The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday that filmmaker and American Film Institute founder George Stevens Jr. donated papers and films documenting his career and public service to the Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive.
The gift from Stevens Jr., who received an honorary Oscar from the Academy in 2012 in recognition of his contribution to the motion picture arts, extends the coverage of the Stevens Family collection, which now spans five generations.
His first gift to the Herrick Library in 1980 was a collection documenting his two-time Oscar-winning father’s 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 Margaret Herrick Library’s latest acquisition includes papers, photographs, letters and scripts from Stevens Jr.’s early career as an assistant to his dad on “Shane” and “Giant”; his service as head of motion pictures at the United States Information Agency 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 (“The Thin Red Line”), director and playwright.
Among his motion pictures received by the Academy Film Archive are the 1964 documentary “John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums” and “George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey,” his 1984 film on the life and career of his father.
Stevens Jr. said the Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive “stand at the forefront of expertly curated and accessible motion picture history. 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.”
The library’s collection contains scripts, production files, correspondence, scrapbooks and photographs, including extensive documentation of the elder Stevens’ activities as head of a combat photography unit of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, according to the Academy. The Academy Film Archive’s Stevens collection contains about 600 items, including home movies.
Stevens Jr. is also donating papers, films, photographs, playscripts and scrapbooks from the other four generations of his family, including papers and films of his late son Michael Stevens, an award-winning writer-producer-director of feature films and television.
The earlier generations represented by material in the Stevens Family collection include:
— Stevens Jr.’s great-grandmother, Georgia Woodthorpe, a San Francisco stage actress in the late 1800s;
— his paternal grandparents Landers Stevens and Georgia Cooper Stevens (known professionally as Georgie Cooper), who were matinee idols in San Francisco in the early 1900s;
— Landers’ brother Ashton Stevens, a drama critic who wrote for the Hearst newspapers for 50 years and was a mentor to Orson Welles, who used him as a model for the character Jed Leland in “Citizen Kane”; and
— Stevens Jr.’s maternal grandmother, Alice Howell, who began her career in vaudeville in New York and was in some of Charlie Chaplin’s earliest films. She appeared in more than 100 silent films and her daughter Yvonne appeared in film comedies as Yvonne Howell in the 1920s, retiring when she married George Stevens.
Stevens Jr. founded AFI in a quest to celebrate and preserve the heritage of motion pictures. Under his leadership, AFI started the AFI Film Collection that now numbers 35,000 motion pictures at the Library of Congress; established the Center for Advanced Film Studies; and created the AFI Life Achievement Award.
In celebration of the 17-time Emmy Award winner’s gift, the Academy will screen the 1935 Oscar-nominated classic “Alice Adams,” directed by George Stevens and starring Katharine Hepburn and Fred MacMurray, on June 4 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
The 19th in the George Stevens Lecture series, the evening will feature an exhibition of items from the Stevens Family collection, which is accessible to 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.
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