David Shepard (1940-2017)

David Shepard, ace film historian and Preservationist

David Shepard, one of the most important figures in film restoration and preservation, passed away on Tuesday, January 31st, after a long illness. I was proud to have known him, starting when we both started working for the American Film Institute’s Archives Division in 1968, soon after its founding. David was the AFI’s first film preservation officer, while I worked across town at the Library of Congress on the Institute’s catalog of American films. The AFI was tasked with implementing the government’s first concerted effort, in cooperation with the Library of Congress, to help rescue the country’s movie heritage. And it was obvious from the get-go, that David was the perfect person for the job. He was also an incredibly generous and compassionate person.

My involvement with his work at the AFI was minimal, though I recall briefly subbing for him in helping acquire what I believe was the Institute’s first acquisition, the first screen version of The Desert Song (Roy Del Ruth, 1929). I also recall being present when David unpacked Paramount’s studio print of E.A. Dupont’s Varieté (Variety) (1925). Looking at the first reel, it quickly became apparent it was the uncut American version, not the abbreviated Museum of Modern Art one; it was print that eventually became the basis for film’s restoration in Germany by the Frederich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation.

Shepard’s involvement with film preservation and history went well beyond the AFI, starting with his involvement with Blackhawk Films, the most important provider of 8mm and 16mm classic films of the pre-video era, which later became part of his own company, Film Preservation Associates; as such, he became involved with the creation of numerous, high-quality DVDs, including Henry King’s Tol’able David (1921), Abel Gance’s La Roue (1922), Chaplin at Keystone (1914), Raoul Walsh’s Regeneration (1915), Anthology Film Archives’ Unseen Cinema: American Avant-Garde Films 1984-1941, many D.W. Griffith films, etc., etc.`He taught film history at the  University of Southern California and was director of its Louis B. Mayer Film & Television Study Center. David ran the Director’s Guild of America’s oral history program for some 10 years; his interviews with King Vidor and Henry King were eventually published in book form. (I vividly recall his presentation of a paper at a Society for Cinema Studies conference on how Vidor’s failed foray into independent production with Our Daily Bread (1934) contributed to the formation of the Director’s Guild.)

For more details on his life and career, there is a good bio posted by Ciné Salon at 20’s “In Dialogue David Shepard: American Film Preservationist,” which has links to several interviews with him. I also recommend blog posts by his friend, Leonard Maltin, and video producer Steve Stanchfield, who discusses Shepard’s role in rescuing Ub Iwerks cartoons. Finally, there’s this video tribute by Serge Bromberg, Leonard Maltin and Kevin Brownlow from Ciné Salon at 20:




Goodies from USC’s Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive

King Vidor being interviewed by Arthur Knight at USC

By chance I happened on the site of the University of Southern California’s Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, which has posted a small number of items of interest in their Online Media listings. These include part 1 of an interview by film critic/historian Arthur Knight (my mentor at USC) with director King Vidor (The Big Parade, The Crowd, Hallelujah! , etc.) (see frame grab above); there’s also a film of a talk by legendary montage specialist and experimental filmmaker Slavko Vorkapich at USC, where he once served as chair of the Cinema Department  (he’s briefly introduced by Bernie Kantor who was one his successors).  In the animation realm, there’s a 1976 audio recording of an interview by a woman unknown with animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger  (The Adventures of Prince Achmed) done in England, where she lived and worked in the years after World War II.

Boris Morkovin at USC 1937

Then there’s what the Hefner Archive mislabels as

a photocopy of an animation course from 1935 led by Boris V. Morkovin, who worked for Disney and wrote the screenplay for “The Three Little Pigs.” [sic]  It appears that this course is one of the first animation classes ever offered at USC.

According to the USC Cinematic Arts website,

Animation instruction at USC goes back to the Spring of 1933, when Cinema Chair Dr. Boris Morkovin lectured on Walt Disney cartoons and had Walt Disney himself to the campus to meet with students.

A transcript of that lecture would indeed be lovely to have, but what’s posted is actually a Disney Studio transcript and summary of the first in a series of classes Morkovin gave at Disney on “Technology and Psychology of the Animated Cartoon (Studio Course),” November 14, 1935. The lecture series is not entirely unknown, and Hans Perk previously posted material on the class from the Disney Studio Bulletin, No. 12 (March 9, 1936) here and here.  Mislabeled or not, it’s still most welcome.

(The 1937 Morkovin photo above is from Michael Goldman’s book, Reality Ends Here 80 Years of USC Cinematic Arts.)

ASIFA-Atlanta’s Roll Yer Own 2014

ASIFA-Atlanta's Roll Yer Own 2014 Flyer

The 12th Annual Roll Yer Own, ASIFA-Atlanta’s showcase of local, independent short films will be screened Monday, July 14th at 8:00 pm at the Plaza Theater, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306. Admission is $5.00 at the door and  $3.00 for ASIFA-Atlanta Members and students with ID. For more details, including a list of films, check out the ASIFA-Atlanta website.