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Rick Mitchell - A Rememberance

Read more at
in70mm.com
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Dan Sherlock, Hollywood, USA Date: 31.10.2011
Rick Mitchell at a reception a few years ago wearing his frequently-worn "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" crew jacket. Photo courtesy of Dan Sherlock

At the end of September, film historians and motion picture technology researchers lost one of the most well known and respected sources of information about the subject. Film historian, editor, and sound editor Rick Mitchell passed away of natural causes in his apartment in Los Angeles just south of Hollywood. If you didn’t know Rick personally but the name seems kind of familiar, it may be from reading his articles on film formats and motion picture history, or his letters to the editor in the Los Angeles Times, Cinefantastique magazine, and American Cinematographer magazine as well as other publications and web sites. Or perhaps you spotted him at screenings in the Hollywood area wearing his seemingly ever-present "STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE" crew jacket. (He was an assistant film editor on that movie, and it gave him the chance to work with director Robert Wise whom Rick greatly admired.)

I only knew Rick for around 15 years or so, so these writings are more of a collection of personal memories and events rather than a full biography.

I first met him while waiting for a meeting to start of the Hollywood branch of the SMPTE. I was talking to someone, and mentioned that I was the one who had written the extensive corrections document for the book Wide Screen Movies. Rick overheard my comment – as it turns out, he had done a non-flattering review of the book for the magazine The Perfect Vision and asked if he could get a copy of my document. I recognized his name from the article he had written, "The History of Wide Screen Formats" in the May 1987 issue of American Cinematographer, and from a number of “letters to the editor” comments he had written to that same publication.

We continued to see each other at SMPTE meetings, and at screenings of films in 70mm. We started sending letters back and forth (this was before he discovered e-mail) and we both found that we had missing bits of information that we each had found in our research that had eluded the other person. And of course, given two fanatics that were hungry for filling in those missing gaps, we would sometimes wind up talking for hours when we would meet.
 
More Rick Mitchell in 70mm reading:

Rick Mitchell, interviewed

"Windjammer"
| "How The Wset Was Won" | "How the West Was Won" | "Cleopatra" | "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" | "The Bat Whispers" | "Scent of Mystery" | "Carousel"

70MM Come Back!!!

An Historical Overview Of Wide Screen Motion Pictures

The Wide Screen Revolution

Digital Cinema Initiatives

Ultra Panavision 70 An introduction

New Progress in Film Preservation

Charlton Heston | Robert Wise | Richard Fleischer

Internet link:


 
Rick Mitchell photographed by Tom March

Rick was born in 1946, and told me that he had spent his youth in Lexington, KY - not exactly the roadshow capital of the world, his interest in film formats and technology developed at an early age. I found out that Rick had attended the University of Southern California’s school of cinema and graduated in 1974. His fellow classmates/friends included Richard L Anderson who went on to serve as a sound editor on over a hundred films including “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, and Ben Burtt who went on to do sound design and editing for many films, and helped create many of the sound effects for “Star Wars” and the Indiana Jones films, and who also got “acting” credit as the voice of “Wall-E”.

Rick was involved in the committee that put on an annual widescreen festival at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Center at the California State University at Long Beach, and kindly recommended me to help a bit with some of the festivals. Those festivals included a number of rare screenings, including “Porgy and Bess”, and a screening of "Forbidden Planet" in Perspecta sound, as well as many 70mm presentations.

Rick had an amazing memory for facts and details. I sat with him at many presentations and lectures, and he never wrote down any notes. Yet, the next day I would be copied on an e-mail that would describe the event, including what film clips were shown, what dates and details were presented, the names of the presenters, and sometimes even what format had been projected for each clip. Once I realized that he just remembered all of these details, I would sometimes introduce him to people and show why I considered him an expert: I would ask the person to name any obscure film from the 1950’s through the 1980’s, and Rick could without fail immediately name the studio, the year it was released, the director, the cinematographer, the film format, and the sound format.

Rick loved films and he loved film, meaning he loved the look that film could give to an image. Rick did not own a television, partly because he couldn’t stand commercials and pan-and-scan, but also because he just couldn’t bear to watch a movie on a small screen when he could watch a ‘scope 16mm print on his huge screen in the living room of his apartment, or go to the numerous screenings of films around the Los Angeles area. I sat with him at a number of 4K digital cinema screenings, and asked him what he thought of the quality; his response was that it was getting better, but it still had a way to go to look better than film.

Rick has passed on, but much of his knowledge persists as articles, e-mails, and those dozens and dozens of letters to the editors of numerous publications. But most of the articles were done in the name of correcting errors, and in the vast majority of cases he was correct. The best summary of Rick’s legacy is posted in a tribute to him at widescreenmuseum.com: “He kept a lot of us honest.”

Rick Mitchell, besides having written many articles and countless “letters to the editor” comments to numerous publications, was also an assistant film editor on "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", "Rich Man, Poor Man" (TV Miniseries), "Car Wash", "The Last Remake of Beau Geste", "Bustin’ Loose", "Swamp Thing", and "The Jesse Owens Story" (TV Miniseries). He was a film editor on "Funny Business" (TV), "In God We Tru$t", "Evil Altar", "Memorial Day Massacre", "Legion of Iron", "Blood Games", "Breathing Fire", "Mind, Body, and Soul", and "Death’s Door". He was a foley editor on "Die Hard", "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane", "Matinee", "In the Mouth of Madness", "2 Days in the Valley", "Dante’s Peak", "Anastasia", "Lethal Weapon 4", "Innocents", "Traffic", and "Agent Cody Banks". He was also a foley editor on dozens of films, but he is uncredited on many of them.
 

Rick was always a guy who I enjoyed talking to at the assorted Cinerama get-togethers. Great guy.

My sincere condolences to all....

Matt Lutthans



Sorry to those of his friends that I missed.

Tom March
 

A memorial get-together

 
A memorial get-together will be held in the Linwood Dunn theatre at the Academy's Pickford Center in Hollywood on Friday, November 18th at 7 PM. I am setting up having the event video recorded (in hi-def, of course... We ARE talking about Rick after all... Of course, 65mm would have been even more like Rick...) Feel free to spread the word.

20.11.2011:

The wake went well. There were several dozen people there - most of them associated with movies since that was Rick's main interest. It was more of an upbeat celebration of Rick, and how he was a virtual walking encyclopedia. The screenings of the 'scope 16mm films made by Rick in the early 1970's proved a bit of a challenge since the booth wasn't used to 'scope 16mm; we went though several anamorphic attachments until we found one that would fit the prime and still wouldn't be cropped by the projection port. And as is often the case with events about film formats, many stood around for 2-3 hours afterwords talking.
 
 

Rick Mitchell Filmography

 
I’ve been updating Rick’s Filmography since he never got credit on many of his early jobs and later would only take foley editing screen credit on films in a widescreen format, so www.IMDB.com was rather incomplete. Luckily a list was found in his computer files. I have attached this below for those of you who are interested.

Richard Anderson


Director
1991 Breathing Fire (reshoots)

1974 The Scarlet Blade

1971? Spaghetti Western (director, credited as “Sergio Spumoni”)

Show Editor
2008 Death's Door

1996 Vice Academy 5 (contributing editor)

1993 Good Girls Don't (additional editor)

1993 The New Kid (short)

1992 Mind, Body & Soul

1991 Breathing Fire

1991 Grave Images (Avid Readers episode)

1990 Blood Games

1990 Legion of Iron

1988 Evil Altar

1988 Memorial Valley Massacre

1985 Psyche

1980 In God We Tru$t (contributing editor)

1980 The Heart of Hollywood (short)

1978 Funny Business (TV documentary)

Show Editorial Department (assistant editor)
1986 Pleasures (TV movie)

1984 The Jesse Owens Story (TV miniseries)

1983 Remembrance of Love (TV movie)

1982 The Mississippi (TV series)

1981 My Palikari (TV movie)

1982 Swamp Thing

1981 Bustin' Loose

1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture

1978 Sgt. Peppers’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

1977 The Last Remake of Beau Geste

1976 Force Five (TV Pilot)

1976 Rich Man, Poor Man (TV miniseries)

1976 Car Wash

1974 Sarah T.—Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (TV movie)

1974 Sons and Daughters (TV series)

1974 Lucas Tanner (TV Pilot)

1974 Senior Year (TV Pilot)

1973 A Case of Rape (TV movie)
 
 
Sound Department (foley editor) Rick only took screen credit on anamorphic films *)
2003 Agent Cody Banks (foley editor)

2003 Bringing Down the House (uncredited)

2002 Stuart Little 2 (uncredited)

2001 The Majestic (uncredited)

2001 Cats and Dogs (uncredited)

2001 Unconditional Love (uncredited)

2001 Just Visiting (uncredited)

2000 Traffic (foley editor)

2000 Disney’s The Kid (uncredited)

2000 Urban Legends: Final Cut (uncredited)

2000 Innocents (Dark Summer) (foley editor)

1999 Being John Malkovich (uncredited)

1999 Antz (uncredited)

1998 Lethal Weapon 4 (foley editor)

1998 Virus (uncredited)

1997 Sour Grapes (uncredited)

1997 Anastasia (foley editor)

1997 Dante's Peak (foley editor)

1996 Daylight (uncredited)

1996 Norma Jean and Marilyn (uncredited)

1996 2 Days in the Valley (foley editor)

1996 The Pallbearer (sound editor)

1995 Getting Away with Murder (uncredited)

1995 Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead (uncredited)

1994 The Little Rascals (uncredited)

1994 The Lion King (uncredited)

1994 In the Mouth of Madness (foley editor)

1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas (uncredited)

1993 Hard Target (uncredited)

1993 Cool Runnings (uncredited)

1993 Matinee (foley editor)

1992 Hoffa (sound editor)

1992 Batman Returns (uncredited)

1992 Noises Off (uncredited)

1991 Best of the Best (uncredited)

1991 Back in the U.S.S.R. (uncredited)

1990 Breathing Fire (uncredited)

1990 Exorcist III (uncredited)

1990 The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (foley editor)

1989 Tremors (uncredited)

1989 Road House (uncredited)

1989 Action Jackson (uncredited)

1988 Three Fugitives (uncredited)

1988 Cocktail (uncredited)

1988 Die Hard (foley editor)

1987 Robocop (uncredited)

1987 Harry and the Hendersons (uncredited)

1986 Psyche (uncredited)

Show Film Librarian
1968-1970 Universal Studios

Extra
1967 The Flim-Flam Man (in Lexington, Ky)

Professional Organizations of which he was a member
Society of Operating Cameramen
The Widescreen Association
Art Directors Film Society
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
Academy of Science Fiction and Horror Films
Delta Kappa Alpha (the Cinema Fraternity at U.S.C.)
University of Southern California Cinema-Television Alumni Association
Motion Picture and Television Editors Guild, Local 700

Selected Published Works
"History of wide screen formats"; American Cinematographer, May 1987: pp. 36-41.
"Laboratory: b/w stock footage for "The Jesse OwensStory"; American Cinematographer, December 1984: pp. 89-92.
"The tragedy of 3-D cinema"; Film History. V.16 no.3; 2004. pp. 208-215.
"Art and cinema"; Films in Review, Sep/Oct 1996, pp. 70-71.
 
*)

Rick had a quirk (among several quirks) that he refused to have his name listed on a movie he worked on if it wasn't in the 'scope aspect ratio; I'm not sure of what was done with Super 35 movies.) So, you may get some corrections as the list gets checked for on-screen credits.

Dan Sherlock
 
   
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