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Series II: Drafts and manuscripts, 1961-1986, undated
Series III: Printed material, 1952-1988, undated
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in seven series.
The Andrew Sarris papers are comprised of personal and professional correspondence, drafts of various pieces published throughout his career, manuscripts of screenplays, clippings of pieces written by and about Sarris, press releases, printed ephemera, filmic periodicals and monographs, film stills, and recordings of Sarris' "Films in Focus" radio program.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection has no restrictions.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
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.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Andrew Sarris papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Selected Related Material-- at Columbia
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Original papers (1.67 linear ft.) processed Annie Rudd June 2008.
Accrual (18.75 linear ft.) processed Megan Darlington August 2012.
2009-04-16 xml document instance created by Lea Osborne
2012-08-21 xml document instance updated by Megan Darlington
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Andrew Sarris was a prominent American film critic, perhaps known best for giving credence to the European auteur theory in the United States. Born October 31, 1928 to Greek immigrant parents, he was raised in Ozone Park, Queens. Sarris graduated from Columbia University in 1951, and subsequently served in the United States Army Signal Corps from 1952 to 1954. Though his zeal for film developed at an early age, Sarris' career in film criticism formally began in 1955 when he met Jonas Mekas, co-editor of the fledgling journal Film Culture, who enlisted Sarris to contribute to the publication.
Sarris wrote for Film Culture for several years. In 1960, Mekas, at that time a film reviewer for The Village Voice, asked Sarris to substitute for him. Sarris' first article, a controversial piece on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, appeared in the Voice on August 11, 1960. The article became the first of many, and Sarris continued to write for the Voice for nearly thirty years. It was also around this time that Sarris developed a deep interest in French cinema; in particular, he was drawn to the New Wave movement and the critical approaches to film that were concomitant with its emergence.
Inspired by French critic François Truffaut and other contributors to the journal Cahiers du Cinema, he wrote "Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962," which appeared in Film Culture. In this contentious essay, Sarris espoused the concept that a film directly reflects the director's creative vision; essentially, film is a director's artistic medium, and should be critically analyzed and appreciated as such. His essay aroused considerable dissension from other critics, and sparked the notorious dispute between himself and Pauline Kael.
Though controversial, Sarris managed to propagate the auteur theory, and it became a fixture in the dialect of American film criticism. In his 1968 book The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968, Sarris expanded on the auteurist approach, and the work became a seminal opus in the canon of film literature. He later contributed a number of other influential books, such as Confessions of a Cultist (1970), The Primal Screen (1972), and Politics and Cinema (1978).
In addition to journalism, Sarris held a professorship at Columbia for many years. He also taught courses at Yale, NYU, The School of the Visual Arts, and Juilliard. He received a number of awards and accolades including the Rockefeller Fellowship at Bellagio (1991), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1969), Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1982), the Special Award from the L.A. Critics Circle (1985), the Maurice Bessy Award, Montreal (1995), and was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism (2000).
Sarris married feminist film critic Molly Haskell in 1969. The two met when Haskell worked at the French Film Office in New York. They remained married until his death on June 20, 2012.