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Marvin Kitman papers, 1950-2006

Summary Information

At a Glance

Title:Marvin Kitman papers, 1950-2006
Physical description:277.58 linear ft. (220 record storage cartons, 1 document box, 1 flat box)
Language(s):In English



Scope and Content

The dead columns of Marvin Kitman, mostly from Newsday. The file folders contain clippings, notes, background research, correspondence, publicity materials, photographs, etc. for the columns. Kitman writes about a variety of topics as he criticizes practically every television program and genre from the 1960s through 2003. There are also a few files of letters, as well as his various "polls".

Series I: Dead Columns, 1969-2004

The Dead Columns series, which forms the bulk of the collection, is comprised of files for his column. A file may contain drafts, notes, background material, and a copy of the article itself. These files are arranged chronologically.

Series II: Correspondence, 1950-2005

This Series is split into three sub-series: personal and professional correspondence, fan mail and polls.

Subseries II.1: Personal and Professional Correspondence

This large sub-series contains Kitman’s personal and professional correspondence from his time as a freelance journalist through his tenure as Newsday’s resident television critic. Letters within this sub-series are to and from other family members and friends, letters to publishers and editors concerning Kitman’s authorial and journalistic projects. There is also a selection of Kitman’s letters of complaint to various companies, which reflect Kitman’s humor and tenacity. The last two decades of material are chiefly related to Kitman’s position at Newsday and feature emails and letters from readers, as well as Kitman’s responses. While some of this professional correspondence might be categorized as fan mail, Kitman’s own distinctions have been kept in tact and this sub-series retains both Kitman’s folders and chronological arrangement of this material.

Subseries II.2: Fan Mail

This provides a sampling of the huge amount of fan mail Kitman received from the loyal and colorful readers of his Newsday column and illustrates both the depth of affection for Kitman and their ardent interest in debating topical issues in television, ranging from the mystery of who shot Dallas’ JR Ewing to outrage over Kitman’s slur on David Cassidy. Kitman placed a high value on feedback from readers and often incorporated their comments or concerns into his Newsday column.

This sub-series is split into chronological and alphabetical fan mail, based on Kitman’s divisions of the material. Chronological fan mail presents a sampling of fan mail from the 1970s to early 1990s; alphabetical fan mail features multiple letters from single fans. Fanmail after 1993 is absorbed into Kitman’s professional correspondence.

Subseries II.3: Polls

Kitman’s popular polls posed topical multiple choice questions to his readers, ranging in topic from the sexiest television stars to campaigns to save or cull individual shows. Kitman’s ‘Exit Polls’ asked readers to judge television’s best and worst at the years end. This sub-series contains a sampling of readers responses sent in to Newsday . The data from the polls was collected and analyzed in one of Kitman’s columns and Kitman frequently quoted some of the more lively reader responses. Also included is the compiled data from 1998 and 1999’s exit polls.

Series III: Other Professional Activities

Alongside his career as a journalist, Kitman entertained many other projects from running for President to designing adverts for Hertz cars. This series reflects these diverse activities, and is split into four sub-series: scripts, presidential campaign, books and advertising campaign.

Subseries III.1: Scripts

This small sub-series is mostly comprised of annotated drafts of scripts that Kitman wrote for Channel Five’s Morning Show in the 1980s, which are written in Kitman’s trademark irreverent style.

Subseries III.2: Presidential Campaign

Kitman ran for President in 1964 using Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 platform to abolish slavery. While an unsuccessful candidate, Kitman succeeded in generating a wealth of publicity and this sub-series contains publicity materials and correspondence relating to this campaign, including photographs, interviews and advertisement campaigns. Kitman also considered running for Congress in 1969 and there are some materials relating to this attempt within this sub-series.

Subseries III.3: Books

Annotated drafts and galleys for some of Kitman’s non-fiction works are included within this sub-series. The books featured are The Number One Bestseller, Kitman’s account of his life and political campaigns, The Coward’s Almanac, a humorous compilation of potential dangers and The History of the Nude on Television. Some correspondence and advertising materials are also included, as well as a playscript inspired by Kitman’s George Washington’s Expense Account.

Subseries III.4: Advertising Campaign

Kitman’s drawings and suggested slogans for a Hertz advertising campaign for their rental cars is included in this sub-series. The progress of the campaign can be traced from Kitman’s initial sketches and storyboard ideas to the final advert.

Series IV: Articles

This series features Kitman’s articles which were not featured in Newsday and span several decades and multiple topics from the state of 21st century television to the difficulties of opening a Swiss bank account. This series is split into three sub-series: articles which appeared in The Armstrong Daily , articles from The New Leader and articles from other publications.

Subseries IV.1: The Armstrong Daily, Eleven Lively Arts

Kitman began his career writing an irreverent arts column for The Armstrong Daily, a sporting newspaper which specialized on horseracing. Annotated drafts and ideas for articles are included in this series, spanning Kitman’s time there from the 1950s through the 1960s. Kitman wrote some of these columns from Europe in the 1950s and this working vacation is also documented by his photographs in Series VI.

Subseries IV.2: The New Leader

Kitman wrote regular television reviews for The New Leader, from 1967 through 1986. This sub-series features annotated drafts of these reviews. Many cover similar shows and topics to Kitman’s regular Newsday column.

Subseries IV.3: Other

Organised chronologically, this sub-series charts Kitman’s contributions to a variety of different publications from Babe to The New York Times Book Review. Much of Kitman’s early freelancing in the 1950s was for men’s magazines such as Escapade and provide advice or information on topics ranging from ski slope sex to the right kind of ties. As Kitman’s career developed he found increasing employment with satirical publications such as The Realist and Monocle. This sub-series includes several stunt articles, such as Kitman’s attempt to open a Swiss bank account, singlehandedly save the American steel industry or undergo a ‘Mr Exec’ fitness regime. Kitman was also a frequent contributer to The New York Times Book Review, TV Guide, The New Jersey Monthly and Newsday Magazine and drafts of articles for these publications are also included here.

Series V: Audiovisual Materials

articles. These include microforms of Kitman’s dead columns at Newday, the cassette tapes of Kitman’s controversial interviews of Nielsen families, humorous records relating to articles Kitman wrote, including The Mr. Exec fitness routine and The Art of Swimming a Swimsuit and some unidentified reels.

Series VI: Photographs

This small sub-series is primarily composed of Kitman’s own amateur photography, mostly documenting his 1950s journey around Europe. The photographs are of individuals and buildings rather than a record of Kitman’s journey. Also included are photographs from Kitman’s 1964 Presidential campaign and images from his photo shoot with Cosmopolitan.

Series VII: Personal Documents and Writings About

This small series contains some writings about Kitman and a small selection of personal documents.

Subseries VII.I: Writings About

A small and eclectic selection of writings about Kitman is contained in this sub-series, including a humorous ‘This is your Life’, a comic book character Kitman inspired in Richie Rich, a transcript of an interview with Kitman and acknowledgements in Who’s Who and The Broadcasting Critics’ Choice Exhibition.

Subseries VII.2: Personal Documents

Kitman’s applications for jobs and fellowships are included in this small sub-series of personal documents, in addition to some certificates of appreciation and Kitman’s appointment diaries from the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

This collection has no restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item: Date (if known); Marvin Kitman Papers, Box and Folder; General Manuscripts, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed 5/2/1999 mmb

Finding aid written 2009 by Darragh Martin

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion June 26, 2009

Finding aid written in English.

    2009-06-26 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Newspaper columnsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Journalists--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kitman, Marvin, 1929-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Newsday (Melville, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Television broadcasting--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Television criticism.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
WNEW-TV (Television station : New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note


Marvin Kitman was born in 1929 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents moved Brooklyn in the 1930s. After graduating Brooklyn Tech in 1947, he attended City College, graduating in 1953. He then served in the U.S. Army. After his discharge from the Army, Kitman worked for a number of publications, including the Saturday Evening Post and Monocle.Kitman began his studies of television in 1967 when the New Leader Magazine hired him as TV critic. For six years (1981-87) he was the commentator about TV on a local news show, The Ten O' Clock News" on WNYW (formerly WNEW) in New York. His commentaries were also heard on the old RKO Radio Network. In 1969, Kitman become television critic for New York Newsday. His column was printed three times a week and syndicated nationally by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. The column, in which he listed himself as the "Executive Producer," was called "The Marvin Kitman Show." For 32 years and 6,641 performances, it lasted longer than many other shows he had written about, i.e. David Frost, Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson. Kitman was a guest on The Tonight Show on Thursday July 23, 1970. Marvin Kitman is the author of The Man Who Would Not Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O'Reilly (St Martins Press 2007); The Making of the President 1789 (HarperCollins, 989), also published in paperback (Harper Perennial); George Washington's Expense account, written by "General George" and Marvin Kitman PFC (Ret.), also re-published by Harper Perennial in paperback; I Am A VCR (Random House, 1988), the story of his first 20 years as a TV critic; The Number One Best Seller (1966), Dial Press; You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover (1970), Weybright &Talley; The RCAF (Red Chinese Air Force) Diet, Exercise & Sex Manual, written under the pseudonym William Randolph Hirsch (with Richard Lingemn and Victor Navasky) (1968), Stein & Day; The Marvin Kitman TV Show: An Encyclopedia Televisiana (1973), Outerbridge & Diensfrey; The Coward's Almanac (1975), Doubleday. He is a founding father of Monocle, a member of the Leonia Public Library, AFTRA, and PEN. He and his wife have three children and live in New Jersey.