Douglass Crockwell — Glens Falls Film Guild

A series of five programs about film history at Crandall Library in 1937 concluded with “a look into the future” when as “a special feature” artist/illustrator Douglass Crockwell showed his new three-minute animated film “Simple Destiny.”

Crockwell, of Glens Falls, had been experimenting the past few months with animated abstract film, a technique he pursed for art’s sake, not philosophy’s or money’s sake.

“His film, entitled ‘Simple Destiny,’ was declared to be without meaning, but to be an experiment in the possibilities of creating illusions, through the introductions,” The Glens Falls Times reported on March 8, 1937.

Crockwell developed, and patented, a technique of abstract animation that used paintings, instead of drawings, the technique used in traditional cartoons.

He experimented with the technique for about a decade.

Crockwell was on the organizing committee in 1937 of the Glens Falls Film Guild, the educational organization that presented the series of five film screening and discussion programs at Crandall Library auditorium.

Apparently the organization only operated for one year.

John D. Hitchcock was chairman of the organizing committee, which limited attendance to 125 dues-paying guild members, so as to keep an educational focus.

Ray LaFarr, a local theater organist, dance band leader, and choral conductor, played piano for silent films in the series, and performed piano solos before and during intermissions of sound films.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City supplied the films, dating in original release from 1894 to 1932.

“The films selected are to be regarded not in the light of ephemeral entertainment, but as a significant expression of contemporary aesthetics, of morals, of manners,” The Post-Star reported on March 17, 1937.

Net proceeds from the series were split between Crandall Library and the Museum of Modern Art.

The fifth program that Crockwell’s film concluded also featured “The Jazz Singer,” the first talkie, released in 1927, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” released in 1930, and “Steamboat Willie,” released in 1928.

Click here to read my most recent previous Douglass Crockwell history post.

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Maury Thompson

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY