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Help Restore “The Eyes of the Totem”

At one time Tacoma was home to one of the biggest movie studios in the country. Now, thanks to the hard work and persistence of Tacoma's Historic Preservation Office, you have the chance to be a part of bringing a bit of that history back to life.

The time was the roaring 20s, and the films were silent. The studio, H.C. Weaver Productions, located at Titlow Beach, was second in size at the time only to MGM's main stages in Hollywood.

The film, The Eyes of the Totem, was one of at least three filmed in as many years (between 1925 and 1928) that featured Tacoma and Mount Rainier as their backdrops. This particular film took its name from the still standing Tacoma Hotel totem pole, and features historic sites around Tacoma, many of which you may recognize, some of which are lost to history.

The plot synopsis from IMDb:

After selling out a mining claim in the desolate and frigid north, Miriam Hardy moves to Tacoma with her husband and young daughter to start a new life. Things don't go as planned when her husband is murdered by a mysterious sinister eyed stranger, leaving Ms. Hardy a destitute widow. With the police unable to help find the murderer, Ms. Hardy is rescued by a kindly elderly beggar and taken in by a beggar's society. Miriam enrolls her daughter in a private seminary and lives a double life as a street beggar and a member of polite society, until a chance encounter one day leads her back to the sinister eyed stranger she has been seeking for years.

Director W.S. Van Dyke made two other films for Weaver before going on to Hollywood, where he would direct The Thin Man series and Tarzan the Ape Man. Weaver Productions went under when the public's attention turned from silent films to movies with sound, and all copies of this and the other films were thought to be lost. Then, last year, a complete copy of The Eyes of the Totem was discovered as part of Van Dyke's estate at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

A digital copy was captured, and it turns out the old film survived the decades in pretty good shape. The plan is to restore the five reel feature film and to re-release it for showing in Tacoma - nearly 90 years after its original 1927 premiere. From there it can go on to film festivals and other theaters, accompanied by an original music score that will be composed.

Composing that score, transferring the film from its original nitrate, and preparing the other programming to present it to the public again will be no small task - and no cheap one either. A group of dedicated history buffs and Tacoma-philes are working to make it happen - and to raise the $25,000 they estimate will be needed to make it happen.

If you'd like to be a part of this unique opportunity to see Tacoma's history come to life, there's a Kickstarter to raise money to restore and re-premiere The Eyes of the Totem. On the Kickstarter Page you can read more about the film, the studio, and the golden era of film in Tacoma.

Supporter thank yous include Beautiful Angle posters, Eyes of the Totem t-shirts, original letter press artwork, seats to exclusive early premiere screenings, and more. At last check they had raised $6,470 of the $25,000 goal, with 42 days left.

Who else wants to see this film all the way through?

Click here for the The Eyes of the Totem Kickstarter page.


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