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“Lincoln Cries” takes a funny look at corruption

John Davies was a television producer for most of his adult life, and so was Tom Weinberg. They met decades ago at WTTW-Ch. 11 and have forged separate careers making movies about just about anything. On Wednesday, they will gather for the theatrical screening of “Lincoln Cries: Crooks, Grafters and Illinois Governors.”

This is a film produced by Davies (along with Brian Kallies and David Truitt). The evening will include a conversation moderated by former TV reporter Mike Flannery, featuring Davies, Weinberg, Phil Ponce and political consultant Delmarie Cobb. The special guest is actor and writer Tim Kazurinsky, who starred in the film.

My colleague Michael Phillips didn’t care much He liked the movie when he first saw it, but others had seen it in the Daily Southtown. call him It was “an entertaining look at the state’s history of systemic political corruption” and was especially entertaining for people who had no first-hand experience of dirty political action on the local scene.

“People from other states are shocked when they see this film,” says Davies. “This idea came to me over the years. Look, I’m not a serious news producer, so on the advice of the people at Second City, we decided to look at corruption from a humorous angle. Yes, this is a serious issue and there are many places and resources where this can be explored.”

The film includes details about the crimes of governors such as Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan, and Rod Blagojevich, to whom most of the 85-minute film is devoted. There are many city council members and others. Many astute observers are here to comment, including the Tribune’s Rick Pearson and Jeff Coen, TV’s Andy Shaw and Walter Jacobson, former city councilman and author Dick Simpson, historian Richard Lindberg and more.

Weinberg praises his use of archival footage. Of course, you can decide for yourself. “We didn’t set out to make a show like (PBS’s acclaimed investigative series) ‘Frontline,’” says Davies. “There are many ways to tell a story. The movie is a comedy. It’s not as depressing as it seems.”

Weinberg nodded when he heard this. Few people have seen more TV and more ways to make it work, not just make it work. He’s a kid from the northern suburbs and explains: “We had the first TV on the block. “The year was 1947, and that medium dominated and directed my life from those days.”

He would become a pioneering videographer, pointing his camera at local heroes like Minnie Miñoso, Bill Veeck, and Studs Terkel. He would provide a platform for others interested in film and documentary, creating the nourishing and inspiring PBS programs “Image Union” and “The 90s.” He is also a writer (“In Search of the Lost City: Chronicles of Expedition in Honduras”) and teacher.

And what might be his most lasting legacy? Media BurningA video archive he founded in 2003. It is a repository of over 10,000 videos, many of which are fascinating. “We’re in a time where people don’t know that there’s ‘television behavior,’ there’s no media coaches, so there’s a rawness and honesty,” Weinberg says.

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Davies, too, was captivated by television early on as a junior at Wheaton, but he focused on entertainment. He shot and starred in short films with high school classmate Jim Belushi; He attended Michigan’s Kalamazoo College and eventually came to WTTW-Ch. 11 works with Weinberg and John Callaway as a member of the documentary film crew. He also worked with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert; co-produced, executive produced and directed “Wild Chicago”; We are treated to an NBC special, “A Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman,” and “A Comedy Salute to Michael Jordan,” “Chicago’s Jonathan Brandmeier,” and “Phunny Business: A Black,” a stunning documentary about Chicago’s first Black comedy. He gave programs such as “Comedy”. comedy club he owns.

For more than 30 years, he has divided his time between Chicago (where he has always kept an apartment) and Los Angeles. “When I started at WTTW as a union arm/camera assistant in 1978,” he says, “Tom (Weinberg) was the executive producer of ‘Image Union.’ He was instrumental in getting my first independent films released and gaining access to cameras and editing to help me get into the producing side of WTTW. He supported my efforts. I own it.”

Always full of ideas and activities, Davies talks about how some of his early work ended up in the hands of acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino, the possibility of being involved in a new show about black comedy clubs, and how he’s pursuing a new project. Project about Johnny Carson sparked by his friendship with the late author Bill Zehme.

The topic turned to “Lincoln Cries,” and Weinberg asked if we remembered what Studs Terkel once said about local politics, then reminded us: “Chicago is not the most corrupt city. Chicago is the Big Daddy. “It’s not more decadent, it’s just more theatrical, more colorful in its shadow.”

I am not kidding.

“Lincoln Cries” screening at 6 p.m. at Columbia College Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. On the 8th floor; tickets $15-20 lincolniscrying.com

rkogan@chicagotribune.com

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