Remembering Alan G. Barbour
Friend, author and film historian Alan G. Barbour passed away on February 12, 2002.
To those of us who, rightfully or otherwise, consider ourselves film historians of a sort, or just those of us who have a love for the Saturday Matinee films of the first three decades of the sound era, we lost a man that all of us owe a large and unpayable debt of gratitude.
His books and publications, i.e., 1965's ground-breaking The Serials Of Republic, 1972's Cliffhanger, Days Of Thrills And Adventures and publications such as Screen Nostalgia Illustrated and Movie Ads Of The Past, helped bring clarity and class to a field of film research that too often had neither.
Alan loved the genres he wrote so well about and it clearly showed in the quality of what he put his name on, and the care in which it was put together and presented. For me personally, although it has been over 12 years since we last communicated, the death of Alan Barbour represented the loss of a valued and respected colleague and, more importantly, a friend.
I think I first met Alan at a film convention in Houston in about 1970 and while I was aware of who he was, he didn't know me from Herman Hack. We met over breakfast one morning, quickly established each other as being kindred spirits with a shared goal of accuracy in our work, and stayed in contact over the next 15 years or so via those two ancient communication devices of the time known as the telephone and the postal system.
We also were together again at several film conventions, scattered across the country, over the next few years. It was at some of those that I was fortunate enough to get all of the stars in attendance to agree to doing video-taped interviews in a private one-on-one setting where we had set up lights and camera --- thanks to Dr. Dennis Harp of Texas Tech's Mass Communication Department --- and I was also bright enough to ask Alan to act as the interviewer on a great many of them. Which he graciously agreed to do. Actually, to be truthful, getting Alan in front of a camera was not that hard of a task.
Of the 200 or so video-taped interviews I've done over the years, ranging from thirty minutes to two hours in length, some of the best are those one-on-ones with Alan Barbour with people such as Bill Witney, Don Barry, Kay Aldridge, Yakima Canutt and others. His sense of humor, his thorough knowledge of the people and their work and the complete trust, respect and mutual admiration they all had for Alan shines through in all of them.
I had a grandfather who was a cowhand in the 1880's in Texas who never said much and who seldom passed a compliment, and whose highest expression of respect was a simple --- and not often given --- "he'll do."
I have a feeling he would have said that of Alan G. Barbour.
February 16, 2002