Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

The Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (WCFTR) is a major archive of motion picture, television, radio, and theater research materials. Located in the headquarters building of the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin, the WCFTR holds over three hundred collections from motion picture, television, and theater writers, producers, actors, designers, directors, and production companies. These collections include business records, personal papers, scripts, photographs, promotional graphics, and some twenty thousand films and videotapes of motion picture and television productions.

PurposeArchive for performing arts research
Headquarters816 State Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53706
Coordinates43.0752°N 89.4°W / 43.0752; -89.4

The WCFTR is regularly visited by researchers from around the world.[1]


In 1955 the Wisconsin Historical Society established the Mass Communications History Center to document the importance of journalism, broadcasting, advertising, and public relations in the United States.[2] Recognizing that initiative's value, the University of Wisconsin's Speech and Theater Department formed the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in 1960. Today the WCFTR is part of the university's Communication Arts Department and is operated in partnership with the Wisconsin Historical Society.[3]


The film collection contains a variety of American and international cinema with rich holdings of Hollywood films from the 1930s to the 1960s, independent films from the 1960s to the 1980s, post-World War II Soviet films from the 1950s to the 1970s, and Taiwanese films from the late 1970s to the 1990s. Highlights of the film collection include

  • 2,000 16mm reference prints of Warner Brothers, RKO and Monogram Pictures films—nearly every feature released between 1931 and 1949
  • 1500 Vitaphone short subjects
  • 300 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons from 1926 to 1949
  • 270 Soviet features and documentaries
  • 120 Taiwanese features
  • films by independent filmmakers including Shirley Clarke, Emile de Antonio, Lionel Rogosin, Richard Kaplan, Jill Godmilow, and Lewis Jacobs.[4]

Complementing the films are paper records usually organized by the donor's name. Prominent examples include these collections:[5][6]


The largest of the WCFTR television collections consists of 3500 shows produced by Ziv Television Programs, the most successful producer of action/adventure programming filmed for first run syndication from 1948-1962. The Ziv library includes viewing copies and printing elements for every episode of The Cisco Kid, Boston Blackie, I Led Three Lives, Highway Patrol, Sea Hunt, Ripcord, Bat Masterson, and thirty other series. Scripts, production, and promotional materials for these and additional Ziv series can also be examined at the WCFTR.

Television pioneers whose careers are documented at the WCFTR include David Susskind, Fred Coe, Reginald Rose, Alvin Boretz, Paddy Chayefsky, and Loring Mandel, among others.[7] More recent collections include the Papazian-Hirsch Entertainment and Steven Starr collections. Highlights include

  • Ed Sullivan: The collection of the writer and television host includes scripts, production files, clippings, and correspondence for the long-running Ed Sullivan Show (1948-1971) with 16mm film of 48 entire programs and 29 additional reels of excerpts.
  • Rod Serling: The collection of the writer and producer contains paper records from every phase of his career in radio, television, and film, but the largest portion covers the television series he wrote or produced including synopses, outlines, scripts, revisions, press releases, and correspondence for The Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Bob Hope Chrysler Theatre, Climax, The Hallmark Hall of Fame, Kraft Theatre, The Loner, Lux Video Theatre, Motorola Television Hour, Playhouse 90, Rod Serlings's Wonderful World of..., Studio One, The Twilight Zone, and The United States Steel Hour.
  • Nat Hiken: The collection of the writer and producer includes films of many episodes of The Phil Silvers Show (Sergeant Bilko) and scripts and films for Car 54, Where Are You?, along with material from other programs such as the Martha Ray Show.
  • Hal Kanter: The collection of the writer, producer, and director contains scripts, production files, correspondence, and fan mail for All in the Family, Bob Hope’s Chrysler Theatre, Chico and the Man, Julia, and numerous specials and Academy Award presentations.
  • Sy Salkowitz: The collection of the writer and producer with production notes and scripts for Ironside, It Takes a Thief, M*A*S*H, Naked City, The Paper Chase, Perry Mason, Police Story, and The Virginian, among others.
  • Sidney Sheldon: The collection of the writer and producer includes scripts and other production materials for The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, and Nancy.
  • Irna Phillips: The collection of the prodigious creator and writer of soap operas includes production notes, scripts, and correspondence for Another World, As the World Turns, The Brighter Day, and Guiding Light, among others.


Collections have been established by actors such as Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Melvyn Douglas, Kitty Carlisle, Hal Holbrook and playwrights including S. N. Behrman, Moss Hart, Langston Hughes, George S. Kaufman, Walter Kerr, Jean Kerr, Howard Lindsay, Joseph Stein, Russel Crouse, N. Richard Nash, Paul Osborn, and Dale Wasserman.

Collections of composers and lyricists include those of Marc Blitzstein, Sheldon Harnick, and Stephen Sondheim. The WCFTR also houses collections from the costume, set, and lighting designers Dorothy Jeakins, Gilbert Vaughn Hemsley, Jr., and Jean Rosenthal.

The Center also holds the papers of the Playwrights' Company, a production company founded by Maxwell Anderson, Sidney Howard, Elmer Rice, Robert Sherwood, and S. N. Behrman. The behind-the-scene realities of Broadway theater of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s are documented in collections of producers and directors such as Kermit Bloomgarden, Hillard Elkins, Herman Levin, David Merrick, and Dwight Deere Wiman.[8]


Although the WCFTR is not primarily an archive of radio, many of its collections were donated by writers, producers, and actors—such as Nat Hiken, Rod Serling, Alvin Boretz, Irna Phillips, and William Spier—who were active in radio production in addition to their involvement with television, motion pictures, or the theater. As a result, the WCFTR holds collections touching on radio production in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The collections contain some sound recordings, but paper records predominate, including hundreds of scripts for radio productions. Here is a sample of radio programs for which there are scripts in the collections: The Adventures of Sam Spade, The Adventures of Superman, The Aldrich Family, America in the Air, Best Plays, The Beulah Show, The Big Story, Big Town, Cavalcade of America, The Chesterfield Supper Club, The Clock, Dimension X, Dr. Sixgun, Escape, Ford Theatre, The Fred Allen Show, The Grouch Club, Haven of Hope, Hollywood Love Story, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Kay Thompson and Company, Magazine Theater, The Marriage, Modern Tales of Hoffman, My Secret Story, NBC Theatre, NBC University Theatre, Nick Carter—Master Detective, Philip Morris Playhouse, Prudential Family Hour of Stars, Rooftops of New York, The Shadow, Star Spangled Theatre, Suspense, The Theatre Guild on the Air, United Nations Radio, Up for Parole, Woman in Love, and X Minus One, among many others.[9]

Photographs and promotional materials

The WCFTR has millions of still photographs, photographic negatives, posters, pressbooks, playbills, clippings, and scrapbooks, organized into four major groups to provide pictorial documentation of the production, distribution, and exhibition of motion pictures, television broadcasts, and theatrical plays.[10][11]

  • The Film Title Collection contains promotional graphics from over 40,000 domestic and foreign motion pictures from the 1890s to the present. Major U.S. studios are represented, with extensive coverage of publicity for the films released by United Artists, MGM, Warner Brothers, Universal, and Monogram studios from the 1920s to the 1950s.
  • The Television Title Collection consists of stills and ephemera from over 1,700 American television productions. Programs from the pre-videotape era, the late 1940s through the early 1960s, are most thoroughly documented.
  • The Theater Title Collection contains pictorial documentation of the American stage from the 1860s until today. More than 2,888 plays are represented of productions from the local repertory stage to Broadway.
  • The Name Collection consists of publicity and personal photographs, clipping files, and other ephemera related to more than 14,000 individual motion picture, television, and theater performers, as well as a limited number of producers, directors, writers, and studio executives.

A selection of photographs of Broadway and silent film productions and actors, mostly from the 1890s to 1922 can be viewed online at the Wisconsin Historical Images section of the Wisconsin Historical Society website.[12] Color lithographed posters for touring theatrical productions from the 1870s to the 1910s, such as the poster for "Don't Lie to Your Wife" shown above, are also available there.[13]

See also


  1. About Us page at the WCFTR website.
  2. Mass Communications History Collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society website.
  3. About Us:History page at the WCFTR website.
  4. Collections:Film page at the WCFTR website.
  5. http://srnconference2013.commarts.wisc.edu/research-opportunities/ Screenwriting Research Network International Conference 2013: Research
  6. http://arcat.library.wisc.edu/ Details of donors' collections derived from Archives Computer Catalog searches (ArCat).
  7. Collections:Radio and Television page at the WCFTR website.
  8. Collections:Theater page at the WCFTR website.
  9. http://arcat.library.wisc.edu/ Details of collections with radio content derived from Archives Computer Catalog searches (ArCat).
  10. Collections: Photos and Promotional Materials page. at the WCFTR website.
  11. Elvehjem Museum of Art and Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. 1987. Hollywood glamour, 1924-1956. Madison, Wis: University of Wisconsin System, xii.
  12. Advanced search for WCFTR and SILENT FILM, WCFTR and BROADWAY, or WCFTR and ACTRESS at http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/whi/advancedSearch.asp
  13. Advanced search for WCFTR POSTERS at http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/whi/advancedSearch.asp
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.