Archive | February, 2013

Ford Madox Ford and “Parade’s End”

28 Feb
Image from George T. Keating Home Movie featuring Ford Madox Ford

Image from George T. Keating Home Movie featuring Ford Madox Ford

This past fall the Film & Media Archive screened a recently preserved home movie featuring the only known footage of modernist writer, critic, and editor, Ford Madox Ford. As the only known footage of Mr. Ford in existence, this rare portrait preserves the legacy of one of the most prolific writers of modernist literature.

Washington University’s Film & Media Archive was able to preserve this rare footage with a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF). The George T. Keating Home Movie featuring Ford Madox Ford is a 16mm film consisting of images of Mr. Ford enjoying an afternoon with family members and friends on the grounds of  Mr. Keating’s home in Plainfield, New Jersey, circa 1929.

Ford Madox Ford’s work is being introduced to a modern audience with the HBO miniseries, Parade’s End. Adapted by Tom Stoppard and starring  Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall the series is getting rave reviews. The four related novels that make up Parade’s End were published between 1924 and 1928. The novels were combined into one work which was listed at number 57 on the Modern Library‘s 100 Best Novels list. Literary critic, Mary Gordon noted that it was “quite simply, the best fictional treatment of war in the history of the novel.”

Ford’s treatment of World War I was not a straightforward linear re-telling of events. As a modernist novel the story is filtered through the consciousness of its protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, and the war is a major event in his and others’ lives but not the only one. Continuing in a modernist vein, the last volume in the series explores shifting points of view and perspectives through a series of monologues by characters other than Tietjens. This last volume was left out of the Bodley Head edition edited by Graham Greene, but has been restored to later editions.

In Mary Gordon’s book review of Parade’s End, Volume II: No More Parades: A Novel, she write of how Ford was influenced by Impressionist art and how he sought to replicate that in his writing,

Over and over, he uses the technique of the Impressionist, which he articulated in several critical essays. “I suppose,” he says in an essay on Impressionism, “that Impressionism exists to render those queer effects of real life that are like so many views seen through bright glass—through glass so bright that whilst you perceive through it a landscape or a backyard, you are aware that, on its surface, it reflects a face of a person behind you. For the whole of life is really like that; we are almost always in one place with our minds somewhere quite other.” The ideal Impressionist work, he asserts “would attain to the sort of odd vibration that scenes in real life really have; you would give your reader the impression that he was witnessing something real, that he was passing through an experience.” (Ford “On Impressionism” in Martin Stanndard’s Norton Critical Edition of The Good Soldier, 263-64).

Mary Gordon, Parade’s End, Volume II: No More Parades: A Novel

Parade’s End an HBO miniseries can be viewed on HBO this week. For more information on showtimes, check HBO’s website. For more information on Ford Madox Ford material in the Special Collections at Washington University, please contact the Film & Media Archive or the Manuscripts Unit which also holds a collection of Mr. Ford’s papers, including drafts, galleys and correspondence.


Aspect Ratio Visual Essay

20 Feb

The term aspect ratio refers to the proportional relationship between an image’s height and width. Cinematographers and projectionists and now video producers are often confronted with a range of sizes and aspect ratios. This video from Criterion Collection deftly explains different aspect ratios in relation to the classic film On the Waterfront. The film was shot at a time when the widescreen format was being promoted by the studios, and cinematographers had to shoot knowing that the film might be projected in the classic aspect ratio (1.5:1 (3:2)) or widescreen ratios (1.66:1 (5:3) and 1.85:1). Each aspect ratio reveals different parts of the frame and image creating a more naturalistic composition in the classic aspect ratio or a more horizontally elongated frame with widescreen both of which can be used for different effects by the cinematographer or director.

Ella Baker and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

15 Feb
Ella Baker

Ella Baker

Ella Baker was a civil rights activist who helped found and organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Her name is not as well-known as many of the other leaders of the civil rights movement but she played a pivotal role in many organizations and campaigns from the 1940s onward. Born in 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia. Ella Baker had a long history of working as an organizer and activist before founding SNCC in 1960. She worked for the NAACP in the 1940s and then with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) founded in part by Martin Luther King, Jr. beginning in 1957. Then in the spring of 1960 a wave of student protests began, starting with a group of students who refused to leave a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 1, 1960. Similar protests began occurring in Nashville, Tennessee led by students from local university’s including Fisk University.

Ain’t Scared of Your Jails (1960-1961) was the third episode of  Eyes on the Prize and had a segment on these student protests. Many of the interviewees were organizers and members of SNCC including Diane Nash, Robert Moses and John Lewis. In her interview for Eyes on the Prize, Diane Nash talked specifically about Ella Baker, Baker’s importance for SNCC, and how she empowered the students to take the lead with the protests,

Ella Baker was very important to giving direction to the student movement at that particular point. And not giving direction in a way of her making decisions, as to what the students ought to do, but in terms of really seeing how important it was to recognize the fact that the students should set the, the goals and directions, and maintain control of the student movement. So, she was there in terms of offering rich experience of her own, and advice, and helping patch things up when they needed to be patched up. She was very important to me, personally, for several reasons. Number one, I was just beginning to learn, during that period of time, how everyone, particularly people who were older than we were, had other motives for their participation. Motives other than simply achieving freedom. There were people involved who worked with civil rights organizations who were very concerned about their organization’s image, and perpetuating their organization, who were concerned about fund-raising, and who would make decisions and take positions, based on those concerns, even at the expense, sometime, of actually gaining desegregation, such as the students were trying to do. And that was a very energy-draining thing for me, sometimes. And I didn’t—I remember a couple of times when things had happened that really bothered me, that I didn’t totally understand. I never had to worry about where Ella Baker was coming from. She was a very honest person, and she was—she would speak her mind honestly. She was a person that I turned to frequently who could emotionally pick me back up and dust me off. And she would say things, like, “Well, so-and-so is concerned about his fund-raising, maybe that’s why he took,”—and it would make things click, and fall into place, and she was just tremendously helpful, to me personally, and also to SNCC. I think she was constantly aware of the fact that the differences that the students had were probably not as important as the similarities that we had, in terms of what we were trying to do. So, very often, she was the person who was able to make us see, and work together. I think her participation as a person some years older than we, could really serve as a model of how older people can give energy and help to younger people, at the same time, not take over and tell them what to do, really strengthen them as individuals and also strengthen—she strengthened our organization.

Interview with Diane Nash, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on November 12, 1985, for Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

Baker has been quoted as saying, “strong people don’t need strong leaders,” and SNCC’s philosophy was to empower both the students and the most oppressed members of the communities to decide what action they were going to take themselves, rather than rely on directives or orders from the leaders of the movement. Ella Baker was undoubtedly a leader and mentor to many people but her way of leading was to empower others to take action and direct their own campaigns and actions.

The complete collection of full length transcripts from Eyes on the Prize are available online.

More resources for Ella Baker can be found at the Ella Baker Center, and an oral history interview with Ella Baker, conducted by  former SNCC members Casey Hayden and Sue Thrasher, is available online in audio and transcript form at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s project, Documenting the American South.

Alice Windom and Malcolm X in Africa

8 Feb
Malcolm in Accra, Ghana, May 1964, holding the Koran given to him by Alhaji Isa Wali, Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana (right).  Photo by Alice Windom

Malcolm in Accra, Ghana, May 1964, holding the Koran given to him by Alhaji Isa Wali, Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana (right).
Photo by Alice Windom.

 Alice Windom captured this moment when Malcolm X met with official dignities in Accra, Ghana during his months-long trip to Africa in 1964. In addition to documenting Malcolm’s visit as a  photographer of the civil rights movement, Windom helped plan the itinerary of his trip to Ghana, and was part of a larger group of ex-patriot Americans living in Africa at that time including Maya Angelou, John Henrik Clarke, and W.E.B. DuBois.

Windom was born in St. Louis, Missouri on March 30, 1936 to a family of educators. She attended Sumner High School in St. Louis and went on to college at Central State University (CSU) in Ohio. She eventually earner her Masters of Social Work from the University of Chicago in 1959. She lived and worked in Africa from 1962 to 1964 in Ghana as a secondary school teacher and secretary to the Ethiopian Ambassador.

Windom was interviewed for the Blackside/ROJA production, Malcolm X: Make it Plain. She gave a pre-interview, conducted over the phone prior to production and then a filmed interview for the program. Windom has a unique perspective due to her familiarity with both American and African culture. The Film & Media Archive has numerous related photographs and interviews of Malcolm X and his travels in Africa.

Windom continued living and working in Africa over the next decade first as an administrative assistant for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa from 1964 to 1968, and then as a social welfare organizer for the Department of Social Welfare in Lusaka, Zambia. She returned to St. Louis in the 1970s and worked as the director of social services at the St. Louis Medium Security Institution, eventually suing the City of St. Louis for racial and sexual discrimination and the denial of free speech.  (Source: The History Makers).

To inquire about the status of these interviews, please contact the Film & Media Archive.

Rosa Parks’ Centennial Celebrations

1 Feb
Rosa Parks in "Eyes on the Prize"

Rosa Parks in “Eyes on the Prize”

This year marks the centennial of Rosa Parks’ birth, and there are several celebrations and commemorative events planned. Rosa Parks’ act of refusing to give up her bus seat to a white customer on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama sparked the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott that culminated in a Supreme Court case outlawing segregation on public transportation.

At times Rosa Parks is portrayed as someone who was just “tired” and her refusing to move was simply a physical act. In fact, Parks had been secretary for the local branch of the NAACP since 1943, she had attended workshops at the Highlander Folk School (now the Highlander Research and Education Center), and was a politically active and aware person.

The Film & Media Archive has several primary resources relating to Rosa Parks including photos and interview transcripts. In her interview from Eyes on the Prize, which is available online in transcript form or video, Parks recalled,

It was not a matter, or me deciding that day, because for a long, over a period of time, over the years, I had had problems with the bus drivers, and this one who had me arrested on that day was the same one who had evicted me from the bus on 1943, which did not cause anything more than just a passing glance. I did have to leave the bus and find another way of transportation home or wait for another bus or walk.

At this point the driver asked us to stand up and let him have those seats and when neither, none of us moved at his first words, he said, “You all make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats”…he asked me if I was going to stand up and I said, “No I’m not.” And he said, “Well, if you, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have you—call the police and have you arrested.” I said “You may do that.” And he did get off the bus and stayed for a few minutes and I still stayed where I was and when two policemen came on the bus, the driver pointed me out and he said that he needed the seats, and other three stood—that one—he just said, “That one would not.” And when the policeman approached me one of them spoke and asked me if the bus driver had asked me to stand and I said, “Yes.” He said, “Why don’t you stand up?” I said, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” And I asked him, “Why do you push us around?” He said, “I do not know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.”

Interview with Rosa Parks, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on November 14, 1985, for Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years (1954-1965)

As part of her centennial Rosa Parks is also being honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a forever stamp design, and a statue of her will be installed in Statuary Hall in Capitol Hill to be revealed in late 2013.