Capturing Utah's Beauty On Film
Al and Thelma’s interest in cameras began in the 1920’s with the kinetescope. Al Morton took an interest in Thelma as well as the idea of moving pictures, partly because Thelma played the organ while black and white movies rolled by. She could adjust the sound to what was on screen; fast, slow or frantic. Color film had not yet been invented. After their marriage they owned several types of cameras. Celluloid film had not yet found a predictable width or spacing of sprockets. With Bell and Howell 8 mm camera in hand (1938), they began to make movies with plots plus a makeshift way to have sound. Some movies were strictly hers, most were his, but they were a team in anything they created. Al invented and patented gadgets to make filming easier: a remote control, an editor with two spools, a waterproof cover for the camera, a title board, portable two record turntable and a way to attach cameras to give his scenes a sense of driving. Thelma was responsible for sound, the remote control and help with narration. She also developed many plots and they wrote them out scene by scene. Al started his first movie club called The Amateur Cinema League, composed of friends and neighbors. Then he began to write regular articles for movie magazines, illustrated by using his new Speed Graphic. From that day on Thelma was in charge of the enlarger and print room they built together. In 1939 he began a large movie club called the Utah Cine Arts Club to attract a larger group of people and a different judging system. The rules, constitution and logo were his design. In the meantime, Thelma had changed how she used the enlarger, turning it on its side, shooting through an open doorway to expose a mural size photo. When these were well rinsed and dried, she laid them out and tinted them with Marshall paints and a cue tip. She learned to cut mats and frame this work. These large prints of Utah’s unseen beauty were purchased by Union Pacific, Sears, the state capital, Insurance Companies, the Hotel Utah and other large businesses which were interested in publicizing Utah as a tourist destination. Following a plan by FDR to create a new National Park in the Four Corner’s area, Al and Thelma Morton set out to film scenery unknown to most Utahan’s or others. When they had filmed areas like Bryce, Zion, Dead Horse Point, Arches and The Green River area, Al Morton joined up with Harris and Brennan River Expeditions to popularize Utah’s scenic river ways – in wooden boats like Major Powell’s. All of Alton’s movies went from national acclaim to the halls of Washington DC. Now John and Robert Kennedy wanted to create at least one national park which Al Morton called Corner Country. The result was new National Parks: Arches, Canyonlands and Grand Staircase National Monument and many designated Recreation Areas. Alton Morton joined an expedition into Mexico, planned by Cross Tours. Poorly planned, the group ran out of food and water within a few days, they were rescued by Tarahumara Indians. The result for Al Morton was a fatal fungal infection. When he died in 1985 he and Thelma had been making movies together for almost 60 years. Born in the 1905 his acceptance of women in a polling booth or in a “man’s job” allowed an incredible amount of freedom for his wife and four daughters. I have been surprised to realize how much of his philosophy advanced the cause of women’s rights.
Format: 8 x 10 Color Paperback, 149 pages
Publisher: Outskirts Press (Dec 03, 2018)
Genre: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs