Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

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Feel free to discuss any topic related to the Mitchell Camera. Both 35 mm and 16 mm models are welcomed here. Also consider posting topics of other major motion picture cameras that you feel are important to the development of the Mitchell Camera. Feel free to upload a photo from the option on each new post.
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Temporary custodian

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by Temporary custodian » Wed Feb 10, 2021 8:00 pm

Hi Mark,
I was hoping you may be able to tell me something about my Standard Mitchell number 27. All I know is that it was sold to MGM in 1927.
Would you possibly know who purchased this camera from Mitchell and which movies it has shot? Collectors must be grateful for the selfless work you are performing in helping them discover some of the provenance of cameras in their collections. Thanks again.
Kind regards.
John
(in Australia)

marop
Posts: 114
Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by marop » Wed Feb 10, 2021 9:06 pm

Hello John in Australia! I'm at work and will have to check my records tomorrow. Be aware that information I have on what these cameras filmed is spotty. That is an old camera. How did you know MGM purchased it in 1927? It was probably made around 1923. I was working on an article about researching these cameras. I should probably finish it to give you some info on how to look for history yourself. Does the camera have all matching serial numbers?

Mark

Temporary custodian

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by Temporary custodian » Thu Feb 11, 2021 3:17 am

Hi Mark,

The gentleman who owned my Mitchell number 27 is a Director/ Cinematographer (retired) He gifted the camera to me a couple of years ago and it is missing parts. He now can't find them so I have 2 choices. One is to keep waiting because it's better to have matching numbers. The second option is to buy the missing parts from someone in the USA because it would be almost impossible to find them here. As you know it is frequently the case that Directors and Cinematographers are more interested in getting the movie shot and have no interest in the provenance of the camera. They just want a perfectly functioning camera. I was the same once when acting as Producer of cinema commercials. I did not look at the camera as I was totally occupied in having my arm over the shoulder of the client saying "everything will be alright" I wish I had checked out the Mitchell 35mm cameras at the time but I did not know that I would later become an avid 35mm camera collector and Mitchell fan
I think I am lucky that my mate even knew the camera was sold to MGM in 1926. The only other information he provided was that it was bought by David Koffel from Burns and Sawyer in 1965 and brought here to Australia at that time. i tried to find the names of movies shot by MGM in 1926 and was amazed to see that MGM filmed so many at that time. I have no way of knowing which of them my Mitchell shot so would appreciate any light you may be able to throw on the subject. I do appreciate that you have offered to assist me so thanks in anticipation. Kind regards. John

mediaed
Posts: 138
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:53 pm

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by mediaed » Thu Feb 11, 2021 6:45 am

John,

Happy to hear that #27 is a survivor. Please consider registering your camera with our effort to inventory all the Mitchell cameras still in existence. The fee is nominal and helps keep this site alive and functioning. We send you a registration ownership certificate listing the full date of sale to the original owner and the name. Yours would be the second oldest in our registry which can be seen in the tabs from the main menu here. The oldest registered is, of course #5 now owned by The American Cinematographer Society and on display at the clubhouse.
You are correct about the provenance as this was the 6th Mitchell sold to MGM.
It is somewhat older than you were told.
Please include pictures to this post. Would be interested in what other Mitchell paraphernalia you may have as well.

Best,

Ed Johnson - Director, mitchellcamera.com

Temporary custodian

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by Temporary custodian » Thu Feb 11, 2021 2:09 pm

Hi Ed,

Thank you for letting me know that I have in my possession such a rare Mitchell. I will take a few photos of it in it's present state but be prepared for a shock as the gentleman who gifted it to me had removed a number of parts and cannot remember where they are. I have seen under his house and the mountain of motion picture items is staggering. I call him every so often to ask if he has been able to find the Mitchell #27 parts but I don't want to reach the stage whereby I am becoming a nuisance. I am now considering the option of buying the parts for folks in the USA but this will mean that although number 27 is clearly identified inside the case some of the parts I purchase will be from other Mitchell cameras. A Mitchell Directors viewfinder came with the camera but sadly it was modified on top with a sliding panel so that an operator could slide it open to look inside the finder. The person making the modification obviously did not care about the Mitchell emblem and it has been thrown out but the guys at MGM have professionally stamped the small but clear lettering MGM 284 into the brass section of the finder. I compliment you folks on your efforts to inventory all the Mitchell cameras still in existence. It's an admirable cause and I'd like to participate. How do I proceed? Can I update photos of the 27 once I have acquired the parts to make it look like a Mitchell again? I'll now proceed to inventory my other Mitchell cameras as well. I have a second Mitchell standard with matching serial numbers from 1930, an NC and 2 Mitchell blimps without cameras inside. It's Friday morning here right now and LA is Thursday afternoon so I'll take the photos and attach them to my next message to you. Kind regards. John

mediaed
Posts: 138
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:53 pm

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by mediaed » Thu Feb 11, 2021 2:32 pm

My gut feeling would be to offer him a cash pay to clean out his stash...
What are your blimps? BNC or BNCR?
I have built a prop in the past to fill an empty BNC and have a BNC conversion on the bench searching for parts and eventually an empty blimp to put it into.
If you like, I will send the three videos on the prop build.

ED.

Temporary custodian

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by Temporary custodian » Thu Feb 11, 2021 6:54 pm

Good afternoon from Brisbane. The gentleman who gifted me the Mitchell standard is one of those rare human beings who gives away parts of his collection to people who value and respect the items. I offered to pay him for the Mitchell standard after I took delivery of it and he refused to accept any payment all. Offering him money would therefore possibly have an adverse effect. I must say I respect this type of guy as there are so few of them on this planet. I called him again today and he has said that he will conduct a search again for my parts. In regard to my 2 blimps: would you be prepared to sell me some type of camera insert that I could put inside one of my blimps? I am not sure of the answer to your question regarding the type of blimps I have because I don't know how to tell the difference. The serial numbers on the film magazine housings do not identify the camera blimp as they are interchangeable. One magazine blimp is identified as Mitchell BNC10 and the other has no Mitchell badge but is identified with a nice brass plate on the front stating BNCR number 68 and 1948 plus "Made for MGM studios" I'd better take a number of photos of the interior of the camera housings and ask you to tell me what the camera housings are. i have paid for the registration and certificate for Mitchell standard number 27.

KInd regards.

John

marop
Posts: 114
Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by marop » Thu Feb 11, 2021 8:46 pm

John,

Good evening from California. You are lucking to have a Mitchell camera from a major studio like MGM. As Ed touched on, your camera is pre 1927. It’s first buyer from Mitchell was MGM though so the date just may have been confused or mistaken over time. Unfortunately I have no filming history on Mitchell Standard no. 27. Searching for history through records is a tough one. Many records have been destroyed. I own a Mitchell Standard, first purchased by Paramount in 1931. I got lucking as Paramount made blimps for them during sound filming (Standards were used in the 1930’s for sound filming until Paramount bought NCs in the late 30’s). The lucky part is that Paramount painted the camera serial number on the outside, in large numbers. I was able to find behind the scenes photos of the blimps. I looked through probably thousands. Some of which displayed my camera’s serial number. You obviously can’t see the camera but this documents it’s use on a particular movie. MGM however did not do what Paramount did. MGM merely gave their blimps what is probably an inventory number starting with single digits and going up to 2 digits. I am not aware if MGM gave each of their cameras a matching inventory number or not. One thought is to look over the camera to see if this is a possibility. I don’t recall seeing very high numbers, perhaps only as high a 16 or so? So look over your camera.

One avenue to explore is searching for the original “camera report”. I’ll assume you know this is the daily filming record of each camera (including serial number), footage, project title, etc. Those reports are few and far between but Gold if you find them. There are some libraries that may have them but may not be specifically identified as such. One library is the Margaret Herrick Library in Los Angeles. They have an online search as well but all records may not be itemized yet. Sometimes other filming documents may contain the camera number.

If you are correct on the Blimp, marked BNC10, it was first sold to Warner Brothers in England.

Mark

Guest

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by Guest » Fri Feb 12, 2021 12:19 am

Thanks again to you guys for providing so much helpful information. I have taken a couple of photos of one of my camera blimps. It is clearly marked BNC73 on the Directors viewfinder and even the Mitchell number on the matt box is 73, As you can see by the photos there is also a brass badge on the matt box with some numbers and the lettering 20th Century Fox. The magazine blimp fits but I reckon it would be best if I replace it with Mitchell blimp BNC10. I have always wanted to put something inside so that folks can see there is a camera inside. Do you know of something I could acquire to achieve this? It does not need to be working. The gentleman who gifted me the Mitchell number 27 actually gave it to me so that I could have a camera inside my blimp. Of course Mitchell 27 is too rare to hide and should be displayed individually as the rare camera it is. I will check out the library in LA you suggested and go looking through photos of movie sets to see if I can find my blimp number 73. Kind regards. John
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marop
Posts: 114
Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Post by marop » Fri Feb 12, 2021 10:24 am

John,

Thanks for sharing the photos! We love photos here so would like more from you. BNC 73 was in fact first sold to 20th Century Fox in 1948. Another cool artifact. When searching for the BNCs on sets, look below the camera for the lens box. They often had a set of lenses in a box that had the serial number painted on it. I’ll try to post a pic later as an example. Of course you have a number painted on the viewfinder but you don’t know when that was done. I don’t see that often.

I have no filming history info on BNC 73. However, BNC 10 my master record shows I have multiple pictures of it in set. I don’t know specifics at the moment as I have to go through my records. Also it could be multiples from the same movie or a couple different ones so cross your fingers.

More to follow,

Mark

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