By Scott Bomboy, Managing Editor, NBC10.com
POSTED: 3:04 pm EST November 15, 2004
UPDATED: 3:25 pm EDT June 10, 2005
The 1961 documentary film youre watching on NBC10.com, Dead End 1975 is truly a lost film that was recently found by several strokes of luck and restored to its original condition.
As part our of project to put archival WCAU footage on the Internet, I found several unmarked film canisters in the second floor of WCAUs film vault, an older room above the stations old newsroom that is kept under lock and key. However, the station doesnt have film editing equipment or older tape machines to play the older material, so I made several phone calls, including one to the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, an organization that archives anything related to TV history in Philadelphia. No one, it seemed, had the equipment to view the films, to identify them.
A final phone call went to a film-restoration expert named Charlie Churchman, a Montgomery County businessman who specializes in archival and stock film footage. Churchman said, yes, he had the equipment to view the film.
Discovering A Lost Film
After a short drive to his office, Churchman and I identified two of the three films. The first was a 1961 promotional film about WCAUs community program. The second was promotional footage for Gene London.
The third film, we determined, was the second half of a special called Dead End 1975? that was mentioned on the first promotional film we found.
As we were watching the film, Churchman said he had seen something like it before, but it wasn t the same film. A day later, we spoke and he said just maybe, he had the first roll of the film in his film archives.
After looking through his collection of more than 1,500 movies, Churchman came upon a WCAU film canister. In it was the long-lost first half of the film.
As far as he can tell, Churchman bought the lost film along with some other old WCAU footage of talk show host Betty Hughes at a sale in Allentown a decade ago. He had wanted to use it as spare film leader but had designated it to be thrown out when I called him.
The reunited film was then assembled back together by Churchman, run through a film-bath restoration process three times and then transferred to high-quality commercial videotape.
The finished product is the film you are watching, restored in its entirety
And as a bonus, courtesy of the Facenda family, is a copy of the Philadelphia Inquirers review from June 6, 1961, the day after the special aired on a Monday night.
Another Set Of Lost Gems
The Facenda family was also instrumental in finding long-unseen newscast footage of John Facenda in the 1960s.
I met with Jack Facenda, Johns son, about three weeks ago to get some background information and look at some photos of his father.
I mentioned my film project and Jack mentioned he had some old, small videotape boxes in his collection of his fathers memorabilia. I offered to have them looked at but he declined, because he had found another tape expert years earlier who had already put the footage on VHS tape.
Jacks tape contained segments of four historic Facenda news broadcasts from 1962, 1963, 1969 and 1970. The 1970 segment contains the only known video footage of Johns famous on-air goodbye, Have a nice night and a good day tomorrow.
Jack Facenda also lent us Mummers footage from 1963 that hadnt been seen since the mid-1960s.
In addition to the film supplied by Charlie Churchman and Jack Facenda, we found a 5-minute clip, on the 1961 promotional film, of a Facenda documentary on the plight of migrant workers in New Jersey.
And on outtakes from WCAUs 40th anniversary show from 1988, we found a 1968 interview between Facenda and a high school student named Jack Jones, who would later attend La Salle and join Facenda on the news desk.
The footage from the 1963 Kennedy tribute was also found on outtakes from the 1988 special.
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