Chicago legend Benjamin Marshall celebrated in film


Doc about the
Windy City architect
regarded as a
Great Gatsby’
premieres next week
at Siskel Center

Summarizing the life of a legend like Benjamin Marshall is a daunting task, especially within a half-hour, but the Benjamin Marshall Documentary premiering at the Siskel Film Center on Tuesday rises to the challenge.

Combining footage of the spectacular buildings that Marshall designed with interviews of architects who appreciate them, residents who lived in them, and the grandchildren who adore him, the film offers a glimpse of a legacy that extends far beyond the bounds of artistic discipline.

Besides creating classic structures like The Drake Hotel, the Edgewater Beach Club, and The Blackstone Hotel, Benjamin Marshall was admired as a handsome, charismatic, and flamboyant socialite who built a stage in his own living room to better hobnob with Golden Age performers like Fred Astaire.



Chicago’s very own Great Gatsby
By all accounts, he was Chicago’s very own scandal-free Great Gatsby.

“I love him,” says Producer Valerie Gobos, native Chicagoan and head of Gobos Film & Entertainment. “He had taste, charisma, and he did everything beautifully. Now that I know so much about him, I have a crush on him. Men like that don’t come along very often.”

When Gobos received a call last year about putting the film together from Paula Otero on behalf of Jane Lepauw, the Benjamin Marshall Society, she knew exactly who to contact.

“ James Lipetzky had done work related to Chicago architecture with Bill Kurtis, and I loved what he did for the Four Seasons in Los Angeles, a really great video,” she recalls. “Since he was a director/editor who I work with often and who specializes in working with real people it was perfect, so James and Samantha Hart, his Executive Producer and writer on the film, agreed to do it.”

Originally planned as a ten-minute piece for the Chicago Architectural Biennial celebration, the film’s runtime eventually tripled.

“The more we dug into it, we just kept getting these interviews,” she explains. “Chaz Ebert, Bill Kurtis, Lucian Lagrange, Carroll William Westfall, Professor Emeritus of Notre Dame. We were also able to interview Benjamin Marshall’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

Gobos says the most challenging part of production was a series of locations, interviews, and drone footage shot in a three-day stretch. It got done, and it was a labor of love.

“James Lipetzky did an excellent job directing and editing, and he’s a Chicagoan,” says Gobos. “I was also lucky that we had such a great writer, Samantha Hart. Her script was great. I loved working with both of them and the film turned out great.”

After premiering next week, the film will be available for viewing on the Benjamin Marshall website. But the story won’t end there: Gobos intends to investigate ways to “enhance it for distribution on TV and whatnot.”

The Benjamin Marshall Documentary premiere at noon on Tuesday is sold out, but tickets remain for the 2 p.m. screening. For more information, click here.

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