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Academy Acquires Bison Archive Photo Treasures; Rare Images of Hitchcock, Kubrick, Spielberg and Welles' 'Touch of Evil'

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood March 30, 2012 at 1:25PM

The Academy has acquired more than 70,000 photographs from the Bison Archives, the private collection of renowned film historian Marc Wanamaker. Particularly exciting is a group of eight behind-the-scenes images taken during the filming of the opening sequence of Orson Welles’s noir classic "Touch of Evil" -- a sequence that, like most of the film, was taken out of the director's hands and re-edited before the original release date in 1958.
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Orson Welles' 'Touch of Evil'
Orson Welles' 'Touch of Evil'

Let's hope that some of the extraordinary collection of movie stills acquired by The Motion Picture Academy winds up on display at the new Academy Museum. For now more than 70,000 photographs from the Bison Archives, the private collection of renowned film historian Marc Wanamaker, will go into the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library archive.

Particularly exciting is a group of eight behind-the-scenes images taken during the filming of the opening sequence of Orson Welles’s noir classic "Touch of Evil" -- a sequence that, like most of the film, was taken out of the director's hands and re-edited before the original release date in 1958 (see trailer below--it's still extraordinary).

Other highlights from the collection include vintage set and location photographs of auteur directors such as D.W. Griffith, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg.

Lon Chaney on set in "The Wolf Man"
Courtesy of AMPAS Lon Chaney on set in "The Wolf Man"

The collection -- which adds to the more than 10 million photographs in the holdings of the Academy Library -- features rare images documenting nearly every facet of film production between 1909 and the present day, focusing on behind-the-scenes activity during the first half of the 20th century. Many of these images are the only known photographs of their subjects, or of studios which ceased to exist past the 1920s, including Biograph and Edison.

Wanamaker began amassing the collection in 1971. The collection has since been used by authors, historians and filmmakers worldwide for hundreds of books, films, lectures, exhibitions, publications and other scholarly works. "The Herrick is one of the premiere archives in the world," said Wanamaker. "It is appropriate that much of my life’s work will have a permanent home there."

This article is related to: Classics, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.