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Records, 1919-1965

United Artists Corporation

Publication Details Click to collapse Cite/Export

  • Format Mixed Materials; Microforms; Videos, Slides, Films
  • Physical Details
    • 687.0 c.f
    • 374 reels of microfilm (35mm), and
    • 5090 films; plus
    • additions of undetermined quantity
  • Finding Aids
    • Register to the processed portion


  • Records of a privately-owned corporation formed in 1919 by Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith to distribute motion pictures made by them and other independent producers. After considerable financial and public success during the 1930's, UA declined until its sale to Arthur B. Krim and Robert S. Benjamin in 1951; in 1967 it became a subsidiary of Transamerica Corporation.
  • Corporate records (1115 boxes), which include correspondence, reports, financial and legal records, and advertising materials, relate almost entirely to the first ownership and more particularly to operations during the 1930's and 1940's. Although few documents directly relate to the original partners, the collection offers excellent files on the legal, financial, sales, and advertising aspects of distribution. There are production files and scripts for only a few UA releases and no UA films in the collection, as these records belonged to their producers. Films, scripts, and related papers are present, however, in the extensive purchased film library (1004 boxes and 5090 films) which comprises the remainder of the collection.
  • Legal records, 1919-1951, constitute both the largest and most important part of the collection for study of corporate policies, activities, and structure. These include extensive files maintained by O'Brien, Driscoll, and Raftery, the firm which represented UA during the entire tenure of the original ownership, and several internal files relating to ownership of films and allocation of payments. Included are correspondence, minutes, contracts, briefs, and other legal documents. While these records provide access to the full range of corporate activity, they are especially useful for stockholders suits, court cases concerning plagiarism and censorship, anti-trust actions, and contracts and negotiations with producers. Also present are papers about UA's legal relationship with other corporations, studios, and organizations such as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America.
  • Names prominently noted in the files include Benedict Bogeaus, James Cagney, Walt Disney, Harry Goetz, Samuel Goldwyn, Howard Hughes, Buster Keaton, Alexander Korda, David Loew, J. Arthur Rank, Hal Roach, Edward Small, David O. Selznick, Hunt Stromberg, Gloria Swanson, Walter Wanger, Herbert Wilcox, and Darryl F. Zanuck. Further references to individuals as well as to corporations and film titles are indexed in the unpublished register. Available as one reel of microfilm are minutes of meetings of stockholders, the board of directors, and various executive committees; incorporation papers; and reports.
  • Executive records, 1921-1951, range from routine to policy-level matters. Included are papers generated in the offices of president A.H. Giannini, vice-presidents George L. Bagnall, Arthur W. Kelley, and Gradwell Sears; and treasurer William P. Philips. Unprocessed files relate to Harry Buckley, Edward C. Raftery, George J. Schaeffer, Loyd Wright, and several financial officers.
  • Financial records, 1919-1959, include foreign and domestic ledgers, journals, and other financial documents for the parent corporation and for major subsidiaries and related corporations such as Hal Roach Studios, Selznick International Pictures, and Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
  • Advertising files, 1933-1953, generated by several executives document the corporation's relations with publicists, advertising agencies, theater owners, and production executives. Information on individual promotion campaigns, budgets, advertising in newspapers and magazines and on radio, and personal appearances by and interviews of film stars is included. Many files contain examples of publicity materials and press releases. Of special note are the files on the "roadshow" promotion of "Henry V" (1946) and the involvement of Monroe E. Greenthal in the publicity and advertising division of the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry.
  • Sales records, 1929-1950, which document both foreign and domestic activities, are only partially processed. Processed domestic files detail UA's role as an intermediary between production companies and exhibitors and are particularly revealing with regard to the experiences of the small exhibitor at the onset of the sound era. The more extensive foreign files deal with sale of film distribution rights to foreign clients. This section is indexed by film title, individual and corporate name, and subject. Also included are two boxes of minutes, correspondence, and subject files on UA's participation in the Motion Picture Export Association, a group of American film distributors formed to handle the special problems encountered in occupied countries after World War II.
  • Subsidiary records include legal records of Eagle Lion Classics, Inc., and Producers Releasing Corp.; production files on "Sundown" (1941), the only production files in the collection; pre-production files on 14 films produced by Walter Wanger; and financial records of Walter Wanger Productions, Inc., and United Artists Productions, Inc., its successor.
  • Other records include intra-corporation circular letters, three boxes of United Artists scripts, press books of UA releases (some available on microfilm), and 595 boxes of stills of various releases. Also part ofthe collection is a large film library purchased from Monogram Pictures, Warner Brothers, RKO, and Ziv Television Productions.
  • Warner Brothers material includes 800 features, primarily 1931-1947 (including 50 silent films, 500 Warner and Popeye cartoons, and 1500 Vitaphone short subjects). The films are supplemented by scripts and drafts, dialogue continuities, negative stills, microfilmed press books, contracts, and copyright files.
  • The Ziv Television library includes films of 38 series produced by Frederick W. Ziv, a major packager of syndicated programs. Included are "Bat Masterson" (NBC), "Boston Blackie" (NBC), "Favorite Story," "Highway Patrol," "I Led Three Lives," "Lockup," "Mr. District Attorney," "Ripcord" (all syndicated), "Science Fiction Theatre" (NBC), "Sea Hunt," "Tombstone Territory" (ABC), "West Point" (ABC), "Yesterday's Newsreel," and other titles. There are also drafts and shooting scripts and dialogues for most programs, some 40,000 positive and negative stills, and a few production files.
  • The Monogram Pictures film library consists of feature films, sound track transcripts, negative stills, and microfilm copies of press books and other advertising material. The RKO library consists of 708 feature films produced and released during the 1930s and 1940s.
  • The processed portion is summarized above, dates 1919-1965, and is described in the register. Additional accessions are described below.


  • The many series within the United Artists Corporation records also have been cataloged individually.
  • Portions available only on microfilm.
  • Presented by the United Artists Corporation via Robert Schwartz, New York, N.Y., 1968-1976.
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