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June 6, 2013

Visiting 1970s Haverhill

Film features 1975 political feud, dying shoe industry

They are icons from Haverhill’s political past.

Mention the names George Katsaros and Lewis Burton, and people who can remember back to the 1970s will think of a sometimes-fierce political feud as the men battled to be mayor.

The struggle was against the backdrop of mid-1970s Haverhill. The city’s shoe industry had all but died out, the economy was suffering and the community was politically tense.

A Greater Boston film group is about to take people back in time to relive that mayoral campaign and time from Haverhill’s past. The group has revived a documentary film made in 1975 about the city’s political struggles of that time.

The documentary “If It Fits’’ will be shown July 29 at 7 p.m. at the Brattle Street Theatre in Cambridge. The film will be presented by Documentary Educational Resources, a Cambridge film curator, and The Doc-Yard, a bi-weekly film and discussion series. Documentary Educational Resources is a non-profit organization that shows cultural and educational films.

Film-maker John Marshall made the 58-minute movie in the 1970s to detail what happened to the city’s once-successful shoe-manufacturing industry and how its demise hurt Haverhill’s economy. The film documents the lives of political figures, their campaigns and the condition of a struggling Haverhill.

The film details how Fire Chief Lewis Burton ran for mayor against Katsaros and beat him in 1975, as the city debated how to rebound from the dying shoe industry that cost many jobs. Shoe-manufacturing had been Haverhill’s economic lifeblood for generations.

“This film examines a dying industrial town and its politicians’ search for votes over such issues as municipal spending, rising taxes, the revitalization of depressed areas, and attracting new industry,’’ Documentary Educational Resources said on its website.

Marshall made the documentary during the second administration of Katsaros, a three-term mayor. The film captures Katsaros’ efforts to win an election as the city’s economy was collapsing. The film does not reach the conclusion of the campaign, which Kastaros lost to Burton.

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