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The Mime of Etienne Decroux

Gordon Wilkison

Silent | 1960s

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In this edited footage shot by Gordon Wilkison of Austin, the praised French pantomime Etienne Decroux performs his signature corporeal mime routines at the Baylor Theater in Waco. Decroux, credited as the “father of the modern mime,” redefined the modern art of pantomime in the second half of the 20th century with his theory of corporeal mime. He founded his own pantomime school in France during the 1940s, acted in several French films including Children of Paradise (1945), and published his theories of corporeal mime in his book Words on Mime.
Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation.  At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades - during the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
 
A particularly notable moment in his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas. 
 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
 
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
 
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.