Arts & Culture

Vintage University Of Houston Film Given New Life In Online Exhibit

A new exhibit spotlighting amateur Texas filmmakers has resurrected footage from the University’s 1953 Frontier Fiesta.

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The Great Bank Heist, created by the University of Houston Library System, uses footage from the university’s Frontier Fiesta event in 1953, which is a reenactment of a bank robbery. It’s one of about a dozen short films in the latest exhibit by the Texas Archive of the Moving Image in Austin. Photo courtesy of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image

The Great Bank Heist” has everything you’d expect in a silent movie, complete with the tinkling piano music reminiscent of a Western saloon. In this story, the flickering black and white footage shows a pack of outlaws on horseback, cigarettes dangling from their mouths, and holding up a bank at gunpoint.

Originally, this robbery reenactment was shot at the University of Houston’s Frontier Fiesta in 1953. Over sixty years later, the UH Library Services Department dusted it off and fashioned it in the style of a silent-era Western.

“We just thought it was really interesting that this set of footage had two separate iterations of an amateur film,” says Madeline Moya, Managing Director of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, or TAMI, the nonprofit who chose for the exhibit.

Another thing that makes it unique? Old film footage like this is getting harder and harder to find – and preserve.

“Films and videos are not made to last,” Moya says. “Over fifty percent of Hollywood movies made before 1950 are now lost. And for Texas-produced materials, statistics are estimated at closer to 90 percent.”

In other words it’s a race against time to find these films before they decompose. “The Great Bank Heist” is one of about a dozen movies featured in the amateur filmmaker exhibit.

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