Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times (1936). (Courtesy Everett Collection)

You talking to me?

Well I’m the only one here. 

In the Q&A section of the College Review, the Core’s email newsletter, we asked alumni to share their memories of Doc Films, which celebrated its 90th anniversary last year.


One night I was in the balcony of Cobb Hall running the projectors, with a friend keeping me company and a full house below. Because each reel held only 30 minutes of film, the projectionist had to manually switch projectors, starting the second machine before the end of the reel on the first. Ideally, the process would be imperceptible to the audience.

When I leaned over to do the switch, my long red hair got caught in the take-up reel, like a scene from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Luckily, my friend jumped up, turned off the projectors, and turned on the lights. By then my head was craned back towards the take-up reel. He meticulously disentangled the long strands from the reel. It took him about 15 minutes. Then on with the show!—Abby Freedman, AB’71

Night deposit

After the audience went home and we counted our proceeds, one of us had to take the money to the bank for a night deposit. Weekend showings sometimes meant a couple thousand dollars. One Saturday night, it was my turn to take the cash to the bank, riding in the back seat of a campus squad car. You can’t get out unless someone opens the door from the outside. We had just arrived at the bank as an APB came out that someone was slashing tires along the street. Both policemen jumped out. While I sat in the back seat with this bag full of cash, a guy yanked my door open and yelled, “Run!”—Paul Preston, AB’72, AM’73


In 2012 at Doc, I saw an action thriller called Looper about time-traveling hitmen. The protagonist studies French in hopes of retiring to France, to which his boss says—I’ll never forget this—“I’m from the future. Go to China.” The studio actually subtly developed the film with lines like that to appeal to Chinese officials and audiences. I learned that recently because I happen to work with one of the film’s producers (and possibly the most interesting person in the world).—Michael Sexton, AB’13

Film noir

I don’t remember a single screening that was resplendent among others, but Doc Films was a great education in the history of film. I attended two or three showings a month max, but I always read the short paragraphs about what was showing (how else do you decide what you want to see?) and through this absorbed a lot about directors, genres, periods, and stars. These days I watch a lot of classic films from the 1940s and 1950s, especially film noir, and I find that what I bring to my viewing experience is likely to be something that I learned from Doc Films. So thanks, all these many years later!Orin Hargraves, AB’77


The first date my wife, Patricia Schafer, SB’68, and I had was at Doc Films. After the outer doors were closed, one of the Doc members introduced the film. He said it was unusual, even for Doc, and gave us the opportunity to have our money refunded. No one took him up on the offer, being good, curious U of C students. The film: Flaming Creatures, showing various sexual inclinations and activities, with almost amateurish film production “values.” We still occasionally remind each other about the somewhat funny, somewhat embarrassing experience, almost six decades later.—Sam C. Masarachia, SB’67


Sean Carr, AB’90, author of “Once Upon a Time at Doc” in the Winter/23 Core, responds: Flaming Creatures is one of those movies I know of but haven’t seen. My last quarter in the College, I took a class on avant-garde film, and we watched Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, which features a leatherman orgy set to Elvis’s “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise.” So that’s burned into my memory. Never told my parents part of their tuition payments subsidized that.

Next question: What was your experience of time in the College? Did you turn in your work months—or years—late? Did you routinely pull all-nighters or rise with the sun? Did College seem to last forever, or was it over in the blink of an eye? Send your theories on the meaning of time to