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Student life at Columbia in the 1950s


The early influence of the movies
Michael Chapman Film-maker
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I was born in... in Wellesley, Massachusetts in 1935 – Wellesley is a suburb of Boston – and my father was a teacher in a high school in Wellesley for many years, sort of much beloved, Goodbye Mr Chips sort of teacher. And my mother was a housewife until my brother and I were... didn't have to be looked after all the time, and then she became a librarian in a town, not Wellesley, but nearby where we had moved when I was in the third grade. And I grew up in a perfectly ordinary... I can't remember quite what the word, a shabby, genteel, something, whatever, not genteel, no, but... but, I mean, on the... on the pay of a high school teacher, but perfectly nice, you know, solid family. And I was of an age where there was no television when I was young, and movies were everything as far as any sort of visual information or entertainment went, and even when I was a small child in Wellesley, the... for some reason the Wellesley school system had Wednesday afternoons off, and just little children, I am amazed that they... it was... was a more innocent age I guess, let us take the bus. We took the bus down to Wellesley Hills to the Colonial Theatre and saw movies that, for children, on... on Wednesday afternoons... and then when we moved to Sherburne I took the bus every Saturday afternoon, just about to... Sherburne was a tiny little country town without anything, but we... we took the bus to Framingham, which was the large town nearby, where there were three theatres, and where there, every Saturday afternoon there were Westerns and various things for kids, and... and I was devoted to movies as a child, as... as all the other children were, because there was no television. We could listen to serials, like Captain Midnight on the radio, but for anything really exciting we had to see movies and... and was there a whole culture of... of children going to movies, and movies aimed at children, really small children. Abbott and Costello movies and... and Westerns and things like that, almost all in black and white, and almost all what would be considered, you know, just barely B movies now, in terms of price and... and production and all that. And also, and... and I only have... only recently realized what an influence they must have been on me, also newsreels. I was reading a book by Godard, it was talking about newsreels and I realized how much newsreels probably meant to me, because in those days they were almost always shot on... there was... of course, they were all black and white, but they were almost always shot in... in 35 millimeter, you know the Imo was the... was the combat camera of the Second World War, in the United States it was a 35 millimeter camera, so they were really beautiful big negatives, and... and amazing footage, because the newsreels, when I was a child, were of the Second World War, so there would be, you know, airplanes flying and bombs exploding and... and battleships firing huge cannons and things, and they were extraordinarily powerful images of... of a world far away from Wellesley or Sherburne, Massachusetts, but... and far more engrossing and, I mean, what... what seemed like the real world, and they must have had a... a vast influence on my thought... thinking about movies I think, and I didn't realize that until many years later. But they certainly did, as did Abbott and Costello and the Westerns and all the things we saw as children. But I didn't have any idea that movies were made by ordinary mortals like myself, you know, that a little boy from... from Massachusetts could go and make movies, I... and it never even occurred to me. Nor did it occur to me, years later when I was more or less grown up.

Michael Chapman (1935-2020), an American cinematographer, had a huge influence on contemporary film-making, working on an impressive array of classic films including 'Taxi Driver', 'Raging Bull', 'The Lost Boys' and 'The Fugitive'.

Listeners: Glen Ade Brown

British Director of Photography and Camera Operator Glen Ade Brown settled in Los Angeles 10 years ago.

He has been working on features, commercials and reality TV. He played an instrumental role in the award-winning ABC Family series "Switched" and is also a recipient of the Telly and the Cine Golden Eagle awards for Best Cinematography. He was recently signed by the Judy Marks Agency and is now listed in her commercial roster.

Tags: Sherburne, Massachusetts, Goodbye Mr Chips, Captain Midnight, Abbott and Costello

Duration: 3 minutes, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008