it is worth checking on both the Digital Film Archive and in the catalogues of the Irish Film Archive. For queries related to the DFA, and to learn more about its educational outreach programme, see here: https://digitalfilmarchive.net/contact

Northern Ireland Screen is also working closely with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) to preserve the archives of local broadcaster UTV and it is hoped that some of this invaluable material will soon join other UTV gems on the DFA http://www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk/news/utv-archive-preserved-public-record-office-northern-ireland/

If you’re visiting Dublin from outside Ireland, a large amount of accommodation is available within walking distance of the Irish Film Institute and you’ll find numerous pubs and eateries along the cobbled streets of Temple Bar. Be warned though, it’s a lively spot, particularly on weekends, so if you need some quiet time to reflect on your research, you may want to stay somewhere a little more serene. Dublin, of course, is the home of Guinness, so if you’d like to indulge in a pint or an Irish coffee after a hard day’s research, neither will be hard to find… Sláinte!


Dr Ciara Chambers is Head of Film and Screen Media, University College Cork, author of Ireland in the Newsreels (Irish Academic Press, 2012) and co-editor of Researching Newsreels (Palgrave, 2018). She is a member of the editorial board of Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, book reviews editor for the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television and a member of the IAMHIST Council. Her research interests include newsreels, amateur film and the recycling of archival images. She has worked on a range of archival projects and digitization initiatives with the Irish Film Archive, Northern Ireland Screen, Belfast Exposed Photography, UTV, BBC, and the British Universities Film and Video Council. She is scriptwriter and associate producer on Éire na Nuachtscannán (Ireland in the Newsreels), a six-part television series broadcast on TG4 in autumn 2017 http://www.irelandinthenewsreels.com

https://www.ucc.ie/en/filmstudies/people/


Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

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