It’s a long way from Casablanca to Knoxville, but some personal home movies of film star Ingrid Bergman have landed right in the hands of local media archivist Bradley Reeves. While the how, the why and the what are still pending, Reeves can only say he’s working on them.
The connection of Bergman to Knoxville, though, is not actually that far fetched. Just last month Reeves shared film from WBIR’s vault of Bergman planting a dogwood tree in Market Square in 1970. She was here for the premiere of “A Walk in the Spring Rain,” filmed in the area in 1969, at the old Capri Cinema (now Bennett Gallery) in Bearden. She left her handprints and signature in the sidewalk where they remain to this day.
This is the stuff that Reeves lives for, mining gold from neglected film cannisters lurking in storerooms, basements and attics everywhere.
“It’s been an incredible month, really,” he said. “I just wrapped up the Sonny Osborn (of the Osborn Brothers) collection, jumped straight into the Bergman films, and next I am onto the home movies of a 98-year-old veteran of World War II, Korea and Viet Nam.”
Reeves was a co-founder of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS) at the East Tennessee History Center. He walked away from his monumental intellectual and artistic contribution to area history four years ago.
“I’m proud of it, absolutely,” he said. “But it was just time to move on. I really like working for myself.” And life as a librarian wasn’t exactly his cup of tea. He took a full year off before going back into business on his own, and the work hasn’t let up.
Reeves, 50, was born and raised in Knoxville. “I did the Bearden schools straight through,” he said, and mostly grew up in the Timber Crest subdivision in his grandparents’ house with his mother and brother. His teenage years in the 80s left him unenthralled with hanging out at West Town Mall.
His bicycle was his means of escape to downtown, Market Square and the Old City. “I would spend hours just soaking up the essence of downtown. I’m so happy to see what it’s all become now. That’s where my love for local history started,” he said. It’s also where he fell in love with movies.
“When we were kids, our grandparents used to take us downtown to the Tennessee Theatre, where they would show all these classic movies,” Reeves said, referencing the Marx Brothers, Mae West, W.C. Fields and Frank Capra. “I remember the first time I walked in the place. My jaw dropped.”
His love of local history and movies put him squarely where he finds himself today. Though primarily known as a motion picture preservationist, he collects still photography as well as vintage vinyl. There’s simply not much in the world of vintage audio-visual collections that escapes his grasp, most of which he stores at home (he just recently moved from North Knoxville to Walland). When he’s not restoring film for pay, he’s out collecting more and sharing it with the world.
“Oh, I love estate sales,” he said, brimming with enthusiasm. “And often, truly 90% of the time, clients are fine with me sharing things relevant to local history, especially film of the Smoky Mountains.”
Fingers crossed some of those Bergman frames will be shared right here.
Beth Kinnane is a freelance writer and thoroughbred bloodstock agent.
Enjoy this carousel of photos from Reeves’s personal collection and view some of his YouTube channel here.