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Film Preservation Grants Awarded To Northwest Chicago Film Society, Chicago Film Archives

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on May 2, 2013 6:40PM

2013_5_2_CornsAPoppin_sm.jpg Did you know that at the age of 29, the director of M*A*S*H* and Gosford Park co-wrote a rockabilly musical, filmed in Kansas City, entitled Corn’s-a-Poppin’? Neither did we.

But Northwest Chicago Film Society's Kyle Westphal is a big fan. He spearheaded a grantwriting process, with help from Evan Chung, Julian Antos, Rebecca Hall, John Kostka, Brian Block, and Sonia Lupher, which has led to the procurement of funds from the National Film Preservation Foundation to save the ultrarare film.

So little known that most Robert Altman biographies don't even mention it, Corn’s-a-Poppin’ was rediscovered locally when Kian Bergstrom lobbied for a screening at Doc Films in 2007. Westphal recounts the film's fascinating history in an engrossing blog post:

The financing had been set up by Elmer Rhoden, Jr., an executive for the Commonwealth Theatres chain, which controlled several dozen screens in six states ... Brother Clark Rhoden was chairman of the Popcorn Institute, a kernel-pushing trade group. Thus the production’s shift from working title Ozark Hoedown to the more industry- and exploitation-friendly Corn’s-a-Poppin’.

To come upon Corn’s-a-Poppin’ today is to glimpse another frontier—a frontier made legible by recent shifts in the archival field. Situated at the woozy (and suddenly respectable) intersection of regional cinema, orphan media, and sponsored film, Corn’s-a-Poppin’ is an expansive aberration. Never self-important enough to suggest itself as a ‘key text,’ Corn’s-a-Poppin’ nevertheless emerges to exemplify a certain kind of unaccountable film. Its production and existence still sound like a fanciful rumor, even after you’ve seen it.
But NCFS isn't the only local organization to get some dollars. Chicago Film Archives will also receive a grant. Three of the films to be preserved are the work of Lawrence Janiak, who studied at the Institute of Design and the School of the Art Institute Chicago, and were recently acquired by CFA. Also being preserved is Faces And Fortunes, a film on corporate identity created for Kimberly-Clark Corporation by none other than Mort and Millie Goldsholl.

A hearty congratulations to both organizations for well-deserved recognition of the important work they're doing.