Medium Cool

Let’s Get Working: Chicago Celebrates Studs Terkel Festival
Friday, May 9, 2014 - 4:00pm

With Andrew Davis, assistant cameraman on Medium Cool, director of The Fugitive (1993).

“Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool is remembered as one of the great political films of its era—who could forget its climactic melding of fact and fiction, shot in the streets of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention, in which Robert Forster's TV news cameraman is swept into the real-life chaos of police and protesters?... Inspired by Studs Terkel's book Division Street: America, Wexler set out to integrate real Chicagoans into the action, often letting them improvise their own dialogue; some of that footage wound up on the cutting-room floor, but the voices that remain are strong, honest, and still challenging even after 46 years.

Terkel—named in the credits as "our man in Chicago"—provided Wexler with a great many introductions, helping the director locate a variety of real people to augment the story. Just after the opening credits, Wexler shows Jack and his soundman, Gus (Peter Bonerz), at a cocktail party with an assortment of Chicago journalists that was orchestrated by Terkel at the home of photographer Lynn Erlich (included are news photographer Mickey Pallas, former WBBM cameraman Morris Bleckman, and Lester Brownlee, first black reporter for the Chicago Daily News). Wexler simply set them loose without a script to talk about their work, which resulted in a heated debate about the quick-hit ghoulishness of local TV news.” – JR Jones, Chicago Reader

“I couldn't have made the film without Studs Terkel. Through him, I was taken on an adventure into my own city that many Chicagoans didn't see, being insulated by communities and money and suburbs. Studs's intimate knowledge of people and places in Chicago were people and places that were not necessarily in the Chicago Tribune, not on WGN—music and all the live arts that were part of Chicago.” – Haskell Wexler, TimeOut Chicago, 2013

Born on the south side of Chicago, director, producer, writer and cinematographer Andrew Davis was mentored by acclaimed cinematographer Haskell Wexler with whom he worked on Medium Cool as a camera person. His film The Fugitive (1993) starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones received seven Academy Award nominations, including the best picture category. That year Davis was also honored with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director by the Hollywood Foreign Press. The Directors Guild of America nominated him for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Direction.

(Haskell Wexler, 1969, BluRay, 111 min)

Let’s Get Working: Chicago Celebrates Studs Terkel
Let’s Get Working is a three-day festival celebrating the legacy of Studs Terkel, revisiting his work and tracing his influence through oral histories, film screenings, musical performances, art installations, storytelling, and community dialogues. Complete details available on the festival website.