What happened to Princeton’s silent movies?

ArthurPenrose.jpg Filming of the comedy “Arthur Penrose” (1923)  (Photo The Princeton Bric-a-Brac,1925)

It started at Yale
On February 19, 1920 the Daily Princetonian announced Yale’s decision to record important campus events on film, to be kept by the classes and used for reunions. By the end of that year, according to the Prince, Princeton’s Class of 1921 had established a “fund by which a class motion picture could be taken, including scenes which might prove to be of interest to the Class in later years.” The film of its graduation weekend in June 1921, featured in our first post, must have been the result. Following the example, the Class of 1922 appointed a Motion Picture Committee at the beginning of its senior year to coordinate its own class and football films, thus starting a tradition  that lasted through the 1930s. Only a few class films have survived in the University Archives. What happened to the others? Do we know what was lost? A recently discovered box of records of the Graduate Council, part of the yet unprocessed Records of the Alumni Organizations provides some answers.
Champions1922y.jpgRenting a film from the Graduate Council

The box contains correspondence (1921-1950) about Princeton’s class and football films, which were the property of the classes. They were kept by the Graduate Council on their behalf, which rented the football films to alumni groups around the country. The records include detailed handwritten and typescript lists, drawn up in 1931, of seventy silent movies, usually one to three reels long. The summaries and lists of the film captions or “titles” that were used give a good idea of the contents of Princeton’s films of the 1920s (lists of the class films of the 1930s are lacking). A few films were listed as property of the Graduate Council itself: some unidentified (presumably early) football games, the short lived Arthur Penrose (1923), a comedy produced by film enthusiast Stas Azoy ’14, who seems to have been in charge of the films at the time, and the University’s very first promotion film Princeton (1921). This five-reel film (85 minutes), which was revised three times and renamed Just Princeton and Princeton: a ‘National University,‘ was rented to high schools and other interested groups until 1926, when it was considered outdated (most of the footage was apparently seven years old). The silent movie, which was initially meant to be accompanied by Princeton songs and music, has not survived, but the list of captions in the film provides a detailed account of the scenes (see Princeton film.pdf).

The class films of the 1920s

After the Class of 1922’s appointment of a Motion Picture Committee  to ensure a memento of its senior year, all classes followed suit. On November 3, 1922 the Prince announced the merger of the four class committees into one central body with representatives from all four classes. It would film campus events of interest to all, so that each class would have a complete four-year record, ending with its commencement. The first films taken under the new management were shown in the Garden Theater on December 7, 1922. They included the Class of 1926’s “Flour Picture” (a hazing ritual in which sophomores dumped flour and water on freshmen prior to their first class picture) and the football victory over Yale and championship celebration in November.

inventoryPYgame1926.jpgThe annual flour picture would only be filmed a few more years, as the tradition was discontinued after 1925. But the major football games continued to be filmed in the fall. The football films, which were most popular among alumni groups, took up half of the collection of the Graduate Council. They were the property of the class in whose senior year they were taken. The football films for 1926, for instance, were the property of the Class of 1927 (left). The majority of the remaining class films were shot during spring and Commencement. The spring films usually featured committees and groups, campus scenes and sports. Sometimes the footage included small skits. In addition to these films, the Graduate Council’s lists include a few films of rowing, baseball, and other sports, as well as some early reunion films.

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Student, Scholar, and President: Four Hours with Robert Goheen

It did not take long after coming to Princeton in 1994 for me to appreciate the importance of Robert Goheen and his place in University history. During his time in the president’s office, the University was transformed physically, socially, and academically and became the modern University it is today. But as I studied the records in the University Archives and came up to speed with his administration’s accomplishments, I had no sense of the man who oversaw this watershed era until one day Goheen visited Mudd Library to conduct research himself.

Expecting an oversize character on the order of Yale’s Kingman Brewster—Goheen’s contemporary who was a caricature in Doonesbury—I found just the opposite. He was a quiet, unassuming man who, if not for knowing his name from the daily log, I would have assumed to be just another of the many senior scholars who visited the library and dutifully went about their work. He did not ask for nor expect any special treatment, nor did his demeanor call attention to himself in any way. I would learn that was the essence of Bob Goheen.

In the coming years, there were a number of occasions where I crossed paths with Goheen, including one spring day when I went to his house to pick up his non-Princeton papers.  Later, Secretary of the University Robert Durkee asked me to conduct a video oral history interview with Goheen with the Alumni Council’s Kathy Taylor serving as producer. The four, hour-long videos here are the result of our efforts, and they document the man’s remarkable 72-year association with Princeton as a student, faculty member, and president.

All four interviews are described in a finding aid that contains links to the transcripts of the interviews.  (The transcripts also have time stamps which closely correspond with the video time stamp.)

The first interview, conducted on October 21, 2004, covers Goheen’s early life, his undergraduate, graduate, and faculty careers at Princeton, and his selection as University President at age 37. He also reflects on his mentor, Professor Whitney Oates, long-serving trustee Dean Mathey, his predecessor Harold Dodds, and Freddie Fox. (In each interview, I asked Goheen to discuss various people with whom he crossed paths. He freely admited that recalling specific anecdotes is not one of his strengths, and so these tend to be impressionistic.)   (Read the transcript.)

In the second interview (conducted on October 26, 2004), Goheen discussed the state of the University upon becoming president, the $53 Million Campaign, the growth and allocation of the University budget, coeducation, the eating clubs, and his contemporary Ivy League presidents. Of special note is his discussion of the 1963 Spring riots (15:35) as they related to the civil rights demonstrations in the South.  (Read the transcript.)

In the third interview (November 4, 2004), Goheen discusses coeducation in more detail, campus architecture, the establishment of the Provost’s Office, William Bowen, the growth of the graduate school, and changes in University governance and the Kelley Committee. (Read the transcript.)

The final interview (January 6, 2005) covers the creation of the Council on the Princeton University Community (CPUC), the Vietnam War and campus unrest including the campus strike of 1970, the Board of Trustees, his decision to resign as president, and his life afterwards, including his foundation work and his time as Ambassador to India. (Read the transcript.)

Generally speaking, as an archivist, I am concerned with preserving records, not generating them. But in interviewing Goheen, it was a chance to not only create what I hope will be a useful documentation of his long association with Princeton, it was also an honor and a pleasure.
Dan Linke
University Archivist

Are Wiretapping Laws Helping Criminals?

The recent debates over wiretapping are not new, as this film “Are Wiretapping Laws Helping Criminals?” demonstrates. Broadcast as an episode of All America Wants to Know, this segment features a debate about an issue that is as relevant to the ACLU today as it was during this 1962 broadcast.

All America Wants to Know was a monthly debate show which focused on current events and legal issues. Presented by The Reader’s Digest and the Freedoms Foundation, this program was created and moderated by Theodore Granik, best known for creating several other radio and television panel discussion programs including “Youth Wants to Know,” “Women Want to Know,” and perhaps most famously, “American Forum of the Air.”

The inspiration for this episode was the March 1962 Reader’s Digest article by Senator Kenneth Keating (R-NY), called “Change the Law that Fosters Crime.” Keating, a long time advocate of expanding federal surveillance powers, was known for having introduced a 1954 bill that sought to allow the FBI and military intelligence services to intercept telephone conversations in national-security cases, as well as Senate bill S. 3340 (86th Congress, 1960), which aimed to make it easier for state law enforcement to place taps.

In addition to Senator Keating, this episode’s panel featured Senator John A. Carroll (D-CO), Virgil W. Peterson, the Operating Director of the Chicago Crime Commission; Frank O’Connor, Queens County District Attorney; and Lawrence Speiser, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C. office.

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Coeduation in Princeton: it started at the Graduate School

In September 1969, more than two years after President Goheen asked former Woodrow Wilson director Gardner Patterson to investigate the introduction of coeducation, Princeton welcomed its first undergraduate women to campus. Within the Ivy League Princeton was relatively late: while Yale made the move at the same time, only Dartmouth (1972) and Columbia (1983) went coeducational later. It was not the first time, however, that women entered Princeton University for a degree. In 1961 Sabra Follett Meservey, an assistant professor of history at Douglass College in New Brunswick, became the first woman to be enrolled at the Graduate School as a full time degree candidate in Oriental Studies. Meservey provides a humorous account of her meeting with Goheen to arrange the ‘test case’ during the celebration of coeducation at the Graduate School on June 3, 1989 (14:45).

Featured here is a ninety-minute forum during which five speakers discuss their experiences as women at the Graduate School and after. After a historical introduction about women in higher education by the organizer of the event, Lisa Drakeman *88 (1:35), Sabra Follett Meservey *66 is the first speaker (10:26). She is followed by T’sai-ying Cheng *64, the first female recipient of a degree in Princeton (28:04), Phyllis Thompson *76 (50:15), Maureen Quirk *82 (1:08:38), and Sindee Simon *92 (1:19:34).
This VHS video is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no.1306).

 

 

The Princeton Strike, 1970

The student protests against the Vietnam war discussed in last week’s post are documented in numerous photographs and records in the University Archives, but none were captured on film. The Historical Audiovisual Collection, however, contains live recordings of several protest assemblies that were broadcast by Princeton’s student-run radio station, WPRB. Featured here is part of a broadcast from Jadwin Gym on Monday, May 4, 1970, when nearly 4,000 students, faculty, and staff voted for a “Strike against the War,” four days after President Nixon announced the US invasion of Cambodia. Taken from a four-and-a-half hour meeting, this four-minute audio clip is accompanied by a selection of photos from the Historical Photograph Collection (presented in random order) that were shot during the event. Many photos were scanned from contact prints and have not been published before.

On Thursday, April 30 at 10 pm, half an hour after the conclusion of Nixon’s televised announcement, 2,500 students and faculty had gathered in the University Chapel and voted for an immediate university-wide strike. According to Peter Brown ’70 in the Princeton Alumni Weekly (May 19, 1970) the word “strike” was used to mean “not a closing of the university but rather a redirection of Princeton’s energies.” How people would strike and against what precisely was decided during the assembly in Jadwin Gym on May 4th, where three proposals were discussed. The first, which was submitted by the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) and included a statement of opposition to the war and the recommendation to suspend final exams (a summary of the proposal can be heard at 1:08), won with a majority of 2,066 votes. The second, more strongly worded proposal from the “Princeton Strike Committee” (summarized at 2:38) gained 1,522 votes. The audio clip does not capture the counting of the votes for the third proposal from the “Anti-Strike Committee,” which only got 181 votes. “Resolution One urges a strike against the war. Resolution Two is a strike against the university,” said Harold Kuhn, professor of mathematical economics, at the meeting, who added that the more radical proposal from the Strike Committee would “tear apart this university by adopting simplistic solutions to complex problems.”

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A Midsummer Night’s Screame, 1960

MidsummerNight Cast.jpg

Top row, second from the left to second from right: Rose “Mother” Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, and Anne Hathaway. Front row center: Queen Elizabeth flanked by two Spanish spies (for a cast list see Midsummer Night’s Screame cast.pdf).

In Triangle’s pseudo Shakespearean musical, A Midsummer Night’s Screame (1960-1961) Queen Elizabeth I (Geoffrey Smith ’61) is a playwright, who enlists the help of Sir Walter Raleigh (John Crowther ’61), to find a suitable man to take credit as the author of her works. He discovers William Shakespeare (Alexander Kennedy ’62), an aspiring, but not particularly talented poet. Two Spanish spies at the English court (John Simon ‘63 and Hugh Bartlett ’62) discover the Queen’s secret and encourage her to continue her writing, so that she may be distracted from her queenly duties, allowing the Spanish Armada to attack England. How the story unfolds is not clear, as the Triangle records contain only part of the script. The film featured here, however, shows how the story ends. According to reviews of the play this “Pathos newsreel” (a play on the Pathé newsreels discussed in a previous blog entry) was shown during the third act as a conclusion to the play.

Midsummer Night cov er.jpg

The silent movie, which parodies the newsreels of the early-twentieth century (“Ye Eyes & Ye Ears of The World”), is full of deliberate anachronisms and visual gags, interspersed with clips from other movies and newsreels. It opens with an actor in Shakespearean garb pretending to operate a film camera. In the first scene, Rose “Mother” Shakespeare (Bert Wunderlich ’62) is in scuba gear preparing to cross the English Channel. Accompanying her in a rowboat are Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway (Roy Young ’62), and the two young Shakespeare children, Susannah and Hamnet. The scene was shot to look as if it was a modern day sporting event. Rose is interviewed by reporters, as she plugs her sponsor, The Boar’s Head Tavern. This scene is a reference to the sport of English Channel swimming, which goes back to the 19th century; in 1926 the first woman crossed the channel, accompanied by family and friends in a boat.

At the halfway point in the film (4:00), Shakespeare and Raleigh cross paths with Rose and the boat containing Anne and the children. The boat seems to be sinking (Raleigh is scooping water from his boat with a hat) and at 4:22 the men appear on Hathaway’s boat, having somehow escaped their sinking vessel. At 4:42, Shakespeare and Raleigh board one of the Spanish ships, which turns the battle in England’s favor: Cannon balls fly back into their cannons, plumes of smoke dissolve, and damage is undone. However, the battle is not over quite yet. Aboard the Spanish ship, Raleigh and Shakespeare must grapple with the two Spanish spies. They finally outsmart and overpower the Spaniards, forcing one of the spies to wave a white handkerchief. Shakespeare, Raleigh, and a Native American representative shake hands and congratulate each otherMidsummerNightScreame.jpg for a job well done. The film concludes with “London: V-S Day,” presumably standing for “Victory Over Spain Day” (7:11).  What happens to Rose Shakespeare (singing with the two Spanish spies and Anne Hathaway to the left) we do not know. If there is any alumnus who participated in the play and still possesses the complete script, we would love to have a copy!

 

Reviews of the play were mostly positive. The musical and dance numbers received the most acclaim, especially a twenty-minute musical version of Macbeth. A dance critic from the New York Herald Tribune called the dance numbers “brilliant.” Chairman of the Board, Marshall M. H. Dana ’32, seemed to think that a few of the songs from the play were potential musical hits. He thought so highly of them that he wrote to Triangle Club alumnus and screen star, Jose Ferrer ’33, requesting that he play the songs for his wife, singer Rosemary Clooney, with the hope that she might record them.

— Alina Serafini, Rutgers University Class of 2011 and Mudd Library intern, Fall 2010.

This silent 16mm films is part of the Triangle Club Records (AC122) (Box 177).  Mudd Library is thankful for the support that the Triangle Alumni Board provided for digitizing these films and unlocking their contents. 

President Johnson addresses Vietnam in Princeton, 1966

President Lyndon B. Johnson visited Princeton University on May 11, 1966 to dedicate the new Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs building and receive an honorary degree. The new building had been made possible by a $35 million gift that was anonymous at the time, but later revealed to be from Charles S. Robertson ’26 and his wife Marie. (See the previous blog entry on the 1961 Princeton newsreel.)  Securing the visit of the President, originally scheduled in October 1965 but canceled at the last minute, had been very difficult. When the President did come, close to 400 Vietnam War protesters were kept a block away from the ceremonies. In his speech, however, Johnson addressed his critics nonetheless.

At the time of Johnson’s visit, student protests against the Vietnam War had only just begun. The local chapter of the Students for Democratic Society (SDS) was founded in the fall of 1965. In November seventy undergraduate and graduate students joined the “March on Washington to End the War in Vietnam,” defying Princeton’s conservative stereotype under a 10-feet long banner with the words “EVEN PRINCETON.” Opinions in Princeton at the time of Johnson’s visit, however, were mixed. Many supported Johnson’s policies in Indochina, including Princeton University president Robert F. Goheen. In September 1965 he joined the “Committee for an Effective and Durable Peace in Asia,” which consisted of 48 leading private citizens, whose purpose was to “support President Johnson’s proposals to bring about a viable peace in Vietnam and, once peace is brought about, to enlist economic aid for the entire area and to assure to the people of South Vietnam their right to choose a government of their own.”
By 1967 anti-war protests had increased throughout the country as well as in Princeton, which was particularly active in the draft resistance movement. Goheen, too, changed his mind and was one of the thirty-seven university presidents who signed a petition to end the American military involvement in Indochina. In April 1969, over 3,000 students, faculty, and staff assembled in Jadwin Gymnasium to vote on five resolutions related to the war. But it was after President Richard Nixon’s announcement in April 1970 that the United States had invaded Cambodia that the protests against the war peaked. The resulting “Princeton Strike” of 1970 will be the subject of a future blog post.

Robertsonletter.jpgThe text of Johnson’s speech is not available in the University Archives. A summary and discussion of his speech, however, can be found in The Daily Princetonian. What the records in the University Archives do reveal is how difficult it was to arrange Johnson’s visit. Less than than two weeks before the dedication it was still not certain if he could attend. A press release issued on May 8, three days before the ceremony, announced Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John Gardner as the principal speaker, but according to the Prince, rumors circulated that the President would attend.

The dedication brought a great deal of satisfaction to the then anonymous donors. “I guess that next to my wedding and the arrival of the children it was the biggest day of my life,” wrote Charles Robertson, who had suggested former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Goheen as an alternative  on April 6. Although the donors of the $35 Million gift to the Woodrow Wilson School were anonymous, he and his wife appear to have been caught on camera as guests at the ceremony (1:04).
This newsreel is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1339). Correspondence about the difficulties of scheduling President Johnson’s visit can be found in the the Office of the President’s Records (Box 386, folder 8 (which includes Robertson’s letter above) and folder 9) and the Office of Communication Records (Box 106, folder 2)

Traveling Hopefully, 1982

Robert Louis Stephenson once wrote that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive. And the true reward is to labor. I have travelled hopefully for all these years. So has the ACLU. Some day, some time, but the goal is clear, the road is hard, and progress painful. We are approaching — we are beginning to approach —  a tolerable world of peace, order, and justice.

-Roger Baldwin, 95th Birthday Celebration, 1979

Reel Mudd’s showcase of the audiovisual materials from the Records of the American Civil Liberties Union continues with Travelling Hopefully. This 28 minute documentary tells the life story of Roger Baldwin, the ACLU director from 1920 to 1950. The film intersperses interviews of Baldwin by Gail Sheehy and Norman Lear with praise for Baldwin’s actions by Ira Glasser, Andrew Young, Norman Dorsen, Ted Kennedy and others. Much of the praise for Baldwin comes from a 1979 dinner honoring Baldwin’s 95th birthday.

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“Princeton University: Conversations that matter,” 1991

After the 1960 and 1961 “Princeton newsreels” featured last week, which marked a new stage in Princeton’s public relations efforts, it is interesting to make a 30-year leap to view a film that was produced for the Admissions Office by Andrew Greenspan: “Princeton University: Conversations that Matter” (1991). Focusing on the academic climate and intellectual exchanges, the film uses a markedly different format than the Orange Key Society film of 1962, which was also aimed at prospective students.

This film uses footage of discussion groups, lectures and seminars, and individual meetings between students and faculty, touching upon a wide range of subjects within the sciences and humanities. Professors featured include, among others, Cornel West (African American Studies, 1.13 and following), Peter Brown (History, 4:31), Robert Fagles (reading from his translation of the Iliad 6:57), Toni Morrison (English, 8:27 and following), John Fleming (English and Comparative Literature, 9:05), John Conway (Mathematics, 12:36), Steve Mackey (Music, 18:24 and following), and Michael Littman (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, 19:19). In addition, the film addresses individual students’ research and creative writing projects. The footage includes an acting class by playwright David Rabe (16:02) and training sessions with basketball coach Pete Carril (2:50 and following).

The film won a Gold Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

This VHS video is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1293).

Operation Abolition and Operation Correction

This week Reel Mudd brings you a double feature with Operation Abolition and Operation Correction! Perhaps the term double feature is inaccurate — each film contains the same footage but tells a different story. Operation Abolition describes how Communist infiltrators led riots while the House Un-American Activities Committee convened in San Francisco. Operation Correction, however, talks of misrepresentation by a government agency desperate to remain relevant while its raison d’être faced public scrutiny.

Operation Abolition, a 1960 documentary produced by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (a.k.a House Un-American Activities Committee or HUAC), focused on an incident on May 13, 1960 when the Committee convened in San Francisco’s City Hall. While the committee met, students protested in the hallways and outside the building, leading to clashes with the police and the arrest of 64 students. Operation Abolition shows footage of the incident taken from subpoenaed San Francisco TV station newsreels, using that footage to allege that the students were Communists and/or instigated by Communist agents. The film’s narrators, Representative Francis E. Walter, Chairman of HUAC, and Fulton Lewis III, son of a prominent anti-communist radio commentator, suggest that the protesters were members of and/or “duped” by groups whose ultimate goal was to destroy the committee, weaken the FBI, and reduce the enforcement powers of the Federal government. Despite being a newsreel produced by a government agency, Operation Abolition was surprisingly popular. According to Time Magazine, an estimated 15 million people saw this film.

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