Collection - The Hollywood of Texas - The Jamieson Film Company and Dallas’s Starring Role in Texas Cinema
“When I started in a little shop in 1916, I didn’t foresee what would happen in the years that passed. But Dallas has now come to be the third film production center in the United States after New York and Hollywood. And the prospect is that it will keep on increasing.”
-Hugh V. Jamieson, founder of the Jamieson Film Company, Interview at KERA, circa 1970
Located between the film industry’s West Coast center in Hollywood and its East Coast seat in New York, Dallas has emerged as a center for commercial production in Texas and one of the major production hubs in the nation. One of the crucial players in that development was the Jamieson Film Company. Started by Hugh Jamieson in 1916, the Jamieson Film Company is perhaps most widely remembered for producing the first copies of the famed Abraham Zapruder film that captured the assassination of JFK. However, the Company’s involvement with the Zapruder film represents just a single episode in over a half-century in the film processing and production business. During its lifespan, the Jamieson Film Company produced industrial films, television programs and advertisements for clients across Texas and the U.S., patented and perfected film processing equipment, and became a training ground for many prominent individuals in the Texas film industry.
The Story of the Jamieson Film Company
The Early Years: Kansas and Itinerant Films
When Hugh Jamieson was a young boy in the early 1900s, an advertisement for “The Picture That Moves!” ignited his imagination and inspired his lifelong fascination with film. Hugh was born in Kansas in 1889 and attended Baker University in Baldwin, where he studied engineering. Using a $150 loan, Jamieson bought his first motion picture camera, operated using a hand crank. He financed his education by starting a movie theater and upon graduation, got a job at Thomas Edison’s company selling Kinetoscope in the Missouri area. After a fire at Edison in 1914, Hugh decided to set off to produce his own films.
In this 1970s interview with Dallas PBS station KERA, a retired Hugh recounts stories of his early days in the film business:
Hugh V. Jamieson Interview at KERA
Before arriving in Dallas, Hugh travelled from town to town making community or itinerant films featuring community landmarks, businesses and, most importantly, local residents—particularly children. From 1914 to 1916, Jamieson filmed several versions of Won from the Flames, processing films in his hotel room and screening them in the local theater. Unfortunately, no copies of the films have been found. The following film by itinerant filmmaker Melton Barker acts as an example of the type of films Jamieson would have made thirty years prior. In addition to creating the same types of films as Jamieson, Barker also used portable Jamieson film processing equipment and often relied on Jamieson for editing services.
The Local Gang in “Kidnappers Foil”: Childress, TX, c.1936
1916-1930s: Advertising Films and Commercial Newsreels
In 1916, Jamieson settled in Dallas and opened his film business at 2212 Live Oak Street. In the business’s early days, Hugh filmed a number of community events and created advertising films that ran in theaters prior to feature screenings. During this time, he also made and patented his first film processing machines and built his own sound equipment.
With his equipment and film processing facilities at the ready, Jamieson was frequently called upon by major newsreel companies associated with Universal, Pathe, Paramount, and RKO to cover many Dallas events. Jamieson produced newsreels covering the funeral of aviator Wiley Post and the sentencing of George “Machine Gun” Kelly (the first synchronous sound footage filmed in a federal courtroom).
Jamieson was known to have filmed the New London school disaster, and this Universal newsreel most likely includes his footage:
Newsreel of New London School Disaster
1930s-1940s: Military and Instructional Films
When Hugh joined the federal War Production Advisory Committee for advertising and industrial film producers and distributors in 1942, his company took on a pivotal role in the production of many military films. The war had a definite impact on both the Jamieson Film Company and family with both Hugh’s sons, Bruce and Hugh, Jr., serving in the military during World War II. The military also served as a training ground for many of Jamieson’s future employees who put their war-trained cinematography skills to work in commercial settings in the post-war era.
Few films from this time period have survived, but this film from 1962 provides an example of one of Jamieson’s military collaborations:
Vision in Military Aviation
Jamieson was also contracted to shoot films for non-military governmental projects. Jamieson worked with the Federal Security Agency and the United States Office of Education to produce this industrial film, which trains workers to test the strength of metal airplane parts. This is one of the earliest credited Jamieson films:
Aircraft Work Inspection, No. 5 - Hardness Testing (Rockwell) (1944)
In 1947, Jamieson moved to 3825 Bryan Street, which provided space for sound stages, recording studios, editorial and animation facilities, and color processing labs. Bruce and Hugh Jr. became increasingly involved in their father’s business and eventually took over leadership of the Company in 1953.
1950s-1970s: Commercials, Corporate Films, and the Rise of TV
Under the direction of Hugh’s two sons, Jamieson Film Company grew and developed into a studio concept business with cameramen, writers, editors, animators, and a lab. Although government and military contracts continued, the company was also working on numerous corporate films and television productions.
With the rise of TV, the Company became increasingly involved in the production of commercials and programs for the “small screen.” Jamieson provided support for the growing broadcast industry, creating special news coverage for NBC and building a small 16mm motion picture processing machine TV stations could use to process their own news film coverage. In the early 1950s, Jamieson Film Company produced a weekly thirty-minute news magazine television show, Texas in Review, sponsored by the Humble Oil & Refining Company. Bruce Jamieson was in charge of this program, and he wrote, developed, and produced the show, as well as the commercials. Texas in Review ran fifty-two weeks for four years. The archives of this show are held by Texas Tech University.
Jamieson’s Dallas location fueled the Company’s success as a producer and processor of commercial films: by the 1950s, the city was already home to numerous corporations that had grown up in Texas, and dozens more were moving into the state to take advantage of its pro-business spirit. Jamieson became a go-to source for film and television advertising in the Southwest, from concept to finished product. The Company created ads and training films for both local and national businesses, such as this promotional film for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company:
The Case of Jim Cannon
The Jamieson team worked with the advertising agency TracyLocke on the production of several television commercials in the 1950s and ’60s. Founded in 1913 by Shelley Tracy and Raymond Locke, TracyLocke Company is the advertising agency responsible for many campaigns that have integrated products made by Dallas-based companies into the fabric of everyday culture: coining the term “slacks” while working with Haggar, creating the “10-2-4” slogan for Dr. Pepper, and developing the name “7-Eleven.”
Imperial Sugar Commercial, no. 2, (late-1950s)
By the late 1960s, Jamieson had an impressive roster of local and national accounts, and had helped to foster several individuals who had opened production businesses in the Dallas Area. Beginning to be known as the “Third Coast,” Dallas was growing in popularity as a center for production. The Jamieson Demo reel gives an overview of the company facilities and clients during that time.
Jamieson Film Company Demo Reel
In spite of Jamieson's successes, by the 1970s film production was giving way to the cheaper and simpler editing medium of video. The Jamieson Film Company was dismantled in 1972 into a film lab and manufacturing division, and Bruce continued to work as an independent producer. In 1980, he served as a technical advisor for the Las Colinas project, an endeavor that aimed to provide Hollywood-caliber production facilities. Since the 1980s, Las Colinas has been the Southwest's creative hub for a number of film and television productions, including Oliver Stone's JFK, and such syndicated programs as Barney & Friends, and Prison Break. In his role as independent producer, Bruce created the following film for NASA in 1976.
Scout Launch Vehicle System and Ops
The grand scope of the Jamieson Company’s innovations and the variety of its productions—from “Kid Comedies” to newsreels, instructional films to television commercials—embodies the entire breadth of Texas filmmaking. As the first major motion picture facility in the Southwest, Jamieson Film Company was a crucial player in establishing Texas and Dallas as centers for filmmaking.
Talent Training Ground: The Legacy of the Jamieson Film Company
The Jamieson Film Company served as a training ground for many notable figures in the film industry in Dallas and beyond. The Company had a good reputation in the region, and many people who started at Jamieson went on to successful careers in the film industry.
Bill Stokes was a former teacher who broke into the film industry at Jamieson. In 1965, he formed Bill Stokes Associates, later to be known as The Stokes Group, a Dallas-based production company that made industrial and promotional films for a range of clients, from Mary Kay Cosmetics to the United States Navy. In 1966, Bill Stokes Associates provided sound stage and production services for the film Bonnie and Clyde.
The City of Dallas commissioned Stokes to create the following film, which provides instruction in freeway etiquette for the city’s drivers.
How Motor Cars and Other Living Things Can Find Happiness in the Dallas Freeway System
Robert Redd served as a combat motion picture cameraman in Korea in the early 1950s before moving to Dallas and working for Jamieson. He was in charge of quality control for the Company’s lab but soon advanced to the position of Vice President. In the early 1960s, Redd went on to open his own company, Producers Services Incorporated. He was also the founder and co-owner of TelePrint Inc. Redd worked with S.F. Brownrigg, Larry Buchanan, Zach Belchar, and others to produce films such as Zontar: The Thing from Venus, She-Devils, and It Came From the Basement.
Redd produced the following film about the Dallas Market Center in the early 1970s:
Dallas Market - Center of World Trade
Gordon Yoder, who worked for Jamieson in the late 1930s, processed film for the 1941 feature The Blood of Jesus (directed by colleague Spencer Williams) and served as assistant camera operator on Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946). During World War II, Yoder served as a cameraman in the military. In 1968, Yoder founded Professional Cine Products (later Gordon Yoder, Inc.) and eventually rose to fame as a news photographer.
Although not an employee of Jamieson, African American filmmaker Spencer Williams, also known for his role in TV’s Amos and Andy, worked with the Jamieson Company to process and edit his films for the Sack Amusement Company in the 1940s. He directed nine films in the Dallas area, including The Blood of Jesus (1941) and Juke Joint (1947).
In the mid 1950s, Bob Jessup arrived in Dallas from Florida, determined to work for Jamieson. Jessup quickly moved up from sweeping floors to the camera department and soon became department head. He also edited the Company’s cinematographer’s manual in the 1960s. He was elected to the American Society of Cinematographers in 1976 and worked on such projects as The Dukes of Hazzard and Dallas.
S.F. “Brownie” Brownrigg
S.F. “Brownie” Brownrigg worked as a soundman for Jamieson Film Company from 1960-1966. He started out in the sound department at age eighteen but soon worked his way up to become a film director and sound department head. Brownrigg went on to make several independent feature films including Don’t Look in the Basement, Scum of the Earth, Don’t Open the Door, and Keep My Grave Open and open Century Studios.
Joe Camp worked for Jamieson from 1969-1971. Camp recalls that Jamieson gave him the opportunity to demonstrate how quickly he could grasp new concepts and rise above the mediocre norm. Camp eventually came to feel that he couldn’t create quality work at the low costs mandated by the Company, so he left Jamieson to form Mulberry Square Productions, where he created the first Benji film.
Hope Yvonne Peters
Hope Yvonne Peters worked as a model and learned the ropes of the film business while working at Jamieson for twelve years. One of the few women in the industry at the time, Peters became a color specialist and timing expert and went on to work for Southwest Film Laboratory.
Cult film director Larry Stouffer worked for Jamieson and is known for directing the film Horror High, one of the few feature films produced by the Company, and writing and directing Sands of Ecstasy.
Jack Whitman worked for Hugh Jamieson as his cameraman in the early days of the Company. At the start of World War II, Whitman volunteered for the army and served as a combat cameraman. He would venture into the jungle with an Imo camera in one hand and a rifle in the other. After the war, Whitman ventured to Hollywood and eventually became John Wayne’s personal cameraman.
Dallas’s Starring Role Continues…
These are just a few of the many individuals who intersected with the Jamieson Film Company. The legacy of Jamieson continues on to the next generation with companies like Post Asylum and MPS Studios, both owned by sons of former Jamieson employees.
As a pioneer in film technology and production, the Jamieson Company paved the way for Dallas to become a leader in the film industry at both the state and national levels. The city’s starring role in the media business continues to this day: it serves as the home of dozens of film, television, and video game production companies and has provided locations and crew for a long list of prominent feature films, documentaries, and TV programs, including Benji (1973), Dallas (1978-1991), Tender Mercies (1981), Silkwood (1982), Places in the Heart (1983), The Karate Kid (1984), JFK (1991), Barney & Friends (1992- ), Boys Don’t Cry (1998), The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius (2001-2004), The Good Guys (2008), and the pilot for a new production of Dallas (2011). Dallas’s position as a major seat of American business continues to propel the commercial film production industry Jamieson spearheaded. If only Hugh Jamieson could see his “Third Coast” now.
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Many thanks to Johnny Beasley, Daniel Redd, John Slate, Joe Camp, Stacy Brownrigg, Mark Carlton, Daniel Redd, Steve Hall