Movie Meltdown: James Katz: Preserving Film History

This week we welcome our special guest James Katz. James is the former President and founder of the Universal Pictures Classics Division. He has worked in many different areas over the years including – film distribution, publicity, marketing and working as a producer and as executive producer on several films. But more than anything, James has made a monumental impact on film history through his preservation and re-release of five Alfred Hitchcock’s films in the early 1980s. The success of those films led to other restorations of classic films like SpartacusMy Fair Lady, and Lawrence of Arabia. So listen as we hear stories from his humble beginnings working as a photographer and creating press kits, all the way through his journey to eventually change the way studios view and care for their film libraries.

And while we bend birches to and fro, we also bring up… Paul Bartel, color timing, he’s really a chemist engineer film nerd, Herbert Coleman, 70mm, the last print that David Selznick approved, Loews in White Plains, Under the Volcano, that was something that played at the 1964 World’s Fair, Jimmy Stewart, Technicolor, Singin’ in the Rain, Kevin Brownlow, the studio system was a totally different atmosphere, Tab Hunter, no one really wants to know how the sausages are made, David Lean, To Be Alive, put something on the wire, Robert Frost, we found the soundtracks in a trash heap in Glen Glenn Sound in Hollywood, Douglas Sirk, east side or west side, put two or three photographs together… to tell a little story, film festivals, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, now… here we are today, you know, in the digital age – and I’m still talking about photochemical, Divine, some of the interpretations, David Merrick, money’s falling out and money’s coming in, Preston Sturges, Eating Raoul, sitting on the set of Vertigo, I Am Curious (Yellow), back then they didn’t even have vaults, Lust in the Dust, newspapers, Zeffirelli’s Traviata, there’s trauma and drama every day, Parade Magazine and pulling up in front of Scotty’s apartment.

“We… made people aware that in 100 years of the moving image… that a lot of it was deteriorating.”

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