Modern Metropolis: Mid-Century Chicago on Film

Architecture critic Lee Bey introduces this quartet of lively shorts, drawn from the Chicago Film Archives, that showcase the city’s architecture in the 1960s and ’70s. Noted amateur filmmaker Margaret Conneely directed Chicago: City to See in ’63 (1962), a kaleidoscopic tour of the city with an Algrenesque voice-over narration; some of the sights are familiar (the lions at the Art Institute, Illinois Centennial Column in Logan Square), and some are long gone (the famous nightspots Mr. Kelly’s and the Gate of Horn). The New World of Stainless Steel (1960), an industrial film, includes views of local skyscrapers, and the trippy Chicago Breakdown (1976) alternates between scenes of day traders, a Playboy photographer shooting a nude pictorial, and DJ Larry Lujack spinning disks on WCFL. The most striking entry is The Building: Chicago Stock Exchange (1975), which documents the tragic demolition of the old stock exchange building in 1972. “They should be playing Mozart’s Requiem,” says the storied photographer and preservationist Richard Nickel as he surveys the wreckage; he would be killed during the demolition when part of the building collapsed.