Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Andrew Sarris papers, 1945-1988, bulk 1965-1985

Summary Information


The Andrew Sarris Papers are comprised of correspondence, drafts and manuscripts, clippings, printed ephemera, periodicals, monographs, photographs, and audio recordings related to the career and personal life of renowned film critic Andrew Sarris. The materials span several decades, from the inception of his career as a film critic and theorist in the mid-1950s to the last years of his long tenure at The Village Voice in the late 1980s..

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1451
Bib ID 6892031 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Sarris, Andrew
Title Andrew Sarris papers, 1945-1988, bulk 1965-1985
Physical Description 20.42 linear feet (20 boxes)
Language(s) English , French .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

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.



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.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1952-1988, undated

    This series is comprised of both personal and professional correspondence. Arranged chronologically, the series contains mostly incoming and some outgoing correspondence. This includes, but is not limited to, correspondence between readers, students, publishers, and university officials. There are also a number of letters from notable directors, including Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Orson Welles, and Oliver Stone, as well as actors such as Christopher Walken and Shirley MacLaine.

  • Series II: Drafts and manuscripts, 1961-1986, undated

    This series is comprised of drafts and rough notes, in various stages of completion, which Sarris generated over the course of his career. It also contains manuscripts of screenplays written by Sarris, in addition to a number of manuscripts written by others and likely submitted to Sarris for feedback.

  • Series III: Printed material, 1952-1988, undated

    This series is diverse and is thus arranged in five subseries. It is comprised of both published material and printed ephemera.

  • Series IV: Photographs, undated

    This series is comprised mostly of film stills. Films with a significant number of stills are grouped together and arranged alphabetically by title, and the film titles are listed in the finding aid. For other films with a less significant number of stills, the titles were previously handwritten on the back, though there are some stills that could not be identified. This series also contains a few headshots and portraits of directors, including Ingmar Bergman and John Ford. The series also features a small section of personal photographs, many of them portraits of Sarris' wife, Molly Haskell.

  • Series V: Recordings, 1965-1969, undated

    This series is comprised mostly of recordings on magnetic tape of Sarris's radio program "Films in Focus." Though a few dates could not be determined, the majority is dated and is arranged chronologically. There is also footage of the 1980 Critics Choice Awards on two VHS tapes.

  • Series VI: Family papers, 1953-1970, undated

    This series is comprised of papers originally belonging to Sarris's mother, Themis Sarris, and brother, George Sarris. Themis Sarris's papers include mostly notebooks, while George Sarris's papers include correspondence, and general materials related to his service in the military.

  • Series VII: Personal files, 1945-1980, undated

    This series is comprised mostly of material originating from Sarris's earlier life, and includes school records and assignments, report cards, various awards and certificates, and military records. The series also includes personal notes in small spiral notebooks. Though the series relates mostly to his personal life and pre-career, there is also a small section of publishing contracts and a framed award from the Morris Morgenstern Foundation that is housed in an oversized box.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

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.

Preferred Citation

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

Reminiscences of Andrew Sarris : oral history, 1981.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Original papers (1.67 linear ft.) processed Annie Rudd June 2008.

Accrual (18.75 linear ft.) processed Megan Darlington August 2012.

Revision Description

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.

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.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Clippings (Information Artifacts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Drafts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Film stills Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Magnetic tapes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Monographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Notes (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Periodicals Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Press releases Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Printed Ephemera Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Screenplays Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Auteur theory (Motion pictures) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Film criticism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Haskell, Molly Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New wave films Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sarris, Andrew Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

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.