Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Albert and David Maysles papers, 1948-2018

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1544
Bib ID 7966635 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Maysles, Albert ; Maysles, David
Title Albert and David Maysles papers, 1948-2018
Physical Description 132.5 linear feet (106 boxes)
Language(s) English .

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 has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in five series.



Correspondence, memoranada, agreements, notes, contracts, posters, clippings, financial files covering the entire career of the Maysles brothers.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

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 has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

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); Albert and David Maysles Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Finding aid published ptl 12/22/2016.

Revision Description

2016-12-21 File created.

2017-03-30 Archived Website series added by Jane Gorjevsky

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:"
Beatles Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Brando, Marlon Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Capote, Truman, 1924-1984 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Christo, 1935- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Documentary films Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Door-to-door selling -- Films Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Experimental films Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Filmmakers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Horowitz, Vladimir, 1903-1989 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Independent filmmakers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Jeanne-Claude, 1935-2009 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rolling Stones Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) and his brother David (1932-1987) were groundbreaking non-fiction filmmakers. Inspired by the French "ciné́ma vérité", they created "direct cinema": films in which the action unfolds naturally, without narration or intrusive artifice. The visceral impact of this form of cimema had a great influence on subsequent documentary filmmaking. Their best-known films include "Salesman" (1969)"Gimme Shelter" (1970) and "Grey Gardens" (1976).

Born in Boston to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Albert received his B.A. at Syracuse and his M.A. at Boston University, where he taught Psychology for three years. In 1955, Albert travelled to Russia and filmed patients at several mental hospitals. The result of this trip was his first documentary: "Psychiatry in Russia". In 1957, Albert and David made a motorcycle journey from Munich to Moscow. This trip resulted in their first collaborative effort"Youth in Poland", about a student revolt in Warsaw. They managed to sell the film to NBC.

The brothers worked with unobtrusive film and sound equipment: Albert was the cinematographer and David recorded the sound. By simply following the actions of their subjects they were able to get very close to reality in their art.

As a trained psychologist, Albert had a capacity to understand the various dynamics at play in any given situation. The brothers believed that the film tells its own story; and by using a direct style of filming the viewer has a feeling that they are actually there, watching events unfold. Albert understood that it was his artistic sensibility that shaped and informed the viewer's understanding of the subject he was filming.

In 1962, the brothers established Maysles Films. Since their documentaries did not generate much revenue, they made money by making television commercials for large corporations like IBM and Merrill Lynch.

The brother filmed many artist and musicians: the Beatles; the Rolling Stones; Marlon Brando; Truman Capote; Christo and Jeanne-Claude; Vladimir Horowitz; Seiji Ozawa; and Iris Apfel.

After David passed away in 1987, Albert continued to make documentaries on a variety of subjects. Albert's last released film was "The Love We Make" (2011), about Paul McCartney's 2001 appearance at the Concert for New York following the attacks on the World Trade Center. "Iris", Albert Maysles' final completed film was about Iris Apfel the 93-year-old fashion icon and "In Transit", Maysles' film about riders on Amtrak's Empire Builder, were released posthumously in 2015.

In 2006, Albert founded the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem. The Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the exhibition and production of documentary films that inspire dialogue and action. He died at his home in Manhattan on March 5, 2015, aged 88.