Skip to main content

Ellis, Jack C., 1922-2009



  • Existence: 1922-2009


Professor of film studies and filmmaker Jack C. Ellis was born in Joliet, Illinois, on July 9, 1922. He did undergraduate work at Wabash College from 1940 to1943 and, after serving in the US Army from 1943 to 1946, attended the University of Chicago, receiving a Master’s Degree in 1948. For his Doctor of Education degree from Teacher’s College, Columbia University (1955), Ellis studied the use of film in college and university education; his dissertation was titled “Approaches to Film as an Art Form: A Handbook for College Teachers.” The history and production of film, especially documentaries, continued as research and teaching interests throughout his career.

When Ellis came to Northwestern University in 1956 as a lecturer, he established a Film program--including both production and history/criticism--as part of the Radio and Television Department in the School of Speech (now Communication). At the time, only a few other institutions in the US offered film programs. Ellis was appointed an assistant professor in the Radio, Television, and Film Department later in 1956, an associate professor in 1961, and full professor in 1966. He served as Chair of the department from 1980 to 1985, and was named professor emeritus in 1991.

During his career at Northwestern, Ellis held visiting professorships at the University of California-Los Angeles (1959-1960), New York University (1965-1966), and the University of Texas at Austin (1972-1973). Among a number of professional affiliations, Ellis served on the American Federation of Film Societies, the Society for Cinema Studies, the Illinois Arts Council (advisory film panel), and the American Council on Education. He was the director of NEH Summer Seminars on Film History (1979, 1980), and the editor of Cinema Journal (1976-1982). Ellis’s publications included numerous articles, and five books on aspects of film history. An autobiography remained unfinished.

In addition to teaching film history, Ellis was involved in film production at Northwestern. He and his students produced a number of documentary films, beginning with a 1962 study of a children’s theatre course. He also worked to build a film library at Northwestern, and organized film/lecture series open to the general public.

Ellis and his wife, Mary Kay Ellis, had two children, David (born 1957) and Cameron (born 1959).

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Jack C. Ellis (1922-2009) Papers

Identifier: 20/71
Abstract Professor of film studies and filmmaker Jack C. Ellis came to Northwestern University in 1956 as a lecturer, and became full professor in 1966. He served as Chair of the Radio, Television, and Film Department from 1980 to 1985. The Jack Ellis Papers fill just one box, but touch on many aspects of Ellis’s teaching career. Curricula vitae, annual updates, bibliographies, news clippings, and press releases document the courses he taught, his professional activities, and his publications. Of...
Dates: 1955-2000

Records of the Department of Radio, TV and Film

 Unprocessed Material — Box 1
Identifier: 88-194-20-ADDITION

Additional filters:

Unprocessed Material 1
Collection 1
Motion pictures--Study and teaching 1
Nashville (Motion picture) 1