Friday, March 06, 2015

A Tribute to Albert Maysles

This post, written by archivist Craig Breaden, was originally published on this blog in 2009. Today, our staff learned of the passing of director Albert Maysles and wanted to repost this entry to highlight his short career in politics.   

Two jewels in the Russell Library's collection of campaign ads come from the Carl Sanders collection. In 1970 Sanders ran a losing race against Jimmy Carter, whose populist message effectively countered the image Sanders cultivated: the cool competence of a former governor and skilled attorney. The Sanders 1970 campaign, unsuccessful as it may have been, yielded some of the more interesting political ads ever televised.

In 1969 Sanders hired the Burton Campbell Advertising Agency to develop his public image. One of Burton Campbell's chief creative writers was Hugh Wilson (who would later find great success as writer and producer of WKRP in Cincinnati). Wilson was enamored with the work of the Maysles brothers, creators of "direct cinema" documentaries whose art was elevating the ordinary or, conversely, bringing the extraordinary back down to earth (check out the Gimme Shelter or Grey Gardens, two of their masterpieces). Wilson hired Albert Maysles to shoot the ads, and in the summer of 1969 Maysles followed Sanders for four days, shooting five hours of film. Two longer commercials were edited from this footage, with, as Sanders's confidante Judge Norman Underwood put it, "impressive but not persuasive" results. Hugh Wilson put it this way: "I'm the man who got Jimmy Carter elected governor of Georgia." For a look at the commercials, check out this playlist on the Russell Library Audiovisual Collections YouTube Page.

Craig Breaden's longer article on the Sanders/Maysles campaign ads, "Carl Sanders and Albert Maysles: Direct Cinema meets Georgia Politics, 1969" appears  in the Fall 2009 issues of
The Journal of the Moving Image from the Association of Moving Image Archivists.

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