Sue Marx Papers

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Sue Marx papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Sue Marx record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Audiovisual materials, archived web content, and other files pertaining to films produced by Sue Marx, a prolific documentary filmmaker who operated her own studio in Detroit between 1980 and 2011. Collection includes completed documentaries in analog and digital form, raw footage in various audiovisual formats, production background information, scripts, and transcripts, among other items.

History / Biography:
The older daughter of painter Louis Gothelf and shop owner Leona Gothelf, Suzanne “Sue” Marx was born in 1930 in New York City. The Gothelfs later moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Marx’s sister Vivian was born, and subsequently to Indiana, where Marx received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University. To be with her future husband Stanley (“Hank”), an entrepreneur whose business manufactured supplies for the automotive industry, Marx relocated to Detroit as a young woman and quickly made the Motor City her home.

Marx worked as a model, a high school teacher, and, after receiving a degree in sociology, a social researcher before her interest in photojournalism blossomed into a career with Detroit’s WWJ-TV Channel 4 (later WDIV-TV) in the early 1970s. Shortly after joining the station, Marx became an assistant producer of its series “Profiles in Black,” which documented the personal and professional lives of notable African Americans such as Rosa Parks, Joe Louis, Coleman Young, and Stevie Wonder. The critical acclaim garnered by these documentaries would be the first of many accolades for Marx’s media work. After enrolling in a Master of Arts program at Wayne State University in 1976, Marx elected to study film production and played an instrumental role in several popular student creations at the university. The success of these endeavors and her burgeoning interest in the field prompted Marx to establish her own studio, Sue Marx Films, in Detroit in 1980.

Working with local talent and famous names (Paul Newman, for example, narrated Marx’s piece on auto racing), Sue Marx Films created documentaries and short promotional films addressing a wide variety of subjects. Commissions arrived from philanthropic organizations, professional associations, universities, city governments, and arts societies. In return, Marx delivered films that showcased Detroit’s diverse neighborhoods, explained airport construction efforts to passengers, encouraged medical students to apply for residencies at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, trained college professors, initiated community conversations about such topics as death, memory loss, AIDS, and teen pregnancy, and captured memories of growing up Jewish in greater Detroit in the 20th century. In her most famous project, she collaborated with Pamela Conn to document the romance and marriage that bloomed between Marx’s widower father Louis Gothelf and fellow artist Reva Shwayder in their sunset years. The resultant thirty-minute film, “Young at Heart,” won the 1987 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject). Marx’s other documentaries also received recognition for their thoughtful content and artistry, including Emmy awards and the CINE Golden Eagle.

In 2000, Marx and her husband moved from Detroit to Birmingham, Michigan. Marx was widowed when Hank died in October 2007; the couple had three daughters and three granddaughters. Following the completion of a short piece for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy in 2011, Sue Marx retired from commercial filmmaking. She continues to pursue projects of personal interest and opportunities that allow her to give back to her community.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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