Eastman House acquires Gene Feldman Collection of documentary films, featuring silver-screen royalty

Television specials depict stars Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, and many others…

Rochester, NY and Harrington Park, NJ — George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film has acquired a rich collection of television documentary films, which profile many of Hollywood’s most beloved and respected stars. These films are the legacy of Gene Feldman (1921–2006), a director, writer, and producer. In partnership with his wife, Suzette Winter, their company Wombat Productions created 34 insightful and entertaining biographies for television broadcast.

From 1982 to 1998, the Feldmans profiled what could be called the “second generation” of silver screen royalty: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Joan Crawford, Vivien Leigh, Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, Alan Ladd, Burt Lancaster, Michael Caine, Clint Eastwood, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Mitchum, Shirley Temple, Mae West, Anthony Quinn, Steve McQueen, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Monroe, and George Eastman Award recipients Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. They also produced the TV documentaries The Horror of it All (1983) and Hollywood’s Children (1982), as well as biographies about Harry Connick Jr., Betty Buckley, David Copperfield from 1998 to 2000.

All of these programs were originally shot on both 35mm and 16mm film stocks and recorded on quarter-inch audiotape, as well as 35mm magnetic film. Subsequent access materials have been dubbed onto a variety of tape formats and the programs, known as The Hollywood Collection, are now available on DVD. The DVDs are distributed by Janson Media, a content distribution company based in New Jersey which maintains exclusive commercial rights to the Feldman Collection.

The Eastman House’s motion picture department was offered all of the original pre-print and positive film material, access master tapes, and binders of transcripts for each program as a donation to the permanent collection. “I can think of no other film archive I would rather deposit our valuable original materials than in your archive center,” wrote Feldman, shortly before his death in 2006, in a letter to Patrick Loughney, curator of motion pictures at George Eastman House.

“The Feldman Collection is an exciting acquisition for its content as well as the challenging opportunity for archiving and preserving video materials at George Eastman House,” said Loughney. “While its subjects were feature film actors and actresses, its medium of presentation was originally television, an area that up to this point has not been heavily represented in the permanent motion picture collection.”

The original format for each program was still film, however, and combined with the wide range of tape formats used for both recording and access, the Feldman Collection as a whole will require a wider range of archiving tools and preservation techniques to ensure its long-term conservation. The collection is also a rarity for it is “closed” — no further programs will be made under the now dissolved Wombat Productions banner.

“’The Hollywood Collection’ has been licensed by our company down through the years to broadcasters and video companies in virtually every country in the world, and we continue to find new markets for them today,” said Zara Janson, vice president of Janson Media and Gene Feldman and Suzette Winter’s daughter. “And now we are so pleased that the collection has found a home at the George Eastman House where it will be preserved for future generations.”

“My father was so passionate about film and making films that I can’t tell you what it means for my family to have his life’s work in the only place in the world where it should be, George Eastman House” said daughter Lynne Feldman, an artist based in Rochester, N.Y.

About George Eastman House’s Motion Picture Collection
George Eastman House is the world’s oldest and largest photography and film museum, founded in 1947. The collections, located in modern archives adjacent to the National Historic Landmark house and gardens, feature 28,000 film titles and more than 3 million motion picture artifacts, including publicity stills, scripts, scores, and posters; 400,000 photographs; and 20,000 pieces of camera technology. A leader in photo and film preservation and conservation, Eastman House launched in 1996 the world’s first permanent school of film preservation, the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation. The Eastman House’s motion picture collection is the country’s third largest, surpassed only by the Library of Congress and UCLA.

About Janson Media
Established in 1989, Janson Media is an independent content distribution company based in Harrington Park, New Jersey, with a rights portfolio of over 1,500 hours of exclusive programming available for licensing to worldwide television, DVD/video, non-theatric, and emerging media companies. The company has licensed programming to virtually every country in the world, and its clients include nearly every major broadcaster or media company. The company’s portfolio includes documentaries, music and performance, lifestyle, nature & wildlife, science, health, sport, travel, adventure, how-to, history, current affairs, children’s programming, dramas and features. The company is also a DVD publisher/manufacturer with a catalog of titles ranging from children’s and family films to award-winning documentaries and special interest programming.