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Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research

Motion Picture History Collections

Shirley Clarke directing BULLFIGHT (1955, Halcyon Films) GSA Name File, Clarke Collection, Copy neg# 4767(mp)
Shirley Clarke directing BULLFIGHT
(1955, Halcyon Films)
GSA Name File, Clarke Collection,
Copy neg# 4767(mp)

Researchers at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research may study a full century of cinema, from the 1890s to the 1990s through film, other visual records and manuscript collections. Collections donated by some of Hollywood's most renowned directors, producers, screenwriters and actors, often augmented by viewing copies of their most significant films, provide complementary documentation for both the art and business of Hollywood's Golden Age, as well as more modern independent and experimental filmmaking.

WCFTR's most comprehensive cinema collection consists of almost two thousand 16mm reference prints of feature films from Warner Brothers, RKO, and Monogram Pictures: virtually every feature released by these Hollywood studios between 1931 and 1949. Films such as Casablanca, The Jazz Singer, The Magnificent Ambersons, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, films featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers or Bette Davis, films produced by Val Lewton, and thousands of other titles serve as primary sources documenting the development of the classical Hollywood cinema. The Warners film library also includes 1500 Vitaphone short subjects and over 300 cartoons from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, from 1926 to 1949. Most of the Warners and Monogram films have accompanying documentation in the form of scripts and variant drafts, dialogue transcripts, legal files, pressbooks and 8x10 still negatives.

Contemporary films, as well as American and international cinema classics, make up the thousands of additional features, shorts, and documentaries available to researchers at the Center. Most noteworthy among WCFTR's international holdings is the Rzevsky Collection, the largest archival collection of postwar Soviet films in the United States, consisting of 35mm prints of 270 Soviet features and documentaries made during the 1950s to the 1970s, most of which were never released in the West. The work of groundbreaking independent and experimental cinema is also represented in the film holdings. These collections often contain viewing copies, printing elements, out-takes and hundreds of boxes of manuscripts, all documenting the formulation and evolution of their film making careers.

The Film Database provides online title access to all feature-length films held by the Center. Documentaries, cartoons and short subjects can be accessed by title using the card catalogues, printed lists, indexes and other manual finding aids available at the Center.

Costume designs by Edith Head for ANYTHING GOES (1956, Paramount) Head Coll.
Costume designs by Edith Head
for ANYTHING GOES (1956,
Paramount) Head Coll.

Manuscript Collections
WCFTR manuscript collections are typically made up of production company records or the personal papers of individuals active in cinema production. The best way to locate WCFTR manuscript collections is through ARCAT, our online catalog.

The United Artists collection is the Center's largest and most comprehensive manuscript collection, consisting of the company's corporate records from its founding in 1919 until the early 1950s. It details every aspect of motion picture sales and distribution, including the company's corporate minutes and major financial records as well as information on production and distribution costs, film financing, and earnings. Exchange records document distribution and exploitation techniques; foreign department files give insight into film as an international commodity; producers' records contain information on contracts and rights, plus correspondence with many of the country's leading film makers; and the files of the company's legal counsel detail a range of activities from stockholder disputes to plagiarism suits, from antitrust cases to income tax matters

The Center also holds collections relating to the hearings on the entertainment industries instituted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. The papers of the Hollywood Democratic Committee, the lawyers representing the Hollywood Ten, and the individual manuscripts collections of six of the Ten provide information on their careers both before and after blacklisting. Copies of many of the films written or directed by the Hollywood Ten can be viewed at the WCFTR.

Numerous other collections document every aspect of movie making from the work of directors, producers and actors to the work of cinematographers, writers, and set designers.


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