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William K Everson

William K Everson

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Also Known As: Keith William Everson Died: April 14, 1996
Born: April 8, 1929 Cause of Death: bone and prostate cancer
Birth Place: Somerset, England, GB Profession: author, preservationist, curator, professor, historian, film programmer, archivist, consultant, researcher, publicity agent

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Growing up outside of London near the film studios, William K. Everson was addicted to cinema before he could read. At the age of 21 he emigrated to the U.S. and, like most immigrants, was struck breathless by the new land. It wasn't the Statue of Liberty, the skyscrapers, or the waving fields of wheat, however, that impressed him: "As soon as I got off the boat, I was confronted by 42nd Street," he explained years later. "Row upon row of marquees! And the first marquee I saw had Chaplin's "City Lights" and Von Sternberg's "The Scarlet Empress", neither of which I'd seen in England, so I was off like a shot!"Almost immediately, Everson began collecting films. He was in the right place at the right time. The studios were lax in preserving films from the 1920s and 30s that they thought had no value, and TV had not yet discovered the treasure trove of the studio libraries. Working in the industry as a sometime publicist, he would often hear that some reels of an old film were about to be destroyed simply because a distributor's contract had run out. He'd offer to buy them; sometimes legal barriers required that he "liberate" them. Answering to a higher authority, he did so.Gradually the hobby became an...

Growing up outside of London near the film studios, William K. Everson was addicted to cinema before he could read. At the age of 21 he emigrated to the U.S. and, like most immigrants, was struck breathless by the new land. It wasn't the Statue of Liberty, the skyscrapers, or the waving fields of wheat, however, that impressed him: "As soon as I got off the boat, I was confronted by 42nd Street," he explained years later. "Row upon row of marquees! And the first marquee I saw had Chaplin's "City Lights" and Von Sternberg's "The Scarlet Empress", neither of which I'd seen in England, so I was off like a shot!"

Almost immediately, Everson began collecting films. He was in the right place at the right time. The studios were lax in preserving films from the 1920s and 30s that they thought had no value, and TV had not yet discovered the treasure trove of the studio libraries. Working in the industry as a sometime publicist, he would often hear that some reels of an old film were about to be destroyed simply because a distributor's contract had run out. He'd offer to buy them; sometimes legal barriers required that he "liberate" them. Answering to a higher authority, he did so.

Gradually the hobby became an obsession. It wasn't enough to own a representative set of John Fords, for example; he had to have them all. Moreover, at the same time that he was passionately collecting, Hollywood was dispassionately destroying "useless" old movies.

What Everson and other private collectors were doing on their own in the U.S., governments were sponsoring in Europe. Compare Everson's experience in New York to that of Henri Langlois in Paris. A similarly obsessed collector, Langlois was able to found the Cinematheque Francaise, an official, funded organization. In 1970, when the American Film Institute was founded, some of the pressure was taken off Everson.

By the mid-70s Everson's collection had grown to around 4000 feature titles, and a equal number of shorts, newsreels, cartoons and feature excerpts, nearly all of which were stored in his West Side New York apartment or in rented vault space. From the beginning he had been showing prints from his collection in his living room to a small circle of aficionados (he also joined the faculty of NYU's new department of Cinema Studies in the late 60s). In 1966, he began a long-running series of screenings at New York's New School for Social Research, which, in addition to his countless presentations and lectures worldwide over the years, have exposed thousands of filmgoers and scores of filmmakers to important parts of film history that would, without Everson, have been lost.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

3.
 Gene Autry: The Singing Cowboy (1993) Interviewee
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Milestones close milestones

1944:
Publicity director, Renown Pictures Corporation, Ltd., London, at age 15
:
Was a film critic and motion picture journalist in England in the mid-1940s
1946:
Served in the armed force in Great Britain
1949:
Worked as a theater manager, publicist and booking consultant for the Monseigneur News Theatres in London
1950:
Came to the U.S.
:
Worked for Allied Artists during the 1950s; was at one time one of the company's directors of publicity
1951:
Became publicity director for Allied Artists Inc.
1956:
Became a producer, writer and researcher with the Paul Killiam Co.
:
Programmed, wrote notes for and introduced a film series at the New School for Social Research
:
Received credit as "researcher" for a series of TV documentaries in the 1960s covering various aspects of the history of cinema, many made by the Paul Killiam Co.
:
Taught at New York City's School of Visual Arts
:
Served as a faculty member of the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University; began as an adjunct, later hired as tenure-track assistant professor; eventually made it to full professor
:
Had a regular column in the magazine, FILMS IN REVIEW, beginning in the mid-1970s
:
Served on the editorial board of the academic journal, CINEMA JOURNAL
:
Served as one of the co-directors of the Telluride Film Festival
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Notes

Everson's given first names were Keith William, but he reversed them so that "William K" would mimic the name of a notable Hollywood director of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, William K Howard, whom Everson admired. Pressed to name his favorite director, though, Whale would probably choose James Whale, to whom his "American Silent Film" is dedicated.

He was for a number of years one of the directors of the annual Telluride Film Festival in Colorado.

Everson was a former editorial board member of "Cinema Journal".

He was also an editorial board member of "Film History" magazine.

Archival and film preservation consultant, American Film Institute

Consultant and board member, National Film Registry (created by Film Preservation Act)

Received award from Anthology Film Archives for his work in film preservation (1994)

Recipient, honorary doctorate, Concordia University, Canada in 1993.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Sandy Everson. Divorced; first wife, mother of his two children.
wife:
Karen Latham Everson. Free-lance film historian and film editor. Married January, 1988; holds MA in cinema studies from NYU; survived him.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Griffith Everson. Named for D.W. Griffith.
daughter:
Bambi Everson. Named for beloved Disney figure.
granddaughter:
Sarah. Born c. 1990 to daughter Bambi.

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Pictorial History of the Western"
"The American Movie"
"The Art of W.C. Fields"
"The Films of Laurel & Hardy"
"The Detective in Film"
"The Films of Hal Roach" Museum of Modern Art
"Classics of the Horror Film"
"The Bad Guys" Citadel Press
"Claudette Colbert" Pyramid Books
"American Silent Film" Oxford University Press
"Love in the Film" Citadel Press
"More Classics of the Horror Film"
"90 Years of the Hollywood Western" Citadel Press
"Hollywood Bedlam: Classic Screwball Comedy" Citadel Press
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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