Great post on Medium Cool, a film that's associated with the 1968 Democratic National Convention but was also meant to be a look at Chicago's underclass. (Chicago Reader)
As a time capsule of the city, the film is most valuable when Wexler turns to Eileen (Verna Bloom) and her young son, Harold (Harold Blankenship), native West Virginians living in blighted Uptown. Robert Kennedy's visits to poverty-stricken Appalachia during his presidential campaign that spring had drawn national attention to poor white southerners; even as Wexler was shooting Medium Cool, the Chicago Tribune ran a fascinating three-part series on the estimated 65,000 southern migrants living in Uptown. Migrants found good-paying factory jobs at companies like Bell & Howell, Teletype, and Crane Packing, and affordable housing in the north-side neighborhood, whose grand past as an entertainment district had resulted in numerous hotels being turned into SROs. "Entire blocks in Uptown are inhabited by the former residents of a single Alabama or West Virginia county," wrote reporter Clarus Backes. "Apartment buildings are filled with members of a single mountain clan."