Collection ID:

Collection context


George Eastman Museum
The Leo Hurwitz Collection consists of correspondence and papers (both business and personal), scripts, storyboards, publications and clippings, research materials, financial records, promotional material, interviews, festival materials, film and audio dating from 1910-1992, bulk 1925-1991. The collection covers the whole of Hurwitz’s professional career and to a lesser extent his personal life, but with much overlap in the materials themselves. The collection documents Hurwitz's involvement with many notable figures, including Paul Strand, Elia Kazan, Joris Ivens, Paul Robeson, Ralph Steiner, W.E.B. Du Bois, Henri Langlois, Woody Guthrie, James Blue, and Edwin Rolfe.
89.5 cubic feet
English and Collection materials are primarily in English . Other languages represented are German , French , Finnish , Italian , Dutch , Russian , Spanish , Portuguese , Polish , and Hebrew .
Preferred citation:

Preferred citation for this material is as follows: Leo Hurwitz Collection, 1910-1992, George Eastman Museum, Moving Image Department, Stills, Posters and Paper Collections.


Scope and Content:

The Leo Hurwitz Collection primarily consists of records created, received, and maintained by filmmaker Leo T. Hurwitz during his lifetime, with some correspondence, clippings, and publications collected after his death. Materials include correspondence (both business-related and personal); original film production materials such as research notes, treatments, outlines, scripts, logs, and storyboards; publications and clippings; address books and calendars; financial records; publicity and film festival materials; and interviews on paper and audiotape. The collection also comprises original poems, essays, and lectures written by Hurwitz as well as the writings of other authors. The scope of the collection covers the entirety of Hurwitz's professional career, from his beginnings with the American social documentary movement of the 1930s and his struggles to find work in the 1950s and 1960s while blacklisted, to his innovative work in television for CBS, NET, and Capitol Cities Broadcasting, for whom he directed the videotaping of the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. Particular strengths of the collection include materials related to Hurwitz's work with Frontier Films, CBS, and NET; his blacklisting; his later efforts to access his surveillance files from the FBI and CIA; his activities during the merger of the Screen Directors Guild of America (SDIG) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and his opposition to the DGA's non-Communist loyalty oath; the videotaping of the Adolf Eichmann trial; and his chairmanship of the Graduate Program in the Institute of Film and Television at New York University (NYU). There are also extensive materials related to Hurwitz's film and TV projects both produced and unproduced. (The titles of unproduced projects appear in quotation marks, while produced titles are italicized.) The bulk of the earliest personal material in the collection dates from Hurwitz's time as a high-school student in Brooklyn, New York, and later Harvard College (earlier materials in the collection are mostly family photographs). Other personal materials include correspondence from friends and family; papers (including passports, tax documents, insurance papers, and wills); and clippings and publications, mostly on political topics. Persons of interest include Paul Strand, Joris Ivens, Jane Dudley, Ben Maddow, Peggy Lawson, Manfred Kirchheimer, Edwin Rolfe, Marc Blitzstein, and members of the Film and Photo League, NYKino, and Frontier Films.

Most of the collection materials were labeled and arranged by Hurwitz during his lifetime and there are few significant gaps. Geographically, the majority of the collection was produced in the United States, but there are materials related to European locales (festivals and retrospectives, screenings, personal and professional correspondence) as well as Israel (mostly focused on the Eichmann trial). English is the predominate language. There are very few personal photographs, which are presumed to have been retained by the family; most photographs in the collection are related to Hurwitz’s professional career. Hurwitz's films presently housed in the Moving Image Department of the George Eastman Museum are cataloged separately.

Biographical / Historical:

The American filmmakerLeo Tolstoy Hurwitzwas born on June 23, 1909, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. The youngest of eight, his siblings included his oldest brotherWilliam Hurwitz;Peter Hurwitz Hawley;Elizabeth Delza-Munson;Rosetta Hurwitz;Marie Hurwitz Briehl;Sophia Delza; andEleanor Hurwitz Anderson. Hurwitz's fatherSolomon Gurewich (1860-1945), a tutor, arrived in the United States from Russia in 1898; his mother,Eva Riva Katcher, was a midwife whom Solomon met while teaching children in Eva's hometown of Rossava, Ukraine. Eva followed Solomon to the U.S. in 1900, bringing with her the first four of the couple's eight children; the rest would be born in the U.S. Solomon worked as a pushcart peddler and factory worker in Philadelphia and then New York City. Though anti-Bolshevik and a life-long anti-Communist Solomon nevertheless attended socialist, anarchist, and trade-unionist meetings, often accompanied by Eva; he also sent several of Leo's brothers and sisters to the Socialist Sunday School. [1] Leo Hurwitz attended Brooklyn's Dewey Junior High School and New Utretch High School, where he was the editor-in-chief of the literary magazine The Comet and president of the dramatic society. [2]

Hurwitz graduated high school in June 1926 and, having received a New York Harvard Club scholarship, enteredHarvard Collegethat September. While at Harvard Hurwitz majored in philosophy and psychology, with minors in fine arts and science. He also became a member of the Liberal Club. During his sophomore year Hurwitz decided against becoming a physician, and by his junior year he realized he wanted to work in film. In June 1930 Hurwitz graduated Harvard summa cum laude.

Returning to New York City Hurwitz began taking photographs forHarper's Bazaarand writing book reviews for several New York newspapers, including theNew York Post. He also worked for an emergency relief agency at an orphanage across from the campus of theCity College of New York. Hurwitz left the agency after several months and began working without pay as an assistant editor forCreative Artmagazine, where the husband of his sister Sophia,A. Cook Glassgold, was the managing editor. Hurwitz's duties included securing copy and laying out pages of photographs by such photographers and avant-garde filmmakers asRalph SteinerandPaul Strand, both of whom advised Hurwitz on his own photography. Steiner in particular taught Hurwitz the essentials of dark-room technique and photographic practice. Hurwitz also contributed film reviews toCreative Art, but due to a lack of funds and equipment his own filmmaking activities were limited to ideas for short films and a feature-length animated adaptation ofAlice in Wonderland. [3]

In late 1931/early 1932 Hurwitz's interests in photography and film led him to theFilm and Photo League of New York, where he was soon joined by Steiner, filmmaker/editorSidney Meyers, andLionel Berman. In December 1932 Hurwitz filmed the National Hunger March in Washington from its start in Boston --Samuel Brody,Robert Del Duca, and Steiner joined him in New York City -- and later edited the footage into Hunger 1932 (1933). [4] Additional Film and Photo League films on which Hurwitz worked as director, cinematographer, or editor includeThe Scottsboro Boys(1933) (in cooperation with the International Labor Defense) andSweet Land of Liberty(1934) (with the Political Prisoners Committee of International Law).

In November 1933 the Film and Photo League inaugurated theHarry Alan Potamkin Film Schoolat the Lexington Avenue headquarters of theWorkers International Relief. [5] Named for the late film theorist and League member, the school was intended to meet the need for formal technical training and education in the history of film and film criticism. Hurwitz taught classes alongside other League members and soon advocated for the formation of a dedicated production unit within the League -- a properly trained "shock troop" consisting of "people who had a life interest in film" [6]. The idea met with resistance -- some members felt the idea of a select cadre of filmmakers was elitist and ran counter to the idea of the Film and Photo League as a mass democratic organization. [7] In response Hurwitz formedNYKinoin 1935 with Steiner, Meyers,Jay Leyda,Irving Lerner, andBen Maddow, many of whom comprised the core group of the Harry Alan Potamkin Film School. Initially funded by Hurwitz's salary fromNew Theatremagazine, where he began working as managing editor in 1934, NYKino shifted away from the League's strict adherence to documentary form, and began to incorporate dramatization and creative cinematography and editing into the depiction of real-life events. [8] NYKino's first projects included the completion of three films begun earlier by Ralph Steiner (Harbor Scenes,Quarry[a.k.a.Granite], andPie in the Sky[1935]), all of which were edited by Hurwitz [9], as well as a dramaticMarch of Time-style newsreel "from a left-wing perspective" [10] titledThe World Today, of which only two segments were produced (SunnysideandThe Black Legion). In 1935 Hurwitz, Steiner, and Paul Strand were hired by writer-turned-filmmakerPare Lorentzto photograph the Resettlement Administration-sponsored filmThe Plow that Broke the Plains(1936) in Montana, Wyoming, and Texas. That summer, on July 2, 1935, Hurwitz also married the prominent dancer and choreographerJane Dudley.

Upon their return from shootingThe Plow that Broke the Plains, Hurwitz, Steiner, and Strand set about transforming NYKino -- at best a part-time endeavor for many of its members -- into what Hurwitz would later describe as "an independent production company with day-to-day continuity and with a full-time staff." [11]Frontier Filmswas officially launched in March 1937 with Strand as president and Hurwitz and Steiner vice-presidents. [12] (Steiner, along withWillard Van Dyke, would leave Frontier in early 1938 to formAmerican Documentary Films.) Frontier Films' first completed production wasHeart of Spain(1937), based primarily on footage of the Spanish Civil War previously shot byNew Theatreeditor Herbert Kline and edited by Strand and Hurwitz [13], followed byChina Strikes Back(1937);People of the CumberlandandReturn to Life(both 1938);History and Romance of Transportation(1939); andWhite Flood(1940). In 1937 production also began on a feature-length film about American civil liberties alternatively referred to as "Production #5," "Labor Spy," "Edge of the World," "Listen America!" and "Civil Liberties." [14] The film would take nearly four years to complete and would not be released until January 1942 by which time it had been renamedNative Land. The departure of additional members, a depletion of funds, and the U.S.'s entry into World War II all contributed to the end of Frontier Films, shortly after the theatrical release ofNative Landin early 1942. [15]

Rejected by the U.S. Army on account of a functional heart murmur, [16] Hurwitz spent the early years of the war working on films for several government agencies, including theOffice of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs(Song of Freedom, 1942, andThere Shall Be Freedom, ca. 1943); theUnited States Navy Bureau of Aeronautics(Tomorrow We Fly, 1943); theOffice of War Information(OWI) ("Bridge of Men," 1943, and "On the Playing Fields of America," 1944); and theBritish Information Services, for whom Hurwitz adapted British documentaries for American use. [17] In general, however, work was increasingly difficult to find. According to Hurwitz the OWI had grown leery of him: An expedition to the Arctic to film a sequence for the agency's film "Bridge of Men" was canceled at the last minute due to an uncomfortable feeling that Hurwitz was a "premature anti-Fascist" [18] -- one early indication that his involvement with Leftist politics was becoming problematic.

In 1943, after Hurwitz and Strand's failed attempt to form a combat photographic unit for theDepartment of the Army, [19] Hurwitz drove to Los Angeles in hopes of joiningFrank Capra's filmmaking unit of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Hurwitz had agreed to the unit's use of footage fromNative LandinWhy We Fight: War Comes to America(1945), but his efforts to join the unit were rebuffed -- another instance, Hurwitz suspected, of "red-baiting." [20] The film industry, however, proved more welcoming. After being shownNative Landby Hurwitz's agentGeorge Willner,David O. Selznickhired Hurwitz on a 13-week contract to write and direct a shipyard sequence for the home-front melodramaSince You Went Away(John Cromwell, 1944). [21] Hurwitz claimed to have shot over 40 minutes of footage, from which Selznick used only one shot. [22]

After nine months in Hollywood, Hurwitz made his way back east, stopping first in Detroit to write a film for theUnited Auto Workers[a history of the union possibly titled "The Story of Democracy -- The Growth of a Union"]. The film was never produced -- Hurwitz suspected internal political problems [23] -- and by 1944 Hurwitz was back in New York City. Through his friendGilbert Seldes, then director ofCBS Television, Hurwitz was hired as a network producer, director, and writer. Hurwitz remained at CBS for three years, during which time he became director in charge of News and Special Events. [24]

Shortly before the birth of his son,Thomas Hurwitz, in 1947, Leo Hurwitz left CBS to direct his second feature-length film,Strange Victory(1949), for producerBarney Rosset's newly founded companyTarget Films. Originally titled "Candle in the Wind,"Strange Victorydealt with the ongoing racial discrimination faced by returning African-American veterans in post-WWII America. The film won first prize at the 1949 Karlovy-Vary Film Festival, but was criticized in the U.S. for its "communist undertones," a critique which only strengthened many employers' reservations regarding Hurwitz and his politics. [25] These fears were formalized in 1950 when Hurwitz's name appeared in the infamous anti-Communist publicationRed Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Televisionalong with 150 other members of the entertainment industry suspected of anti-American activities.

Hurwitz's unproduced projects of the period include feature-length adaptations of the novelsFreedom RoadbyHoward FastandMasters of the DewbyJacques Roumain, and a film sponsored byPlanned Parenthood. In 1949 Hurwitz proposed developing the "Movietel Camera," a motion-picture camera linked to a remote television monitor that would enable a director to see what the cameraman sees through the viewfinder. The camera was never produced.

Upon completion ofStrange VictoryHurwitz attempted to return to CBS but found the network unwilling to rehire him for staff or freelance work, an attitude Hurwitz attributed to his blacklisting. [26] Instead, Hurwitz was hired as the Director of Television Production for theSouvaine Company, an independent production company headed by the composer and radio/TV producerHenry Souvaine. Hurwitz supervised the Souvaine Company's hour-long adaptation ofBizet's operaCarmenfor the new CBS seriesOpera Television Theatre. (CBS seemed unaware of Hurwitz's involvement.)Carmendebuted on New Year's Day 1950, and though well-received, CBS's inability to secure a single sponsor meantOpera Television Theatre's next production,La Traviata, also supervised by Hurwitz, would be its last. [27]

In 1950 Hurwitz was hired by theUnited Nations Film Boardto directThis Is the United Nations, a series of eight [though it appears the final number of issues was at least 15] theatrically released "screen magazines" highlighting the activities of the U.N. around the world. Hurwitz's work for the Souvaine Company continued. In 1951 he re-edited and supervised the musical re-voicing and printing of Lou Bunin's English-language adaptation ofAlice in Wonderland(1951), a combination of live action and stop-motion animation originally released in France in 1949.

In 1951 NBC hired the Souvaine Company to produceAmerica Applauds: An Evening for Richard Rodgers, a 34-minute musical tribute to the popular composer sponsored by theUnited Shoe Company. While the broadcast was a critical success for the network -- among its many featured performers was a youngMary Martinin her first television appearance -- any future work with NBC was not forthcoming. Their reluctance, Hurwitz believed, was due once again to his blacklisting. [28] That year Hurwitz also served as a script and production consultant forProckter Productions' television adaptation of the radio seriesThe Big Story. The episode was to serve as an "audition film," i.e. a pilot, for potential sponsorPall Mallcigarettes and its parent companyAmerican Tobacco. Toward the end of 1951 Hurwitz was hired byPeter Lawrence Productionsto adapt a stage production ofJ.M. Barrie'sPeter Panfor a Christmas Day broadcast on CBS-TV. Though Lawrence enjoyed success with a 1950 Broadway production of the play starringJean ArthurandBoris Karloff, the broadcast was canceled when a sponsor failed to materialize.

In 1952 producerBen Gradusapproached Hurwitz with a failed script written for theHealth Insurance Plan of Greater New Yorkand asked Hurwitz to rewrite and direct the film. The result,On this Day(1952), "dealt fundamentally with the anxiety that everybody feels... about the cost of medicine when you're not insured," and called for health insurance and socialized medicine. [29] While working on the film Hurwitz was approached by Life magazine photographerFons Iannelliwith motion-picture footage he had shot with his own 16mm camera and tape recorder which allowed for portable, synchronized sound recording. Iannelli shot the footage inside the emergency room of an urban hospital and asked Hurwitz to edit it into a coherent promotional film that could be used to interest potential investors and producers. [30] The film,Emergency Ward(1952), clearly anticipated the Direct and Observational Cinema movements of the late 1950s and early 1960s, and captured the interest ofRobert Saudek, the producer of the CBS-TV'sOmnibusprogram. Saudek initially agreed to make at least one film with Iannelli's invention. Unbeknownst to Saudek, the blacklisted Hurwitz would write, direct, and edit the film, a documentary about a young boxer in training who must also support a wife and baby.The Young Fighteraired on CBS in 1953 and is now considered the first broadcast example of Direct Cinema. [31] Continuing to use Iannelli as a "front," Hurwitz began production on a second Omnibus film about the Lexington School for the Deaf titledDeaf Boy, but left the project after a falling out with Iannelli (Hurwitz claimed Iannelli attempted to hijack the series by deliberately exposing him to Saudek). A follow-up film, possibly about the Dust Bowl, was canceled. [32]

In 1953 Hurwitz was invited to New Mexico to serve as a consulting director onSalt of the Earth, a dramatization of the 1951 workers' strike against theEmpire Zinc Companythat was written, directed, and produced by fellow victims of the blacklist. Hurwitz, however, soon grew frustrated with the quality of directorHerbert J. Biberman's footage and general disregard for Hurwitz’s advice. [33] Hurwitz returned to New York City before the film was completed, but eventually returned to assist with the editing in a secret cutting room in Topanga Canyon, California. Further disagreements led to Hurwitz once again exiting the production, leaving most of the editing to be done byEd Spiegeland Hurwitz's assistant,Joan Laird. [34]

When support failed to materialize for Hurwitz's planned film adaptation ofThe Lonesome Train,Millard LampellandEarl Robinson's folk oratorio aboutAbraham Lincoln, Hurwitz took over the directing and editing ofFreedom of the American Road(1955), a film sponsored by theFord Motor Companyand produced byMPO Productions. Hurwitz also served as a consultant on a film for theNew Jersey Railroad Association[title unknown] andThe Earth Is Born(1956), the first in a projected series of short films based on theLifemagazine science seriesThe World We Live In.

In 1956 Hurwitz received funding fromFilm Polskito makeThe Museum and the Fury, one of the earliest films to deal with the horrors of the Nazi holocaust. Granted access to the Film Polski archives, Hurwitz was expected to make a film addressing the general effects of World War II on Poland. Hurwitz, however, focused instead on the destruction of Polish Jewry and Poland’s concentration camps-turned-museums. Finding the finished film too poetic, Film Polski refused to distribute it but allowed Hurwitz to purchase the rights for $5000. [35]

In 1955 Hurwitz was once again called upon to rescue a troubled film project, this time a U.S. travelogue sponsored byPan American Airwaysand produced byHenry Strauss.U.S.A.was Pan Am's first film intended to lure foreign travelers to the U.S., but the project had become stalled for nearly a year and a half. Under Hurwitz's direction the finished film incorporated travel information with subtle satire, and introduced the formal technique of moving the camera across drawings and still photographs that would later become associated with the documentary style ofKen Burns. [34]U.S.A.went on to win several international awards and the prestige delighted Strauss and Pan Am, who wanted Hurwitz to direct several films in Japan. ButU.S.A.would be the only film Hurwitz would direct for Pan Am: His political leanings and subsequent blacklisting rendered him ineligible for a U.S. passport (although he would go on to write Pan Am's 1958 shortVoici la France). [36]

Dropped byHenry Strauss Productions, Hurwitz soon found work withDynamic Films, for which he wrote two sponsored films:Pattern of a Profession(1959), which Dynamic Films produced for theAmerican Dental Association, andGift of Years(1960) for theNational Committee on Aging. The first in a planned series titledPreparation for Retirement,Gift of Yearswas completed without Hurwitz's involvement: Having written a script, he left the project when rewrites were requested. [37]

In late 1961 Hurwitz returned to television after contactingMilton Fruchtman, the chief producer atCapital Cities Broadcasting, a small network of state capital-area television stations partially owned byLowell Thomas. Fruchtman had secured the exclusive rights to videotape the trial of the captured SS officerAdolf Eichmannin Jerusalem, but he faced a personnel problem: the agreement stipulated the use of Israeli cameramen in the courtroom, all of whom would have to be trained in the use of television cameras since Israel at the time had no television industry. Hurwitz, whose activities at CBS often included training television cameramen (and who by now had been permitted a U.S. passport), arranged for Fruchtman to see his Holocaust-themed filmThe Museum and the Fury. [38] Impressed, Fruchtman hired Hurwitz to film what would become a historic, nine-month exposé of Nazi bureaucracy and the horrors of the concentration camps. As Capital Cities was the sole provider of videotape of the proceedings, Hurwitz's footage of the trial would be sold to television news outlets and broadcast throughout the world (with no television, Israelis listened to the audio portions on the radio). Afterwards Hurwitz edited trial highlights intoVerdict for Tomorrow(1961), a 30-minute summation which was then distributed free of charge to television broadcast stations. [39]

Back in the U.S, Hurwitz revisited a film he had all but completed before leaving for Jerusalem:Here at the Waters' Edge(1961), a visual poem about the sights and sounds of New York Harbor co-directed by the photographerCharles Platt. Hurwitz now felt the film needed to be more concise, and edited out some 15 minutes of footage as well as the haiku he had composed for the voice-over soundtrack. In addition to the film, Hurwitz released an edited version of the soundtrack on Folkways Records titledHere at the Waters' Edge 1: A Voyage in Sound(1962). Hurwitz recorded material for a second soundtrack album -- selections from the writings ofWalt Whitman,Hart Crane,Herman Melville,Alan Dugan, andThomas McGrath, read byMelvyn Douglasover ambient harbor sounds -- but it was never released. [40]

Though still blacklisted from the television networks, Hurwitz was able to find work atNational Educational Television(NET), once again through his friend Gilbert Seldes, who had by then left CBS and was working for the public television network. Seldes advised Hurwitz to stay away from political and public affairs and concentrate on cultural affairs programming. [41] One of the first projects Hurwitz was asked to write, direct, and edit for NET wasEssay on Death: A Memorial to John F. Kennedy(1964) commemorating the first anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. The film was co-written by NET producerBrice Howardand co-edited byPeggy Lawson, a long-time assistant with whom Hurwitz had begun a relationship after separating from Jane Dudley in 1962. [42]

While never hired to the NET staff, Hurwitz went on to write, direct, and produce the acclaimed documentariesThe Sun and Richard LippoldandIn Search of Hart Crane(both 1966) for the network, all the while attempting to raise funding for such independent projects as a feature-length adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novelThe Scarlet Letter.

In 1965 Hurwitz directed and producedHaiku, a 30-minute dance film featuring Jane Dudley's choreography. The same year a decision was reached inHurwitz v. Directors Guild of America Incorporated, a lawsuit Hurwitz and five other plaintiffs brought against theDirectors Guild of America(DGA) regarding the non-Communist loyalty oath required by the union for membership. The plaintiffs, originally members of theScreen Directors International Guild(SDIG) which had no such requirement, refused to sign the oath when the SDIG merged with the DGA in 1965. The DGA in turn refused them admittance into the union. In July 1965 theU.S. Court of Appealsdecided the oath was "vague" and forbade the expulsion of anyone who refused to sign it. [43]

After a brief return to political filmmaking withDo You Know a Man Named Goya?(1967), one of approximately 40 two-minute anti-Vietnam War films screened as part of the 1967 "Week of the Angry Arts" demonstration in New York City, Hurwitz returned to "cultural affairs" with a series of four films about visual perception collectively titledThe Art of Seeing. Sponsored by theAmerican Federation of Arts(AFA), and with the psychologist and film theoristRudolf Arnheimserving as consultant,The Art of Seeingincludes the shortsLight and the Country,Light and the City,Discovery in a Landscape, andJourney into a Painting.Light and the CountryandLight and the Citywere originally excerpted from a longer film titledWorld of Color.Journey into a Paintingalso exists in a longer version titledDiscovery in a Painting.

Hurwitz continued his exploration of the visual arts withThis Island(1970), a short film about theDetroit Institute of Artsthat was sponsored by the museum. The film was shot over the summer of 1969 but its completion was complicated by Hurwitz's July appointment as Professor of Film and Chairman of the Graduate Program in the Institute of Film and Television atNew York University(NYU). [44] Beginning in 1936 when Hurwitz first taught a course in "photo-sociology" atSarah Lawrence Collegewith the developmental psychologistLois Barclay Murphy, Hurwitz almost continually held classes and seminars in filmmaking and television production at colleges, universities, acting schools, and even his own home. His hiring by NYU, however, was Hurwitz's first long-term, full-time appointment by an academic institution (ironically, the person he was hired to replace was erstwhileOmnibusproducer Robert Saudek). Hurwitz remained at NYU until the end of the 1974 spring semester when he was forcibly retired according to a controversial new policy that lowered the retirement age to 65. [45]

While still at NYU Hurwitz began work on the film that would stand as his magnum opus:Dialogue with a Woman Departed. Part tribute to Peggy Lawson, who passed away from thyroid cancer in 1971, and part examination of key events of the 20th century, the four-hour film incorporated archival film footage from different sources as well as material from Hurwitz's own work. With the help of his partnerNelly BurlinghamHurwitz spent much of the remaining decade exhibiting the film as a work-in-progress while tirelessly pursuing funding for its completion, and teaching film courses and seminars atKirkland College, theUniversity of Iowa, and theState University of New York at Buffalo. Once completed,Dialogue with a Woman Departedopened to unanimously positive reviews and was often the centerpiece of international festivals and career retrospectives.

In 1988 Hurwitz brought suit against theUnited States of America and the Central Intelligence Agencywhen, after requesting his file from theCIAin August 1987, he discovered that a letter he had written toJohn Howard Lawson[46] in the Soviet Union in 1963 had been opened and photocopied by the agency. Hurwitz cited an invasion of his privacy, but the case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court on the grounds that Hurwitz had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted; in addition, the two-year statute of limitations had been reached. In 1989 the judgment dismissing the complaint was affirmed by theU.S. Court of Appeals. [47]

As early as 1980 Hurwitz had begun work on what would be his final film project: "In Search of John Brown," an exploration of the life and influence of the American abolitionist. Hurwitz had already completed extensive sequence outlines and script drafts when he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon.

Leo Hurwitz passed away on January 18, 1991, in New York City.

1. Oral history of Leo Hurwitz conducted by Barbara Hogenson, Columbia University June 1980 -- May 1982, Box C002, The Leo Hurwitz Collection, 1910-1992, George Eastman Museum, Moving Image Department, Stills, Posters and Paper Collections, 11.

2. Ibid., 20, 27.

3. Ibid., 93.

4. William Alexander, Film on the Left: American Documentary Film from 1931 to 1942 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 28

5. Ibid., 50.

6. Oral history, 80.

7. Ibid., 80-81.

8. Nicole Huffman, "New Frontiers in the American Documentary Film," American Studies Program ath the University of Viriginia, Spring 2001, accessed 10 April 2016, <<.

9. Leo Hurwitz, "One Man's Voyage: Ideas and Films in the 1930s," Cinema Journal, Vol. 15. No. 1 (Autumn, 1975), 11.

10. Huffman

11. Hurwitz, 13.

12. Oral history, 138.

13. Russell Campbell, Cinema Strikes Back: Radical Filmmaking in the United States 1930-1942 (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1982), 154.

14. Ibid., 159.

15. Oral history, 228.

16. Oral history, 277.

17. Oral history, 374.

18. Oral history, 265-266.

19. Oral history, 278.

20. Oral history, 269.

21. Christian Williams, "A Viewfinder," Washington Post, May 14, 1983, accessed 10 April 2016, < <.

22. Ibid.

23. Oral history, 280.

24. March 31, 1951 letter from Leo Hurwitz to Radio Daily, Box C073, Folder 1, The Leo Hurwitz Collection, 1910-1992, George Eastman Museum, Moving Image Department, Stills, Posters and Paper Collections.

25. Strange Victory press booklet, Milestone Films, accessed 10 April 2016, <>, 10.

26. Oral history, 287-288.

27. Marcia J. Citron, Opera on Screen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 200), 45.

28. Oral history, 292.

29. Oral history, 376-377.

30. Strange Victory press kit, 10.

31. Ibid.

32. Oral history, 360-363.

33. Michael Wilson and Deborah Silverton Rosenfelt, Salt of the Earth (Old Westbury, NY: The Feminist Press), 134.

34. Ibid, 164.

35. Strange Victory press kit, 11.

36. Strange Victory press kit, 11.

37. Oral history, 375

38. Notes, Box C037, Folder 2b, Leo Hurwitz Collection, 1910-1992.

39. Oral history, 383-384

40. "Verdict for Tomorrow: The Eichmann Trial on Television,"Peabody: Stories that Matter, accessed 20 April 2016, <>.

41. Letter in Box C033, Folder 41, The Leo Hurwitz Collection, George Eastman Museum.

42. Oral history, 323.

43. Résumé, Box C103, Folder 2g, Leo Hurwitz Collection, George Eastman Museum.

44. "U.S. Court Voids a Loyalty Oath," Sidney E. Zion, The New York Times (New York, NY), August 15, 1966.

45. Oral history, 560-561.

46. Letter in Box C050, Folder 6, The Leo Hurwitz Collection, George Eastman Museum.

47. Document in Box C002, Folder 11, The Leo Hurwitz Collection, George Eastman Museum.

48. "Leo Hurwitz, Plaintiff-appellant, v. the United States of America and the Central Intelligence Agency, Defendants-appellees, 884 F.2d 684 (2d Cir. 1989)," Justia US Law, accessed 17 April 2016, <>

Acquisition information:
The collection was formally donated in 1999, with the memorandum of agreement signed by Manfred Kirchheimer on behalf of the Leo Hurwitz estate.

Papers are arranged in 20 series according to subject and format. Nine of these series have been further arranged into subseries. The contents of the individual folders have largely been left as they were found, and most of the folders and their titles pre-date their arrival to the George Eastman Museum. An earlier attempt at processing the collection resulted in materials related to the film Strange Victory being removed from the boxes they were originally housed in and grouped together in two boxes. Films, audio, and video are kept in a separate location from the paper materials and are arranged according to the Moving Image Department's location protocols.

The series and subseries arrangement of the records are as follows:

  • Series 1, Biographical Information,1942-1991
  • Series 2, Papers,1910-1992,1925-1991
    • Subseries 1, Family,1910-1991,1925-1991
    • Subseries 2, Personal,1922-1991,1925-1991
    • Subseries 3, Professional,1931-1992,1939-1990
  • Series 3, Film/TV Projects,1930-1991
    • Subseries 1,Alice in Wonderland,1931-1951,1948-1951
    • Subseries 2,The Art of Seeing,1966-1985,1966-1969
    • Subseries 3,China Strikes Back,1938-1982,1938-1939
    • Subseries 4,Cover Girl in Paris,1963-1965
    • Subseries 5,Dialogue with a Woman Departed,1942-1991,1971-1989
    • Subseries 6, Eichmann trial,1948-1988,1961-1966
    • Subseries 7, "Energy and the Man,"1956-1957
    • Subseries 8,Essay on Death,1963-1980,1964-1967
    • Subseries 9,An Evening for Richard Rodgers,1950-1953
    • Subseries 10, "Freedom Road,"1944-1958,1945-1947
    • Subseries 11, General,1933-1990,1942-1986
    • Subseries 12,Haiku,1959-1985,1959-1972
    • Subseries 13,Heart of Spain,1937-1987,1937-1952and1981-1987
    • Subseries 14,Here at the Waters’ Edge,1952-1990,1958-1965
    • Subseries 15,In Search of Hart Crane,1961-1987,1964-1966
    • Subseries 16, "In Search of John Brown,"1961-1990,1982-1988
    • Subseries 17, "In Search of Robert Oppenheimer,"1966-1968
    • Subseries 18, "King Boor,"1957-1958
    • Subseries 19, "Lonesome Train,"1944-1956,1952-1956
    • Subseries 20, "Masters of the Dew,"1942-1963,1948-1951
    • Subseries 21, Movietel Camera,1948-1950
    • Subseries 22,The Museum and the Fury,1956-1987,1956-1968
    • Subseries 23,Native Land,1930-1989,1936-1951
    • Subseries 24,On This Day,1951-1953
    • Subseries 25,Opera Television Theatre,1948-1950
    • Subseries 26,Pattern of a Profession,1943/1961,1953-1959
    • Subseries 27, "Pay Day,"1937-1939
    • Subseries 28, "Peter Pan,"1950-1951
    • Subseries 29,The Plow that Broke the Plains,1931-1937
    • Subseries 30,Port of New York Film,1963-1969,1963-1964
    • Subseries 31, "Power in the Seed,"1946-1954
    • Subseries 32,Preparation for Retirement: Gift of Years,1954-1960
    • Subseries 33,Salt of the Earth,1952-1981,1952-1955
    • Subseries 34, "The Scarlet Letter,"1957-1981,1957-1975
    • Subseries 35,Since You Went Away,1944
    • Subseries 36,Strange Victory,1939-1988,1944-1973
    • Subseries 37,The Sun and Richard Lippold,1948-1976,1965-1968
    • Subseries 38,This Island,1963-1987,1966-1971
    • Subseries 39,Tomorrow We Fly,1939-1963,1942-1944
    • Subseries 40, United Nations films,1949-1951
    • Subseries 41,U.S.A.[NET],1965-1966
    • Subseries 42,U.S.A.[Pan Am]1954-1965,1954-1957
    • Subseries 43,Verdict for Tomorrow,1956-1965
    • Subseries 44,Voici la France,1956-1957
    • Subseries 45,The World Today,1935-1936
    • Subseries 46,The Young Fighter,1953
  • Series 4, Film and Photo League,1932-1991,1932-1954
  • Series 5, NYKino,1931-1939
  • Series 6, Frontier Films,1936-1989,1936-1949
  • Series 7, Employers,1942-1982,1942-1966
    • Subseries 1, CBS [Columbia Broadcasting System],1948-1958,1944-1946
    • Subseries 2, Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs,1942-1943
    • Subseries 3, NET [National Education Television],1952-1982,1964-1966
    • Subseries 4, Office of War Information,1942-1958,1942-1945
    • Subseries 5, Souvaine Co.,1948-1950
    • Subseries 6, United Auto Workers,1942-1946
  • Series 8, Teaching,1943-1990
    • Subseries 1, American Theatre Wing,1949-1957
    • Subseries 2, Bard College,1984-1986
    • Subseries 3, Columbia University,1946-1986
    • Subseries 4, General,1930-1989,1943-1989
    • Subseries 5, Kirkland College,1972-1977
    • Subseries 6, New School,1946-1957,1946-1950
    • Subseries 7, New York University,1958-1990,1959-1984
    • Subseries 8, Seminars,1943-1990,1969-1990
    • Subseries 9, SUNY Buffalo,1975-1983
    • Subseries 10, University of Iowa,1973-1975
  • Series 9, Interviews,1937-1990
    • Subseries 1, Hurwitz,1937-1990,1966-1987
    • Subseries 2, Others,1961-1985
  • Series 10, Political Activities,1936-1991
    • Subseries 1, Blacklist,1942-1990,1942-1962
    • Subseries 2, FBI,1947-1990
    • Subseries 3, Freedom of Information Act,1979-1989,1987-1989
    • Subseries 4, General,1936-1990
    • Subseries 5,Hurwitz v. USA and CIA,1958-1992,1987-1990
    • Subseries 6, Protest Movements,1957-1991,1967-1976
  • Series 11, Unions,1932-1989,1959-1988
    • Subseries 1, Directors Guild of America,1948-1989,1959-1988
    • Subseries 2, General,1932-1986
  • Series 12, Writings,1925-1991
    • Subseries 1, Hurwitz,1925-1991
    • Subseries 2, Others,1930-1991
  • Series 13, Publications/Clippings,1926-1992
    • Subseries 1, Hurwitz,1926-1992
    • Subseries 2, General,1926-1990
  • Series 14, Festivals/Retrospectives/Conferences/Awards,1941-1993,1956-1990
  • Series 15, Financial,1942-1991
  • Series 16, Calendars/Address Books,1935-1991,1961-1991
  • Series 17, Paul Strand,1936-1990
  • Series 18, Photographs,1926-1992
  • Series 19, Films,1937-1981
  • Series 20, Audio and Video Tapes,1962-1988
Physical location:
Collection materials are located onsite.

Indexed Terms

Anti-war films
Anti-war movements
Art in motion pictures.
Black Panther Party.
Blacklisting of entertainers -- United States.
Brown, John, 1800-1859.
Civil rights movements -- United States.
Communism and motion pictures -- United States.
Crane, Hart, 1899-1932
Documentary films -- Production and direction -- United States.
Documentary films -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Directors Guild of America.
Eichmann, Adolf, 1906-1962. Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance files
Film adaptations.
Film festivals
Freedom of Information Act (United States)
Great Depression, 1929-1939.
Harvard University -- Alumni and alumnae
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Museums.
Independent filmmakers -- United States.
Independent films
Independent films -- Production and direction.
Independent films -- United States -- Catalogs.
Industrial films
Jewish communists -- United States.
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963 -- Death & burial.
Labor unions and art -- United States.
Lend-lease operations (1941-1945)
Lippold, Richard, 1915-
Loyalty oaths.
Modern Dance.
Motion pictures -- Political aspects -- United States.
Motion pictures -- Press coverage -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Anecdotes.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Awards.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Catalogs.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Distribution.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Editing.
Motion Pictures -- United States -- Equipment and supplies -- Catalogs.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Exhibitions.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Film catalogs.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Marketing.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Periodicals.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Production and direction.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Reviews.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Societies, etc.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Sound effects.
Motion pictures -- United States -- Study and teaching.
News agencies -- United States.
Protest movements -- 1960-1980.
Public television -- United States.
Puppets and puppet plays.
Screen Directors International Guild
Spanish Civil War, Spain, 1936-1939
Televised operas
Television and art -- United States.
Television and the performing arts -- United States.
Television -- Production and direction.
World War II (1939-1945)
acetate film
address books
appointment books
birth certificates
black-and-white negatives
black-and-white photographs
black-and-white slides
business cards
business records
catalogs (documents)
cellulose nitrate film [the strip of Thomas Hurwitz]
clippings (information artifacts)
color photographs
commercial correspondence
drawings (visual works)
exhibition catalogs
financial records
floppy disks
hardcover books
house organs
insurance policies
legal documents
magazines (periodicals)
medical records
oral histories (document genres)
picture postcards
programs (documents)
receipts (financial records)
résumés (personnel records)
stock certificates
tourist maps
Spain. Ejército Popular de la República. Abraham Lincoln Battalion
American Civil Liberties Union.
American Dental Association
American Documentary, Inc.
American Federation of Arts
American Film Institute
American Theatre Wing
Association of Artists for Freedom
Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers
Bard College
Capital Cities Broadcasting Corp.
Center for Advanced Film Studies (American Film Institute)
Cinémathèque française
City of New York Department of Marine and Aviation
Columbia University
Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.
Corn Industries Research Foundation
Detroit Institute of Arts.
Film and Photo League (U.S.)
Frontier Films (New York)
Hamilton College (Clinton, N.Y.)
Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York
Motion Picture Editors Guild
International Federation of Film Archives
Leo Hurwitz Productions
Lexington School for the Deaf
Little Red Schoolhouse
Motion Picture Editors Guild
Museum of Modern Art Film Library (New York, N.Y.)
National Educational Television and Radio Center
New School for Social Research (New York, N.Y. : 1919-1997)
New York University
Nykino (Organization : New York, N.Y.)
Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (U.S.)
United States. Office of War Information
Sarah Lawrence College
School of Radio Technique
State University of New York at Buffalo
Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
Swedish Dramatic Institute
Third World Newsreel (Firm)
United Mine Workers of America
United Nations. Film Board
United States. Navy. Bureau of Aeronautics. Training Division
University of Iowa
Vanguard Films (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Victory Films
William Morris Agency
Alexander, William
Arnheim, Rudolf
Berggren, Ulf
Blitzstein, Marc, 1905-1964
Blue, James, 1930-1980
Bobker, Lee R.
Brandon, Thomas
Briehl, Marie
Briehl, Robin
Briehl, Walter
Bowser, Eileen
Buhler, Wolf-Eckhart
Bunin, Lou
Burlingham, Eleanor (Nelly)
Campbell, Russell, 1944-
Chaplin, Charlie, 1889-1977.
Crane, Hart, 1899-1932
Cordier, Andrew W. (Andrew Wellington), 1901-1975
Corrigan, William
Curtis, Fred
Dalman, Elizabeth
Davis, Curtis W., 1928-1986
Dehn, Mura
Delza, Sophia
Dudley, Jane
Eichmann, Adolf, 1906-1962
Faulkner, Stanley
Fast, Howard, 1914-2003
Fruchtman, Milton
Gessner, Peter, 1939-
Glassgold, C. Adolph
Giuffre, Jimmy
Guthrie, Woody, 1912-1967
Harris, Hilary
Hubley, Faith
Hurwitz, Leo T., 1909-1991
Hurwitz, Rosetta
Hurwitz, Tom
Iannelli, Fons
Ivens, Joris, 1898-1989
Jacobs, Lewis
Jarmusch, Jim, 1953-
Kelly, Walt
Kline, Herbert
Lampson, Mary
Langlois, Henri, 1914-1977
Lawson, John Howard, 1894-1977
Leyda, Jay, 1910-1988
Lippold, Richard, 1915-
Lorentz, Pare
Maddow, Ben, 1909-1992
Miller, Arthur, 1915-2005
Kirchheimer, Manfred
Meyers, Sidney, 1906-1969
McGrath, Thomas, 1916-1990
Odets, Clifford, 1906-1963
Oppenheim, David, 1922-2007
Packer, Edward
Pratt, Charles, 1926-1976
Polonsky, Abraham
Potamkin, Harry Alan, 1900-1933
Random, David
Reggio, Godfrey
Rolfe, Edwin, 1909-1954
Rosenblum, Walter, 1919-2006
Rosset, Barney
Rukeyser, Muriel, 1913-1980
Salfas, Stanley
Salt, Waldo
Saudek, Robert, 1911-1997
Schapiro, Meyer, 1904-1996
Searchinger, Gene
Seldes, Gilbert, 1893-1970
Seltzer, Leo
Selznick, David O., 1902-1965
Sloane, William.
Steiner, Ralph, 1899-1986
Stevens, George, 1904-1975
Stoney, George C.
Strand, Hazel
Strand, Paul, 1890-1976
Towne, Howard
Unterecker, John, 1922-1989
Van Dyke, Willard
Von Bagh, Peter, 1943-2014
Watkins, Peter, 1935-
Wolff, David, 1909-1992
Zinnemann, Fred, 1907-1997



Preferred citation for this material is as follows: Leo Hurwitz Collection, 1910-1992, George Eastman Museum, Moving Image Department, Stills, Posters and Paper Collections.

900 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607, United States