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   Andrew Sarris Papers, 1948-1988 [Bulk dates: 1965-1985]

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Andrew Sarris Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

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, 1948-1988 [Bulk dates: 1965-1985]
Physical description:20.42 linear ft.
Language(s):In English and French
Access: 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.  More information »



This collection is arranged in seven series.

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Scope and Content

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.

Subseries 1: Drafts, undated

As a majority of the drafts are fragments and virtually none are dated, this subseries is not arranged in any particular order, but is separated between complete and partial drafts. “Complete drafts” are defined as pieces that are essentially whole and whose titles can be identified, whereas partial drafts are more fragmented and thus difficult to classify by title.

Subseries 2: Manuscripts, 1961-1986, undated

The bulk of the material in this subseries is authored by others; however, there are three screenplay manuscripts written or co-written by Sarris: Promise at Dawn (1964), Justine (1964), and the undated Wickford Point . Manuscripts by others includes both screenplay and book manuscripts. Of note are two undated screenplays by King Vidor that were never produced as films. The manuscripts authored by others are separated between screenplays and books, and are arranged alphabetically by author.

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.

Subseries 1: Clippings, 1960-1988 undated

This subseries is comprised of clippings of articles authored by Sarris, articles mentioning Sarris, and general filmic articles collected by Sarris throughout his career.

Subseries 2: Press releases, 1952-1988, undated

This sub-series contains press releases Sarris collected throughout his journalistic career. These include releases from agencies such as Universal Studios and the American Film Institute. Though some are undated, they are arranged chronologically where possible.

Subseries 3: Printed ephemera, 1963-1988, undated

This sub-series contains a broad array of material, and includes programs, flyers, pamphlets, posters, and invitations. The ephemera in this series relate mostly to special events, film festivals and screenings Sarris attended throughout his career.

Subseries 4: Monographs, 1960s-1980s

This sub-series contains film-related monographs.

Subseries 5: Periodicals, 1960s-1980s

This sub-series contains filmic journals and magazines. Most are American publications, but there are also a number of French titles. Titles with a significant number of issues include Cahiers du Cinema , Films in Review , Films and Filming , and Sight and Sound . They are arranged alphabetically by title, and each title and its corresponding box number is listed in the finding aid.

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.

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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. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; 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.

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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

Original papers (1.67 linear ft.) processed in June 2008 by Annie Rudd, Graduate School of Journalism 2013. Accrual (18.75 linear ft.) processed by Megan Darlington, University of Michigan 2013.

Updated finding aid written by Megan Darlington in August 2012.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion January 22, 2009 Finding aid written in English. Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard
    2009-04-16 xml document instance created by Lea Osborne
    2012-08-21 xml document instance updated by Megan Darlington

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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:
Clippings (information artifacts)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Drafts (documents)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Film stillsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Magnetic tapesPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (document genre)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Press releasesPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Printed ephemeraPortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Auteur theory (Motion pictures).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Cahiers du cinema.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Film criticism.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Film culture.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Haskell, Molly.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New wave films.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sarris, Andrew.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Village voice (Greenwich Village, New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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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.

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