The Yale Film Archive was recently awarded a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to support preservation of Roger Tilton’s film Shades (1960), produced with undergraduate film students at the City College of New York’s Institute of Film Techniques and featuring staff and inmates at what was then known as the New York City Correctional Institution for Men, on Rikers Island.
Founded in the early 1940s and first led by a recent City College graduate and filmmaker named Irving Jacoby, the Institute of Film Techniques evolved from one of the earliest university film societies, Film and Sprockets Society, founded in 1934. Soon after it was founded, the recent émigré and Dadaist filmmaker Hans Richter took over as director, and led the school until 1957. Students in the Institute produced numerous films over the years, but little is known about Shades beyond a lone mention in the New York Times published while the film was in production. Filmmaker Roger Tilton, then a faculty member at CCNY, had made the pre-vérité documentary film Jazz Dance in 1954, and was brought on to direct the film.
In addition to Tilton as director, the March 20, 1960 New York Times item noted that the crew on the film “consisted of advanced film students at the college and ‘professionals at the jobs for which qualified undergraduates weren’t available’.” One of those students, credited with “Script” and as associate producer, was Ed English. English went on to a long career as a filmmaker, including his award-winning film The Family Fallout Shelter (1962), several documentaries on musicians including Sun Ra and the Fugs, and work as a cameraman on Stanley Milgram’s Obedience (1962), made while English was working at Yale University.
After English passed away in 2022, the Yale Film Archive received a donation of material in English’s collection from his widow Madelyn English. The donation included the original A/B rolls and track negative for his earliest credited film work, Shades. The only two credited cast members in the film are Garry Goodrow and Warren Finnerty, both of whom were members of the Living Theatre, and were members of the original cast of Jack Gelber’s 1959 play The Connection. Both Goodrow and Finnerty reprised their roles in Shirley Clarke’s film adaptation, released a year after Shades; Clarke herself also studied at the Institute of Film Techniques. Goodrow went on to appear in films including The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), Escape from Alcatraz (1979) and Dirty Dancing (1987), while Finnerty appeared in The Pawnbroker (1964), Cool Hand Luke (1967), and Easy Rider (1969), among others.
Read about the 60 films to be saved through 2023 NFPF Preservation Grants.