C. 1933 16mm Film Regarding Alaska: Natural History, Inuit Life and Customs, Fishing, Hunting, Travel & Exploration and Missionary Activities, Community History & More.
(Alaska)

Alaska: No Publisher, 1933. F The movie can be loosely interpreted as the history of a journey up the Alaska coastline with some land interior footage, beginning in the more southern tier and ending in the bleak far northern ice lands, with 'stops' along the way; the movie has a semi-professional 'feel' - for several reasons, some of which are that editing between segments is smooth and uninterrupted, there are occasional professional 'titles' interspersed in the film and perhaps most importantly, the quality of the imagery and the 'narrative' progression of scenes speaks to a professional behind the lens; subjects are diverse: at the beginning of the film we view the vast panoramas of the Alaskan lands, mountains and rivers, treated to a Robert Service quote - "...there's a land where the mountains are nameless and the rivers run God knows where..." with men (and a lively dog) standing aboard a rapidly-moving raft poling down a river - the same men (seemingly very closely, for comfort) observe bears fishing a stream during a salmon spawn and climbing nearby trees; the men demonstrate salmon bow-fishing and bring the catch home; the camera eventually moves on to the coastal trip, being on board small steamers and sailing craft; we observe the "Wrangell Branch" of the A & P Packaging Co., with cannery scenes; visiting an outpost medical clinic, seemingly obstetric; on to footage of the massive caribou movements across the tundra lands and natives hunting them; Inuit trade polar bear & other skins at a 'trading post' for goods; heavy-duty tractors used on icy surfaces to transport entire houses & populations; the stamina and strength of sled-dogs pulling up what looks like a 45-degree angle hillside at speed and in deep snow; ice-chopping for massive slabs used to build a home igloo; a costume parade of little children in a town, which also shows mission children and schools, young men and women in activities around sturdily-constructed multi-story brick buildings, probably related to missionary work in the Territory; native carvings, totem poles and other crafts; ski-planes at a small wintry airport runway - identified as "Pacific-Alaska Airways"; perhaps most exciting and interesting is the film's showing of an Inuit whale-hunt, the bringing in of the great creature - hauled by hand, the hunters seated on the ice in rows and strongly pulling at tremendous rope hawsers - the flensing of the blubber and an extremely lively victory party afterward, obvious happiness and exhilaration of the people, dances and chanting of women and men after the great capture - the fun includes being tossed in the air trampoline style, done standing up, the local people all dressed in the available skins and hides hunted there; various little stops are made along the way by the boat as it moves up the Alaskan fiord-scape - at one point we are treated to an exhibition of the Inuit kayak, with a native spinning under the cool waters in his boat; the kayaks push offshore to greet the supply ship (in this case a 4-masted schooner - we see this vessel at anchor and also, magnificently, under full-rigged sail - and retrieve goods in their longboat; eventually, the coasting brings us to a dramatic close with a sunset silhouetting the schooner, with only icebergs on the horizon; there are 'human' moments as well, this is not simply an amateur travelogue - young women coquette a bit for the camera, town worthies and ancient native people sit in dignity, graveyard views which linger over (readable) headstones; people at work and play with vigor and without a 'staged' feeling -cute (and very strong & skilled) little kids in a wood-chopping contest and more; there is approximately 1600 feet of 16mm film, run time about hour; we speculate this is the original or master, since there are several safety film types used here: Kodak safety positive, Dupont Pathe, Gevaert safety film and perhaps others - seemingly, a copy of the master would have been using all one film type; these sections are professionally spliced together and viewable, as we have watched this production on film a desk-type film editor as well as a through a projector; occasionally and unexplainably (by checking the film types at the change) there is a yellowish cast to the scene, which does not obscure detail and which shifts abruptly back to clear black and white footage; on an old reel; no credits are given for the photography or direction, production of the film; a possible clue is offered in an accompanying item, a large sepia & black chalk portrait heightened in white on Canson & Montgolfier France watermark paper, of what appears to be a reverend or Protestant cleric, who bears a close resemblance to one of the characters seen several times in the film and who may have been a missionary in Alaska or perhaps ended up as the recipient of this master film; pastel portrait measures approx. 18" x 22", signed lower left Melita Hofmann ( C. 1907-1976) a commercial artist and illustrator originally from Toledo, Ohio who worked as an art director for Grosset & Dunlap and in book illustration - the portrait with some closed edge tears, repaired on verso, otherwise in good shape and a good likeness, accomplished with skill; the film in very good condition and viewable, albeit with some vinegar syndrome - usual with films this vintage - and one of the most interesting ethnographic and historical artifacts and perhaps unique, that we have had in stock, filmed during a time of great change for the Inuit, for Alaska and its' landscape; our thanks go to Richard Hart, senior in film studies at Brooklyn College for his invaluable help in reviewing the film and revealing technical aspects of the process. Very Good Paperback (Item ID: 21317)

$4,500.00

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