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Richard Griffith Papers

in The Museum of Modern Art Archives

The Museum of Modern Art Archives
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019-5497
© 1990
The Museum of Modern Art Museum Archives
Finding aid prepared by Rona Roob, October 1990.

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Griffith, Richard, 1912-1969
Title: Richard Griffith Papers
Inclusive Dates: ca. 1928-1965
Quantity: .75 Linear Feet
One 5" document box, one 2.5" document box

Biographical Note

Richard Griffith (1912-1969) was an art critic, film historian, and a member of the staff of The Museum of Modern Art 1940-1942 and 1949-1965.

Griffith was assistant to the Curator of the Film Library from 1940 to 1942, and assistant to the Director from 1949 to 1951. He succeeded Iris Barry as Curator of the Museum's Film Library in 1951, and resigned from the Museum because of ill health in 1965. At the Museum Griffith presented major film cycles, including one on Marlene Dietrich, and established the Film Preservation Fund, through which hundreds of classic motion pictures were saved. He died in an automobile accident near his home in Winchester, Virginia, on October 17, 1969.

Griffith attended Haverford College (A.B. 1935), and received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in 1937, through which he researched film history at The Museum of Modern Art. He managed the Little Theater of the Science and Education Building at the New York World's Fair in 1940.

As film editor at the photographic center of the Army Signal Corps during World War II, Griffith worked on Frank Capra's "Why We Fight" series of Army orientation films. From 1946 to 1949 Griffith was executive director of the National Board of Reviews of Motion Pictures.

Griffith was author of The Movie Stars, The World of Robert Flaherty (1953), and Anatomy of a Motion Picture (1959), co-author with Paul Rotha of both The Film Till Now: A Survey of World Cinema (1950) and Documentary Films (1952), and co-author with Arthur Mayer of The Movies (1957). He was editor of the American edition of Grierson on Documentary (1947), and also wrote articles on films for national publications.

Scope and Content Note

This material was originally contained in 2 15 × 10½ × 6" black cardboard storage boxes with reinforced metal corners. The box labels read: "CONFIDENTIAL; RICHARD GRIFFITH PERSONAL FILES - MOMA; SENT FROM MOMA FILM DEPT." Folders listed with quotation marks and brackets come from previous processor (see inventory by Eileen Bowser, February 1977, folder 1).

The Record Group includes college English class notes, correspondence about and sketches for "the game," reading lists, short stories and plays by Griffith, a manuscript for a book about major American film comedians, book notes for Death by Seance? (a murder/mystery novel), list of stars for Griffith's The Stars, lists for Rotha on Film and National Board Reviews (two proposed publications), draft for Griffith's Fred Zinneman, notes for Griffith's Marlene Dietrich: image and legend, "My Typewriter" (short humor piece), Griffith's lecture notes for 5 programs from "Series Five: The Film of Fact and Opinion," reports, "Newsreel Notes," first draft for Griffith's The Technique of the Film: A Film to Describe the Scope, Techniques and Kinds of Motion Picture, and correspondence. Items date from ca. 1931 through 1965. Correspondents include Paul Rotha and Iris Barry.


Access Restrictions

The papers are available for research purposes and contain no restricted materials.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Richard Griffith Papers are the physical property of The Museum of Modern Art. Literary rights, including copyright belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Rights to work produced during the normal course of Museum business resides with The Museum of Modern Art. For further information, and to obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Museum Archivist.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in DADABASE, the library catalog of The Museum of Modern Art. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Persons and Organizations:
Griffith, Richard, 1912-1969

Administrative Information


These papers, found in the desk of Richard Griffith, were transferred to the Library on December 13, 1962. In February, 1977, Eileen Bowser processed the material and prepared an inventory (see folder 1). They were transferred to the Museum Archives in October, 1990. Additional Richard Griffith Papers can be found in the Film Study Center.

Preferred Citation

Richard Griffith Papers, [folder]. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.

Additional Descriptive Data

Explanation of Abbreviations

ALS is an Autographed Letter Signed.
TLS is a Typed Letter Signed.
TL stands for Typed Letter.
MoMA is The Museum of Modern Art.
n.d. stands for no date.
re: stands for regarding.

Container List

Folder Descriptions

Folder Title Date
1 Background and Provenance of Papers

Incl. 1 set of original box labels
Lists concerning origins of this Record Group
Book reviews.

2 College Notes and Sketches for "the game"

"Green Notebook"
Contained in a 11.5"×9.5" green 3 ring binder with writing on inside cover
Incl. reading list (March)
College English class notes (ca. Feb. 1935 - May 1935)
Sketches/notes for "the game," n.d. (see 3).

ca. 1935
3 Plays by Griffith and Correspondence about "the game"

"Black Notebook"
Originally contained in a 10.875"×8.75" black, cloth covered, "University," 3 ring binder
Incl. "Strangers: Three Plays," by Richard E. Griffith, to Claire
Incl.: "A Shawl," "The Genius," and "The White Moon," followed by a b/w photograph of a woman, and "Houdini," n.d.
"Case Book of Ricardo De Grifito"
Incl. ca. 162 hand-numbered pages of records of "the game," consisting of correspondence and other writings (ca. 1928), with which Griffith and childhood friends amused themselves - an imaginary mysterious story along the lines of Fu Man Chu, Charlie Chan, etc.
Described by RG to Eileen Bowser

ca. 1928
4 Book Manuscript about American Film Comedians

Incl. manuscript for a picture book about major American film comedians (?)
Consisting of 86 typed pages of "text" and "captions," no stills

5 Book Notes for Death by Seance? and List for The Stars

"Yellow Notebook"
Originally contained in 11.5"×9.75" "Royal" 3 ring binder
Incl. typed notes for a murder/mystery novel, Death by Seance? (ca. 1957)
Typed list of stars to be included in book presumably for his book The Stars, n.d.

ca. 1957
6 Book Notes, Drafts, Lists, and Notes about Films

"Black Notebook"
Originally contained in 11.375"× 9.75" "National" 3 ring binder
Incl. 2 page typed list for proposed publication, Rotha on Film (Sept. 2)
Draft for: Griffith, Richard. Fred Zinnemann. New York: Museum of Modern Art Film Library, 1958.
2 page typed list for proposed publication, National Board Reviews (July 6)
1 page note for: Griffith, Richard. Marlene Dietrich: image and legend. New York: Museum of Modern Art Film Library, 1959
3 page typed short humor piece, "My Typewriter," n.d.
1 page typed notes, "Marlene Dietrich Speaking," n.d.
4 page typed draft, "An Evening with Marlene Dietrich," n.d.
Typed and annotated notes about the following films:
"The Witch and the Bicyclist"
"Male and Female"
"Bed and Sofa"
"Ten Days That Shook the World"
"Big Business"
"Ninety Degrees South"
"Westfront 1918"
"Musical Poster Number One"
"La Maternelle"
"High Over the Borders"
"Prelude to War"
"Divide and Conquer"
"The Nazis Strike"
"War Comes to America"
"White Mane"
"Trade Tattoo"
"N.Y. N.Y.: A Day in New York"
"Panta Rhei (All Things Flow)"
"Pow Wow"
"Our Daily Bread"
"The Birth of a Nation"

ca. 1958-1959
7 Short Stories by Griffith

"Sooner or Later"
Incl. typed short story draft (for college), n.d.
Typed article on the nature of poetry (for college English class), n.d.
Typed paper for English B, "John Lyly's Campaspe" (1933 May 6)
Typed dialogue sketch set in the office of Paralta Pictures in Hollywood, "Five Thousand Dollars a Week," n.d.
Hand-written diagram of "A Family Tree of Independent Film," n.d.
Typed and handwritten poem, n.d.
Typed paper for English 22B, "Popular Taste, 1780-1810" (1933 April 13).

ca. 1933
8 "Griffith Lecture Notes"

Incl. lecture notes for 5 programs from "Series Five: The Film of Fact and Opinion:" Program I: Screen Journalism and Current Events, Program II: The Film for Instruction and Publicity, Program III: The Other Half of the World, Program IV: Romantic Impressionism, Program V: The Sociological Approach to the Documentary Film, n.d.

9 A Report on the Outlook for the Profitable Production of Documentary Films for the Non-Theatrical Market

By Mary Losey, for the Sugar Research Foundation

April, 1948
10 The Non-Theatrical Film in the United States: A Survey

And August 1, 1943
By Mary Losey
Incl. typed report, "Non-Theatrical Distribution in the United States," n.d.

July 1943
11 Newsreel Notes

Incl. typed and annotated "Newsreel Notes" concerning the following books:
The Camera Man (by Francis Collins. N.Y.: The Century Co.; 1916.)
How We Advised America (by George Creel. N.Y.: Harpers; 1920.)
Le Cinema (by Ernest Coustet. Paris: Librairie Hachette; 1920.)
How Motion Pictures Are Made (by Homer Croy. N.Y.: Harpers; 1918.)
The Boys Book of Newsreel Hunters (by Irving Crump. N.Y.: Dodd, Mead; 1936.)
The Content of Motion Pictures (by Edgar Dale. N.Y.: Macmillan; 1935.)
Making the Movies (by Ernest Dench. N.Y.: Macmillan; 1915.)
Le Cinema, Des Origines a Nos Jours (ed. Henri Fescourt, Paris), n.d.
Perhaps preparatory notes for publication on the newsreel.

12 The Technique of the Film: A Film to Describe the Scope, Techniques and Kinds of Motion Picture

First draft
"The Technique of Film"
Incl. 1 TLS Eunice Fuller Barnard-RG (1938 Oct. 25)
First draft of The Technique of the Film: A Film to Describe the Scope, Techniques and Kinds of Motion Picture, by Richard Griffith (1937 December 3).

13 Paul Rotha Correspondence

"Rotha to RG"
Incl. correspondence Paul Rotha-RG, (ca. 1939-1965)
1 Al RG-Paul Rotha (1931 June 2).

ca. 1931-1935
14 Iris Barry Correspondence

"Barry to RG"
Incl. 4 TLS Iris Barry-Richard Griffith (ca. 1959 Aug. 25).

ca. 1959
15 Correspondence

"Misc. Letters to RG"
Incl. 1 ALS Garson Kanin-RG (1959 Aug. 14)
1 TLS Charles Massey-RG (1960 April)
1 TLS Cecil deMille-RG (1940 Nov. 19)
1 TL carbon RG-Cecil B. deMille (1940 Nov. 26)
1 TL draft? RG-Edwin Schallert, n.d.
1 ALS Irma Nelson Bernay-RG (April 24)
1 TLS second page? Janie?-RG, n.d.
1 TL/ALS Cordelia Lirustone?-RG (1965 Jan. 5).

ca. 1959-1965

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Box and Folder List

Box Folder
1 1-6
2 8-15

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