Curated Collection

One of the most prolific itinerant film directors was Dallas native, Melton Barker. He and his company, Melton Barker Juvenile Productions, traveled all over the country – from Texas and New Mexico to North Carolina and Indiana – filming local children acting, singing, and dancing in two-reel films that Barker titled ''The Kidnapper’s Foil'' (where a kidnapped child named "Betty Davis" is rescued by local youth) and ''The Last Straw'' (featuring a bank robber foiled by a group of children.)Throughout the twentieth century, so-called “itinerant filmmakers” traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, visiting smaller cities and making a business out of the creation of local “stars.” These “town booster” or “home talent” films featured community landmarks, businesses and, most importantly, local residents. Many of these “itinerant” films did not feature a narrative structure; rather, the camera simply panned groups of school children, business owners, and factory workers. Other itinerant films, however, either concocted some sort of limited narrative, or mimicked popular Hollywood films and genres as a method through which to focus upon the local community. The local talent films, their premieres heralded and touted in the local print press, were then exhibited along with other short subjects before major theatrical features.

The Texas Archive of the Moving Image's 1930s Childress, Texas version of The Kidnapper's Foil was among the 25 American films deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant through their addition to the 2012 National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

Do you have information on Melton Barker or did you participate in a ''Kidnapper's Foil'' or ''Last Straw'' film in your hometown?? TAMI would love to hear from you!