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Friday, February 9, 2007

Tom Graeff Film Preserved by Library of Congress

... but it's not the one you might think.

Let's backtrack for a minute. After graduating from UCLA in 1951, our hero, Tom Graeff, made a few film shorts and featurettes before turning his eyes towards theatrical releases.

The first of these films, The Orange Coast College Story, was a short promotional video for the less-than-a-decade-old Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. According to publicity about the film, Tom filmed on and around campus for about a month, capturing every angle of collegiate life. The film starred dozens of faculty and students, including a fresh-faced lad named Chuck Roberts.

"Somehow I feel as if I've always known you ... that we've never been apart ..."

The film premiered on campus at OCC on April 29th, 1954, at their annual college open house. It was written up in a number of local papers in southern California, including the Los Angeles Times.

This was the first piece of true publicity that Tom Graeff received as a filmmaker; his first write-up in the Times. Unfortunately, it's in stark contrast to his last write-up, where columnist Joyce Haber takes pleasure in ripping down his final foray into the dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood.

Coincidentally this article also contains the first time that Tom and future partner Chuck are mentioned together, further proof that the success of both Tom's personal and professional life would become inexorably tangled up with Chuck's.

(c) Los Angeles Times, 1954

You might be wondering how the hell this film got preserved amongst the most prestigious ever made in the National Film Library. Well, it didn't. Not exactly.

The preservation of this obscure film is all thanks to it's illustrious narrator, horror maverick Vincent Price. Turns out, Mr. Price was a close friend of one of the faculty members working on the film, and he was convinced to narrate for free.

Upon Vincent Price's death in 1992, his personal "correspondence, speeches and writings, lectures, business records, family papers, scripts, programs, playbills, publicity material, photographs, and other papers,"1 spanning nearly one hundred years from 1883 through 1992, containing more than 60,000 items in 230 containers, were donated for preservation to the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

And wouldn't you know? Tucked away within this storehouse of memories, like Kane's Rosebud, is one of the original copies of Tom Graeff's Orange Coast College Story.

53 years after its first--and possibly only--public screening, The Orange Coast College Story currently priming for public view again. 2007 marks OCC's 60th anniversary, and in celebration the school has created a retrospective of materials, documents, images, art projects, and more spanning the school's history, including a running loop of promotional and student films made in the past 60 years.

For those of you who live in Southern California, you have a chance to see where it all started. OCC is located at 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa, California. The exhibit is on display at the Doyle Arts Pavilion through April 20th, and admission to the exhibit is free. Recently the exhibit has been so popular that they've extended the viewing hours to Tuesdays through Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesdays, from 4-8 p.m.; and Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  1. Vincent Price Papers (http://www.loc.gov/rr/mss/text/price.html)
  2. Los Angeles Times, April 11, 1954.
  3. Orange Coast College (http://www.orangecoastcollege.edu)

2 gargon specimens:

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg Woods said...

Hi, I found out about your blog by a message left on the IMDB. I am thrilled that you have a blog completely devoted to this crazy movie, as I too have had a place in my heart for it.

I do a film zine called "The Eclectic Screening Room", and I am very interested in the fact you're doing a documentary on the movie. If you're interested, I would love to interview you about this project. I also do monthly screenings (I'm writing from Toronto, Canada), and I would show this without hesitation

Feel free to check out my blog.

Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon-

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