Kidnappers Foil 1937 & 1948
The Kidnappers Foil, filmed in 1937 and again in 1948, was produced in
Childress, starring Childress kids. The producer and director was Melton
Barker, an itinerant film same movie, same script, over & over. He may have
filmed in more than a hundred towns from the 1930's through the 1950's.
About a dozen of the vintage movies have been found, and two of those are
in Childress. Only seven or eight have been restored, including both of the
Childress films.
Both films premiered in The Palace theater in 1937 & 1948.
The films were discovered and presented to Childress Theatre Company in
2005 by Richard Chambless. They had been stored for years in the office of
the old Monogram theater from which his late father-in-law, Bill Stahl,
operated a sheet metal fabrication shop. Upon Mr. Stahl's death, Richard
discovered the very flammable 35 mm nitrate films, one in a canister and one
exposed to the elements for decades, stored in the dirt-floored shop in Mr.
Stahl's backyard. Sure that the films pertained to cinema history in Childress
he gave them to Childress theatre Company.
The theatre board immediately contacted Caroline Frick, a film archivist with
the University of Texas, and Ms Frick made a trip to Childress for a white
glove examination of the vintage films. The films were indeed important. Ms
Frick had spent a large part of her career as an archivist searching for
information about the elusive Melton Barker.
She applied for restoration grants for both films from the National Film
Preservation Foundation. The 1937 film was restored in 2005 and the 1948
film in 2006. The 1948 version was apparently stored in the canister, the
quality of video and audio being much better, and there were more
recognizable faces of the children. The 1937 film, however, was produced
during Barker's best years of film making with just a little more creativity, i.e.
the use of product advertising of the Gate City Creamery and the Sanitary
Bakery as well as the variety of filming locations around town and more
speaking parts for the children.
The films were shown at Chamber of Commerce banquets upon restoration in
2006 and 2007. Paul Stekler, a political writer from Austin, filmed portions of
the 2006 banquet & used clips from the 1937 film in a documentary
emphasizing the impact of the film industry in Texas. It aired on PBS in 2007
in a segment of "Special Session", a weekly documentary produced by
Stekler.
Kidnappers Foil was featured in 2008 on "Texas Country reporter" and can still
be viewed on "Reporter" reruns. Bob Phillips came to town to film the
feature on the Kidnappers Foil movies and the Palace theater restoration
efforts. For more information about Kidnappers Foil click on "Contact Us".
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