[AMPAS] – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has acquired more than 70,000 photographs from the Bison Archives, the private collection of renowned film historian Marc Wanamaker, Academy COO Ric Robertson announced Thursday. The images document nearly every facet of film production between 1909 and the present day, focusing on the first half of the 20th century. Many of these images are the only known photographs of their subjects, including a group of eight behind-the-scenes color images of the filming of the opening sequence of Orson Welles’s 1958 noir classic, “Touch of Evil.”
“Marc’s dedication to preserving a historic photographic record of our industry has resulted in an extraordinary collection,” said Robertson. “We’re honored to add these images to our library’s holdings. His photographs, so many of which focus on behind-the-scenes studio activities, combined with the existing Herrick photographs, will provide unequalled coverage on all aspects of Hollywood filmmaking.”
Bison Archives was named in tribute to the Bison Company, an early motion picture studio (formed in 1909) that produced Westerns featuring Native American casts.
Adding to the more than 10 million photographs in the holdings of the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library, the collection features rare images from more than 100 major and independent studios, many of which ceased to exist past the 1920s, including Biograph, Edison, E & R Jungle Film Co., Essanay and Vitagraph.
“I felt very strongly that the collection should be with the Academy,” said Cecilia DeMille Presley, who helped the Academy acquire the Bison photographs on behalf of the Cecil B. DeMille Foundation.
D.W. Griffith with cast and crew members during production of “Way Down East” (1920).
Other highlights from the collection include vintage set and location photographs of such legendary directors as D.W. Griffith, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg, as well as many of their below-the-line contemporaries, including film editor Anne Bauchens, cinematographer Billy Bitzer, art director Ben Carré and costume designer Gwen Wakeling.
Wanamaker began amassing the collection in 1971, as he was researching a book on the history of the American motion picture studios. Over the years, the collection has been used by authors, historians and filmmakers from all over the world for hundreds of books, films, lectures, exhibitions, publications and other scholarly works. “The Herrick is one of the premier archives in the world,” said Wanamaker. “It is appropriate that much of my life’s work will have a permanent home there, including a photo album compiled by Ralph DeLacy, D.W. Griffith’s property master for “Intolerance.”
The photographs in the Herrick Library are preserved and cataloged, and made accessible to filmmakers, historians, students and the public.
Editor’s note: Wanamaker co-authored a book on the Early History of Warner Bros. Studios with Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society board member and SCVTV host E.J. Stephens.