Keeping It Reel

Treasures from the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection

Originally appeared in our 2019 MPrint issue. Read more here. Photo: Jeremy Spracklen and Scott Martin work in the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection in the Owen Arts Center, Tuesday, October 8, 2019 on the SMU Campus (Photo by Guy Rogers III) 

Founded in 1970 with a gift of twenty-one 35mm feature films acquired from actress Ginger Rogers, the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection is now an extensive research archive that supports instruction and research for the Meadows School, SMU, and the global moving image preservation and research community.

Its holdings total more than 50,000 items, including film prints and negatives in all formats, videotapes, print materials, antique camera equipment, TV news film from the 1950s through the 1970s, and much more. The collection’s two dedicated archivists, Jeremy Spracklen and alumnus Scott Martin (M.A. Film and Media Arts ’17), continue to document, categorize, restore and/or digitize these and many other donations that have come into the collection over the years, and have discovered a number of treasures along the way. They shared a sampling with MPRINT:

1. Unknown 16mm TV Film Outtakes
16mm footage produced by the Coffman Company, starring Bob & Agnes Stanford
Date UnknownThe history of locally produced film and television in DFW is largely unexplored. Pioneers from the early days of TV amassed a significant body of work, most of which disappeared after it aired. This particular silent footage, showcasing highlights from a TV series starring DFW legends Bob and Agnes Stanford, is a wild compilation of perfectly executed insanity that really exemplifies the sheer breadth of talent and creativity buried in all this Dallas media history.

Bob hosted The Bob Stanford Show and co-hosted Dollar Derby with Agnes. He “went on to become the major force behind the success of 7-11 as head of the Stanford Agency, house advertising agency for the Southland Corporation,” per the book How About A Martini? The Battle Cry of Madison Ave by Don Morrow. He coined the term Slurpee.

2. Captain Kangaroo
June 16, 1956- You truly never know what you’re going to find on the archive’s shelves. Every day offers a possibility of finding something great. One damaged, rusty can, with a taped-on, barely-legible label buried underneath a stack of old tin reels, just might be one of the earliest surviving episodes of Captain Kangaroo. And it’s as great as you’d think.

3. Martin Luther King Jr. in Dallas
WFAA Collection
January 3-4, 1963 – There are some discoveries that are almost too big, footage that we couldn’t even imagine we’d find. One stunning gem was pristine film of Martin Luther King Jr. in Dallas, addressing everything from President Kennedy to local integration. Such finds make us realize the importance of this film we hold, the need for these stories to be remembered, and the amount of work we still have left to do.

4. Texas Rangers vs. Cleveland Indians
WFAA Collection
May 1974- If there’s one true constant in news, it’s people’s love for local sports. This clip, featuring a brawl between the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians the week before the infamous drunken riots at the teams’ “Ten Cent Beer Night,” is one of the Jones Collection’s most popular.

5. The Murder of Santos Rodriguez
WFAA/KRLD/KERA Collections
July 1973- The murder of 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez by Dallas police officer Darrell L. Cain changed this city forever.  Local news stations shot hours of footage, trying to make sense of the senseless, while documenting in detail the community’s response and the aftermath of a family and city left in tatters.

6. Target Practice
1902 – A reel of film from the turn of the century, found in a dusty closet in Sulphur Springs, Texas, was donated to our archive in the 1980s, damaged and warped and rotting. It sat on our shelf for almost 30 years, when new curators applied new preservation tools and suddenly a short film by cinematic pioneer Siegmund Lubin, presumably lost for 100 years, came alive.

7. The Velvet Underground at White Rock Lake
October 1969 – October 15, 1969 was Dallas Peace Day, part of a nationwide day of protest called Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. We recently found among our yet-to-be-classified donations a roll of film simply labeled “Moratorium.” We had discovered previous Moratorium-related items, including protests at SMU and TCU, but this one was different. Instead of interviews with students, it featured the only known sound recording of the Velvet Underground playing at the event at White Rock Lake, along with an interview of the group’s guitarist Sterling Morrison and footage of the opening bands.

8. WFAA Story About a Service Called Car Pool
November 1973- All of our discoveries uncover a bit of history, but our favorite kind is when we are able to give someone a piece of their personal history that they thought was lost forever.  People have told us that we posted a video of a family member who had passed and that before our video, they had never heard that person speak. In these circumstances, our video is the only moving image record of these ordinary people’s lives and, as such, is completely priceless to their families. One such example was when a woman saw a November 1973 story we recently posted about a couple who began a company called Car Pool. It turned out that the couple being interviewed were her parents, and she saw not only the interior of her childhood home but also a clip of herself as a baby.

To learn more about these and other discoveries, visit the SMU Jones Collection on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (@SMUJonesfilm).