Documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim

Documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim

If you’ve ever been to the arch chances are you’ve seen the movie about how it was the gateway to the West was created.

But the man who created the film itself cast a long shadow as well, as a pioneer not of the west but of the documentary.

His name was Charles Guggenheim and even though he was a native of Cincinnati his contributions to St. Louis go beyond just the film about the arch. In the early 1950’s he was one the first general manager of channel nine.

His documentaries won four academy awards. Exploring topics as varied as civil rights and the Johnston flood. He also produced campaign commercials for democratic candidates, films for presidential libraries.

The great St. Louis bank robbery was a Guggenheim feature film starring a young Steve McQueen. Now, his daughter Grace is making her own contribution to St. Louis history.

“She has actually donated not the final copies of his films but sort of what you folks call b-roll and the material used to produce the final films and it will all be coming here. It actually is here in St. Louis now.” Said Dr. Robert Archibald of the Missouri History Museum.

Dozens of crates of Guggenheim’s raw materials will be cataloged and archived at the Missouri History Museum. They are available for viewing by those interested in both his topics and his techniques.

Charles Guggenheim also created political ads for democratic candidates in the 60’s and 70’s. But when political advertising began to turn vicious he moved on. Proclaiming, “If you play the piano in a house of ill repute, it doesn`t make a difference how well you play the piano.”

Although Guggenheim died in 2002, his name and traditions live on through his son davis, born in St. Louis, who won an academy award of his own for the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”


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