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Filmmaking Communities before the Digital Age: Tapp and Morton Audio Visual Collections


These days almost anybody can make a movie.  People capture single moments on their phones or edit complex masterpieces with affordable, high quality equipment and post them online for fellow hobbyists and entertainment seekers to look at and discuss.  In the mid-20th century, movie making was much more difficult, but enthusiasm for the moving image brought people together in much the same way.  People who made movies at home in the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s dedicated their time to mastering available consumer technologies and perfecting new equipment and techniques.  They shared their technical and artistic accomplishments with like-minded individuals across the country through clubs, societies, magazines, and contests facilitated by organizations like the Amateur Cinema League and the Photographic Society of America.  Following the advice of this national network of fellow filmmakers and published resources like The ACL Movie Book: A Guide to Making Better Movies, mid-20th century filmmakers documented current events and constructed complex narratives about their families and favorite pastimes, transforming their home movies into amateur cinema.

Utah’s local amateur cinema chapter was the Utah Cine Arts Club (1942-1960s), a thriving organization of over 150 members – men and women who packed Salt Lake City’s auditoriums and outdoor amphitheaters and drew audiences to annual Camera Carnivals and special screenings on the steps of the State Capitol Building.  The Audio Visual Archive in Special Collections is home to numerous films by Utah Cine Arts Club members, most notably O.L. “Brig” Tapp (A0938) and Al Morton (A0320).  The movies made by these two men feature Utah’s picturesque landscapes in beautiful Kodachrome cinematography and provide excellent examples of amateur and semi-professional filmmaking in the mid-20th century.

Brig Tapp’s “Rainbow Trail,” a 20 minute silent film about misadventures in fishing, was named one of the 10 best films of 1948 by the Amateur Cinema League.  The entire film is available to view on the Marriott Library’s YouTube channel (or above), and excerpts will be featured in the Marriott Library’s Level 4 Gallery exhibit, “Outdoor Recreation in Special Collections featuring the Joe Quinney Recreation Archives” February 19-May 1, 2016.  Tapp’s scrapbooks, which focus heavily on the Utah Cine Arts Club and Tapp’s movie making process, are available in the Manuscripts Department of Special Collections.  Although no finding aid is currently available online, several more amateur films by this filmmaker are available to view on DVD in the Special Collections Reading Room upon request, including “I Walked a Crooked Trail,” filmed in Arches National Monument in 1950, and “Those Other Years,” a retrospective of the Murray area shot at what is now Wheeler Farm.

Al Morton’s original films are held by the Utah State Historical Society.  Several are available to view online – digitized and hosted by the Marriott Library’s Digital Library Services in partnership with the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts.  Still more are available on DVD in Special Collections through the video dubs held by the Audio Visual Archive, including “Adventure on the Colorado,” a narrative treatment of a Colorado River trip with Harris-Brennan Expeditions, which won the ACL’s award for best film of 1947.

For more information, contact Special Collection at 801-581-8863. Please visit the Special Collections Reading Room on Level 4 of the J. Marriott Library, Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 6:00 pm and Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.



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