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Walter L. Morris Collection

 Collection
Identifier: MS-3669
The Walter L. Morris Papers includes biographical papers, theater promotional and operational papers, movie producer papers and movie reels from 1910-1999, with the bulk of the material covering 1922-1983.

Series I: Biographical Papers, 1923-1999 –- This series contains papers related to Morris’s personal life, including correspondence, resumes, high school programs, photographs, and publications.

Series II: Theater Promotion Papers, 1922-1970 April 8, undated -- This series consists of photographs, programs, promotional materials and tickler files Morris used to promote theaters he managed in East Tennessee, the East Coast and California.

Subseries A: Photographs, 1926-1969, undated –- This subseries includes photographs from performances in theaters Morris managed in the late 1920s, performers’ autographed photos from the 1940s, and stills from movies that ran from the 1920s-1960s.

Subseries B: Programs, 1922-1962, undated –- This subseries consists of programs and heralds from theaters Morris managed for Paramount, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox, and from theaters he operated himself in Knoxville and Oak Ridge.

Subseries C: Promotional Materials, 1929-1970 April 8 –- This subseries primarily contains novelty promotional materials from theaters Morris managed for Paramount, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox as well as theaters he operated himself in East Tennessee. It also includes promotional material for the re-release of Gone with the Wind, the English distribution of Strange World, and an advertisement for the world premiere of A Walk in the Spring Rain during the Dogwood Arts Festival in 1970.

Subseries D: Tickler Files, 1920-1962 March 19, undated –- Morris maintained file folders for time-sensitive promotions, which he called “tickler files”. These files include company memos, advertising manuals, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, photographs, and promotional materials related to holidays, themes, contests, and publicity stunts.

Series III: Theater Operation Papers, 1910-1999, undated –- This series includes documents, photographs and publications pertaining to Morris operating and managing movie theaters across the country and in East Tennessee.

Subseries A: Legal and Financial Papers, 1943-1985 –- This subseries contains legal documents, newspaper clippings, and a transcript related to Morris’s successful lawsuit to end theater monopolies in Knoxville. It also includes legal and financial documents tied to Morris leasing his Pike and Tower theaters to the Simpson Operating Company.

Subseries B: Management Papers, 1910-1999, undated –- This subseries consists of correspondence, business documents, blueprints, newspaper and magazine articles, and brochures regarding Morris’s management of theaters in Knoxville and Oak Ridge.

Subseries C: Photographs, 1920-1979 –- The bulk of this subseries contains photographs of Morris’s Pike (later named the Capri and the Capri-70/Cinerama-70) and Tower (later named the Lenox) theaters. It also contains photographs of other theaters in Knoxville.

Subseries D: Publications, 1945 August 18-1972 April 19 –- This subseries consists of publications and supplements with suggestions for running a successful movie theater, including Motion Picture Herald, Motion Picture Exhibitor, and Boxoffice.

Series IV: Movie Producer Papers and Reels, 1950-1977, undated -- This series reflects Morris’s time as a movie producer of two translated motion pictures and smaller-scale news reels. It contains movie scripts, newspaper clippings, journals and movie reels.

Subseries A: Scripts and Papers, 1950-1959, undated –- This subseries contains the movie script for 800 Leagues over the Amazon. It also includes a script and newspaper clippings related to Queen Juliana of the Netherlands’ visit to Knoxville and Norris Dam, and a script for a short subject film “Santa Claus Comes to Knoxville, Tenn.”

Subseries B: Publications, 1961 June-1977 June – This subseries consists of The Journal of the Producers Guild of America issues.

Subseries C: Reels, 1950-1959, undated – This subseries includes news reels and Strange World movie reels.

Series V: Oversized Materials, 1920-1992 -- This series contains materials that require larger storage containers.

Subseries A: Theater Promotion Papers, 1950-1971 – This subseries includes promotional materials for Strange World, the re-release of Gone with the Wind, and They Call Me Trinity.

Subseries B: Theater Operation Papers, 1920-1992 – This subseries includes blueprints, photographs, and publications related to Morris operating and managing movie theaters across the East Coast, California, and East Tennessee.

Dates

  • 1910-1999, undated

Language

The material in this collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Manuscript and University Archives collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 24 hours is needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.

Extent

7 Linear Feet (18 boxes)

Abstract

The Walter L. Morris Papers document the Knoxville native’s more than 50-year career in the movie theater business, managing movie theaters for Paramount (Publix), Warner Bros., and 20th Century Fox (Fox West Coast) and running his own theaters in Knoxville and Oak Ridge, Tenn. The collection includes biographical papers, theater promotional and operational papers, movie producer papers and movie reels from 1910-1999, with the bulk of the material covering 1922-1983.

Biographical/Historical Note

Walter Lee Morris was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on August 18, 1906. He graduated from Knoxville High School in 1924 and attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville for two and a half years, from 1924-1926. During high school and college, Morris worked in area movie theaters as an usher, chief of service, assistant manager and house manager. Morris held managerial positions at Paramount (Publix) Theatres, Warner Bros. Theatres, and 20th Century Fox (Fox West Coast) Theatres across the East Coast and in California from the late 1920s through the 1930s. He married his wife, Mary Moore Morris (d. 1996), in 1932. The couple had two children: Walter L. Morris, Jr. and Marianne Morris (Leech).

Morris returned to Knoxville in 1941, where opened the Lee Theatre in the Lonsdale neighborhood in northwest Knoxville. Concurrently, he supervised the construction and operation of movie theaters in Oak Ridge, Tennessee for the War Department and the Oak Ridge Recreational & Welfare Association. In 1946, Morris resigned from his general manager position in Oak Ridge to manage the Lee Theatre and to open the Pike Theatre in the Bearden neighborhood in West Knoxville. Two years later, he opened the Tower Theatre on North Broadway in North Knoxville. Morris operated his three theaters in Knoxville until 1956, when the Lee Theatre shut down. During the 1950s, Morris worked with Humbert “Al” O’Camp producing the international versions of Franz Eichhorn’s Strange World (1952, originally named Die Göttin vom Rio Beni) and Macumba (1956, originally named Conchita und der Ingenieur). In 1959, through his New Amusements Corp., Morris brought a $1 million anti-trust suit to federal court, accusing downtown Knoxville theatres, film makers and distribution firms of monopolizing on first-run movies and disallowing suburban theaters like his Pike and Tower to bid on these films. By 1962, after appealing the initial ruling in his favor because he deemed the damages too low, Morris received an undisclosed cash settlement and bidding arrangement with film distributors.

Morris managed the Pike and the Tower until 1963, when he leased the theaters to Simpson Operating Company of Atlanta, Ga. The theaters were renamed the Capri (Pike) and the Lenox (Tower). He oversaw renovations to the Capri Theatre, specifically after the State of Tennessee bought the Lenox to tear down for the I-640/Broadway interchange project in 1965. He used the proceeds to build an adjoining Capri-70 (Cinerama-70) Theatre to the Capri. After Morris’ death in August 1985, the Simpson Operating Co. purchased the Capri theaters and ran them until Regal Cinemas leased the theaters in the early 1990s. The theaters closed in the mid-1990s.

Arrangement

The collection consists of 18 boxes and is arranged in the following series:

Arrangement

  1. Series I: Biographical Papers, 1923-1999
  2. Series II: Theater Promotion Papers, 1922-1970 April 8, undated
  3. Series III: Theater Operation Papers, 1910-1999, undated
  4. Series IV: Movie Producer Papers and Reels, 1950-1977, undated
  5. Series V: Oversized Materials, 1920-1992

Previous Citation

This collection was previously listed as MS.1073 and MS.2738.

Acquisition Note

Walter L. Morris and Marianne Morris Leech donated the collection between 1980 and 2005.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

Contact:
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA
865-974-4480