“…a rare and highly varied glimpse into the pre-video life of commerce and politics in Raleigh.”
Century Film Studios was founded in Raleigh in the mid-1950s by O.B. Garris.
Garris hailed from Clayton, NC. He served for many years in the military, including a tour of the Pacific during WWII, where he was ultimately injured. He and his first wife Corinne eventually settled in Raleigh and raised four children here. Garris initially owned a photography studio called Star Photo in Washington state. Sometime between 1953 and 1955 Raleigh’s first television station WNAO hired Garris as a photographer (meaning cameraman in early television and filmmaking parlance). Sometime between 1956-1957 he moved over to WRAL where he made up part of its hard-hitting news staff. By 1957 he had established Century Studios, a company he and Corinne ran out of the basement of their house on Boylan Avenue in Raleigh. The company was active until the mid-1980s. During the 1970s and ’80s, he was assisted by his second wife, Lynn.
LOCAL MEDIA PRODUCTION SERVING LOCAL NEEDS
As televisions became ubiquitous in the 1950s-60s, advertisers turned to local production talent to produce short spots for their products and services. Companies like Garris’ Century Film Studios flourished, handling the advertising needs of local companies and also, in Garris’ case, acting as “roving” cameramen for local news stations, assisting in the production of longer format sponsored films, producing educational and training films, producing campaign films for area politicians, and sometimes lending talent to the production of locally made feature films. Century was, in essence, your one-stop local film production shop. The O.B. Garris collection, deposited at the State Archives of North Carolina in 1985 gives a rare and highly varied glimpse into the pre-video life of Raleigh’s commerce and politics.
Century Films Studios produced complete works or raw footage for the campaigns of various prominent North Carolina political figures: “Skipper” Bowles, United States Representative “Jim” Gardner, Tom Strickland, and Governors Dan K. Moore, Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt, James Holshouser, Bob W. Scott, and numerous others. They also produced short sponsored films for the likes of the North Carolina State Fair, NCSU, Allied Chemical, the North Carolina Police Information Network, the Boy Scouts, Edgar Cayce, the Department of Transportation in association with RJ Reynolds, and more. Other clients who hired them to produce commercials and PSAs include the United Fund, Duke Charity golf tournaments, the Record Bar, Mt. Olive Pickles, the United States Navy, and Holsum Bread.
Though this research component of the exhibit features short films and excerpts from longer films, the complete films are held at the State Archives of North Carolina. Graduate students and advanced undergraduates in Dr. Devin Orgeron’s Seminar in Nonfiction Media (ENG. 585 / Fall, 2015, North Carolina State University) were assigned films from the collection, which they then researched, establishing a context for understanding Garris’ work and the historical moment during which they were produced. Students dug deep into NCSU’s Special Collections and explored other local and regional repositories for materials related to Garris’ work.
Student researchers and collaborators:
A/V Geeks here in Raleigh who digitized all of the 16mm films, to Kim Andersen at the State Archives of North Carolina, and NCSU Libraries and staff, especially Josephine McRobbie, Jason Evans Groth, Marian Fragola, and Mike Nutt.
Also, our thanks and appreciation to Garris’ children and in-laws Candy and Wayne Hicks, Randi and Walt Ostack, and Garrett Garris for their assistance in offering background information on the company’s history and Garris’ biography.
Century Film Productions Motion Picture Films Collection was organized and described by Melissa Dollman for the State Archives of North Carolina. The website, screening, and exhibit were co-designed and implemented by Dollman (melissadollman.com), in collaboration with Dr. Devin Orgeron, Kim Andersen, and Skip Elsheimer (A/V Geeks).
And last, but not least…if you recognize anyone in a film featured in a student project, please contact Kim Andersen: firstname.lastname@example.org or Melissa Dollman via Leave a Reply below.
Century Film Productions logo, ca. 1980s.
Century Studios entry, Raleigh Yellow Pages, 1957.
Statesville Record and Landmark. May 31, 1976. Courtesy of Statesville Record and Landmark.
The Technician. Oct. 7, 1974. Courtesy of Special Collections Research Center at NCSU Libraries.
Photograph of O.B. Garris on the set of Somebody Moved My Mountain (ca. 1975). Courtesy of Belk Library Archives and Special Collections, Elon University.Photograph of O.B. Garris while on board a Navy ship during WWII (ca. 1940s). Courtesy of Randi and Walt Ostack.
Photograph of O.B. Garris while on board a Navy ship during WWII (ca. 1940s). Courtesy of Randi and Walt Ostack.
Photograph of O.B. Garris developing 16mm film at WRAL television studios, 1958. Courtesy of Capitol Broadcasting Company.