Presented by Kyle Westphal, Chicago Film Society

Scripted by 28-year-old Robert Altman (Nashville), Corn’s-A-Poppin’ is a bargain-basement backstage musical that puts the corn in cornpone. Real-life crooner Jerry Wallace plays Johnny Wilson, the down-home star of the Pinwhistle Popcorn Hour, a low-rent variety show with acts ranging from ex-hog caller Lillian Gravelguard to Hobie Shepp and His Cow Town Wranglers.

Might the tone-deaf bookings be an act of corporate sabotage engineered by rogue PR man Waldo Crummit in his bid to gut the Pinwhistle empire? It’s up to Wallace and his kid sister, Little Cora Rice, to save the day. Along the way, they perform such memorable songs as “On Our Way to Mars,” “Running After Love,” and “Mama, Wanna Balloon.” Shot in Kansas City by the Midwest’s most innovative industrial film studio, Corn’s-A-Poppin’ saw extremely limited play at rural drive-ins and hootenannies before disappearing for decades.

The 35mm print has been restored by the Chicago Film Society in conjunction with the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Read more about the film.

About the presenter
Kyle Westphal is a co-founder of the Chicago Film Society, where he works in programming and preservation. He oversaw the Film Society’s photochemical restoration of Corn’s-A-Poppin,’ in conjunction with the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF); he is currently working on preserving the films of avant-garde artist Fred Camper with the support of the NFPF and the Film Foundation. Westphal began his film career at Doc Films at the University of Chicago, where he learned how to project film and ultimately served as the programming chair. He subsequently worked as the Chief Projectionist of the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman Museum; he has also worked or interned for the Pacific Film Archive, UCLA Film and Television Archive, and Cinefest. His film writing has appeared in the Chicago Reader, the Sacramento Bee, and the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. Westphal is a 2009 graduate of the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at George Eastman Museum.

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Robert Woodburn
Running Time
58 minutes
35mm, B/W