- Monday, May. 21, 2018
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce a donation to the Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive from George Stevens, Jr., the award-winning filmmaker and founder of the American Film Institute. The acquisition of papers and films documenting his creative career and public service extends the coverage of the Stevens Family collection, which now spans five generations and is one of the most comprehensive family collections in the Academy’s holdings.
The Margaret Herrick Library’s latest acquisition from Stevens Jr., who received an Honorary Award (an Oscar®statuette) from the Academy in 2012 in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the motion picture arts, includes papers, photographs, letters and scripts from his early career as an assistant to his father on “Shane” and “Giant”; his service as head of motion pictures at the United States Information Agency (USIA) during the Kennedy years; his role as founding director of the American Film Institute (1967-1980); as creator and co-producer of the Kennedy Center Honors (1978-2014); and as a writer, producer, director and playwright. Among his motion pictures received by the Academy Film Archive are the documentary “John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums” (1964) and “George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey” (1984), his film on the life and career of his two-time Oscar-winning father.
“The donation of the George Stevens collection in 1980 was an important catalyst for the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library evolving into the internationally recognized motion picture research resource it has become,” said Randy Haberkamp, the Academy’s Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Programs. “We are grateful to George Stevens, Jr. for his continued support over these many years and honored to preserve the legacy of such a multi-faceted family of film artists.”
“The Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive stand at the forefront of expertly curated and accessible motion picture history,” said Stevens, Jr. “As an Academy member since 1959 and the son of a past Academy president, I am thankful that the history of the Stevens family will reside at this great institution.”
This gift joins Stevens Jr.’s earlier donations beginning with his gift of the George Stevens collection to the Margaret Herrick Library in 1980. This collection provides a comprehensive record of his father’s long and distinguished career, beginning as a cameraman on Laurel and Hardy shorts and continuing with his direction of such classic films as “Swing Time,” “Gunga Din,” “Woman of the Year,” “A Place in the Sun,” “Shane” and “Giant.” The library’s collection contains scripts, production files, correspondence, scrapbooks and photographs, including extensive documentation of the elder Stevens’s activities as head of a combat photography unit of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. The Academy Film Archive’s Stevens collection currently contains about 600 items, including unique behind-the-scenes home movies.
George Stevens, Jr. is also donating papers, films, photographs, playscripts and scrapbooks from the other four generations of his family. The Academy will receive the papers and films of his late son Michael Stevens, an award-winning writer-producer-director of feature films and television, as a gift from Michael’s wife, Alexandra Stevens.
The earlier generations represented by material in the Stevens Family collection include Stevens Jr.’s great-grandmother, Georgia Woodthorpe, who earned fame on the San Francisco stage in the late 1800s. One of her distinctions was playing Ophelia to the great tragedian Edwin Booth’s Hamlet.
Stevens Jr.’s paternal grandparents, Landers Stevens and Georgia Cooper Stevens (known professionally as Georgie Cooper) were matinee idols in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Landers was an actor-manager who played more than 500 roles, many opposite his wife Georgie, and they each appeared in more than 50 films. Also represented in the collection is Landers’s brother Ashton Stevens, who wrote for the Hearst newspapers for 50 years, earning him a reputation as the dean of American drama critics. He was a mentor to Orson Welles in Chicago, and Welles used him as a model for the character Jed Leland (played by Joseph Cotten) in “Citizen Kane.”
Stevens Jr.’s maternal grandmother, Alice Howell, went from vaudeville in New York to work with Mack Sennett in 1913, appearing in some of Charlie Chaplin’s earliest films. She went on to appear in more than 100 silent films and is the subject of the recent book “She Could Be Chaplin! The Comedic Brilliance of Alice Howell” by Anthony Slide. Her daughter Yvonne appeared in film comedies as Yvonne Howell in the 1920s, retiring when she married George Stevens.
Stevens, Jr. has spent a lifetime celebrating and preserving the heritage of motion pictures. After several years at the United States Information Agency, where he championed the work of young documentary filmmakers and was Oscar-nominated for producing the documentary short subject “The Five Cities of June,” Stevens Jr. went on to become the founding director of the American Film Institute in 1967. Under his leadership, the AFI created the AFI Film Collection that now numbers 35,000 motion pictures at the Library of Congress; established the Center for Advanced Film Studies; created the AFI Life Achievement Award; and embarked on a host of educational initiatives. In 1977, Stevens Jr. co-founded the Kennedy Center Honors, which he produced until 2014. His distinguished career in television has earned him 17 Emmys, a Humanitas Award and two Peabody Awards. He was executive producer of “The Thin Red Line,” which received seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture. He served eight years under President Obama as chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
In celebration of Stevens Jr.’s donation, the Academy will screen the 1935 Oscar-nominated classic “Alice Adams,”directed by George Stevens and starring Katharine Hepburn and Fred MacMurray, on Monday, June 4, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The 19th in the George Stevens Lecture series, the evening will feature an introduction by writer-director Robin Swicord and an exhibition of items from the Stevens Family collection.
To see highlights from Stevens Family collection, click here.
The Stevens Family collection has been preserved and cataloged, and may be accessed by filmmakers, historians, journalists, students and the public at the Margaret Herrick Library, located in the Academy’s Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study in Beverly Hills, as well as the Academy Film Archive, located in the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Hollywood. For more information about the Academy’s holdings, visit oscars.org.