In Memoriam: Alan Kattelle

Submitted by David

We are saddened by the death of Alan Kattelle on December 8, 2010. For many years Alan was a mentor and dear friend. When Northeast Historic Film established an advisory board in 1997, Alan was one of the founding members. We will miss his wise counsel, his encyclopedic knowledge and generous spirit.

Alan was the author of Home Movies: A History of the American Industry 1897-1979, which is the most comprehensive work on amateur film technology. An avid collector, he worked for decades building an extraordinary collection of amateur cameras, projectors, and equipment. His collection began more than 30 years ago with a folding Kodak movie camera that his father was going to throw away. Working in New York City at the time, he visited the Kodak booth at Grand Central Station whenever he needed information on a newly acquired model.

Alan donated his collection, now grown to over 790 items, to Northeast Historic Film in 2005. A selection is on display in a cased exhibit in the lobby of our home, the Alamo Theatre, and we are photographing the entire collection to provide a Web access tool.

Alan was one of the founders of the Movie Machine Society, an organization of collectors, retired cameramen, projectionists, historians, and professors. He was a leader of the Photo Historical Society of New England and in 2005 he received the Association of Moving Image Archivists Silver Light award, the organization's highest honor, for his outstanding career achievement in moving image archiving.

Not known as a film collector, Alan still managed to accumulate a significant collection dating from 1909 to 1969. He always claimed the 180 reels were just samples to use in his projectors. Soon after picking up the film we started discovering amazing things. The Making of an American, made for the Connecticut Department of Americanization in 1920, was named to the National Film Registry in 2005. A 750-foot fragment of The Rogue Song, one of the American Film Institute's top 10 missing films, was donated to UCLA. A mystery Biblical feature, identified by Chris Horak as a 1922 film called Jeremias, was donated to George Eastman house. Some 1930s cartoons went to UCLA, while Canadian National Railway documentaries went to the National Archives of Canada.

The Alan and Natalie Kattelle Collection of amateur film equipment, his film collection, a large periodical collection, his research materials, and eleven hours of interviews from the Association of Moving Image Archivists Small Gauge and Amateur film Committee's 2003 Oral History Project are held at NHF and will give scholars and researchers an opportunity to continue to benefit from Alan's work.