It takes more than creativity and skill to be considered a film expert; intensive film research is of utmost importance as well. Throughout the years, Dr. Cooper C. Graham helped uncover and identify many historical events that were captured on film. These contributions, along with his books and scholarly journals that were published worldwide, have surely granted him the title. Read on to learn more about his educational attainments as a film expert.
Cooper Graham started researching film in 1972, when he was a graduate student at New York University. His advisor was the eminent film scholar, Jay Layda. In the course of his studies at NYU, he did work on the 1903 Edwin S. Porter film Uncle Tom's Cabin, and found several stage sets that were used in the numerous traveling Uncle Tom stage shows that were used in the film. Also while working for Jay Layda, Dr. Graham found a film of Mrs. Leslie Carter, the eminent actress, at the Library of Congress. Dr. Graham also worked with several other graduate students of Jay Layda at the Library, using the Paper Print Collection as well as the Biograph Studio material at the Museum of Modern Art, The Harvard Theater Collection, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison to produce the book D. W. Griffith and the Biograph Company.
Partially because Dr. Graham, who lived in Baltimore, used the Library so extensively for his film research, he was offered a job at the Library working with the AFRTS recordings from World War II. Dr. Graham has been affiliated with the Library ever since in various positions, except for a period between 1981 and 1984 when he was in Germany and Baltimore doing his PhD. dissertation. He has been, among other things, an archive warehouseman, a curator of collections, and the Acquisitions Specialist for the Moving Image, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. He performed several contract jobs as well for the Library, and produced a finding aid for World War II Collections and the Office of War Information in the Recorded Sound Section. As Acquisitions Specialist, and in the course of his reports on what films the Library had acquired or was in the process of acquiring, he produced several finding aids for Russian film, West African film, East Indian film, travel and adventure films, and co-authored a finding aid for WWI films for the Moving Images Section.
Since the Library had an outstanding collection of German films, acquired as a result of World War II, Dr. Graham became extremely interested in German film, and partially specialized in German film at NYU. He also decided to write his PhD dissertation on Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia, partly because he felt the film was excellent, but also because while the film was produced by the Third Reich, it was not blatantly propagandistic in the same way as Triumph des Willens, Riefenstahl's film on the Nuremberg party rally of 1934. This led to a book as well as a PhD. thesis. As a result, Dr. Graham has worked extensively with the German Collection ever since. The Library of Congress received a large part of the Fox Movietone News Collection, and is presently collaborating with the University of South Carolina on a World War II project. Dr. Graham worked out a system to determine what the Library received from Fox Movietone, and, when he was first going through the material received from Fox, found some extremely rare footage of Max Reinhardt and his circle in Salzburg in the late 1920's. There is no doubt much more priceless material.
One of the most moving experiences he had in film research happened while working with researcher Adrian Wood and finding an original reel of nitrate film shot by the Nazis in 1942 of the Warsaw Ghetto still containing the words on the leader "Kommandosache! Streng geheim!!" The images on the film are harrowing. Copies of the film are now available in Israel, Germany, at the Library of Congress, and at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington.
Dr. Graham also participated in the identification of an unidentified film of Hitler at Bayreuth for the History Detectives program on PBS, which aired on 3 September, 2007.
Dr. Graham retired from the Library in July, 2007. He says that "I love film as art, but as I get older, I find I am especially drawn to film as a form of preservation of the past. As Jimmy Stewart was supposed to have said, films are pieces of time. And every old film contains mysteries. Who shot it? Why? Who are these people? Every time I open an old film can, I feel a quiver of anticipation."
Dr. Graham lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife, Pat, who is a member of the conservatory faculty at The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.