March 2003

In Search of Directors' Paper Trails

BY RUDY BEHLMER  

Clint Eastwood

Are the papers of John Ford in a library or archive? If so, which one? What about Alfred Hitchcock's? Or those of a contemporary director such as Martin Scorsese? Yes to all the above and to an extraordinary number of other live-action theatrical motion picture and television directors. Going back to such historic figures as D.W. Griffith, various colleges, universities, institutes, centers, museums, academies, and libraries in the U.S. house important materials of directors that can be viewed on the premises.

For those who have an interest in studying the career of a director more than superficially, we can at least point you in the right direction with regard to the location of the materials.

The accompanying list is neither an evaluative nor an interpretive rundown of the collections. Some of the holdings are large, some relatively small. Many emphasize scripts, others documents, and more than a few contain photographs and/or scrapbooks, and some all of the above. Occasionally a director's papers are, for various reasons, housed at more than one archive. (King Vidor and Cecil B. DeMille, to cite two examples.) These are so noted (in alphabetical order) after that director's name and usually consist of different materials at each of the locations.

What can be gleaned from perusing a director's papers? Any number of illuminating aspects of his or her professional (and on occasion personal) life. The correspondence to and from associates with regard to projects can be clues or keys to a director's creative process and approach to the execution of subjects — some realized and others intriguingly not.

Frank Capra

Directors' annotated scripts and memos to and from various colleagues offer additional insights, and certainly scrapbooks reveal much more than the obvious contents of the bits and pieces saved. Then there are the letters of agreement, contracts, and the interchanges between, among others, studio executives and the director.

Directors' paper collections are scattered throughout the country depending upon the wishes of the donor. Some individuals have strong ties to their alma mater, others believe strongly in the aims and/or resources of a particular institute; there are those who want their materials fairly close to home. Some follow the lead of associates and friends who have, for whatever reasons, already put their papers in a chosen location. Still others have been impressed by a specific facility or by the wooing of a magnetic and very persuasive archive director. For whatever reason or reasons, we can be grateful that unique and revealing materials of directors are being cared for rather than left to languish in someone's garage or attic (or worst-case scenario — thrown out!).

Hyphenate producer-directors, writer-directors and actor-directors, etc., are included here, as long as their directing credits are substantial enough to go beyond barely testing the waters. There are also some assistant directors and unit production managers represented.

The listing does not include collections that are exclusively negatives, prints or videocassettes of the actual films, or exclusively oral histories, or just clipping files — unless any or all of these are part of the overall collection. Space restrictions prohibit listing breakdowns of the kinds of items to be found in each collection or the amount of same. Also, the specific name of the library or building on a campus along with address, telephone number, and personnel to contact are excluded for the same reason. But once you know the basic location and the city and state by consulting the list and the accompanying key, the rest can be found via telephone, internet, or library reference works, for example. Availability of collections and policies regarding access and usage vary from archive to archive.

My gratitude to all who cooperated and aided in the compilation of this project. Also, having been to many of these institutions in my own pursuits over the years has helped considerably.

Some directors and their collections may have been inadvertently overlooked. DGA Magazine welcomes being informed of errors and omissions by mail so that an addenda to these pages will make all reasonably right in the not too distant future.

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Directors and their teams working together to solve problems in film and television in the past and present.

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