Lilly Library Manuscript Collections

KAEL MSS.

The Kael mss., ca. 1939-2001, consist of the papers of film critic and author Pauline Kael, 1919-2001. Kael was born on June 19, 1919 in Petaluma, California. Her family moved to San Francisco when she was eight. She attended the University of California, Berkeley from 1936-1940 during which time she broadcast film reviews on radio station KPFA and managed the Berkeley Cinema Guild Theaters. In 1965 she moved permanently to the east coast where she freelanced for various magazines such as Life and New Republic. McCall's hired her briefly as a full-time film critic, but it was rumored that she was fired for writing a scathing review of The Sound of Music. Kael was best known as the film critic for The New Yorker where she was hired in 1968. She resigned in 1979 to become executive consultant on film projects for Paramount Pictures Corporation. She soon became disenchanted and returned to The New Yorker in 1980 where she stayed until her retirement in 1991. She published numerous books. Most were compilations of her New Yorker columns, including I Lost it at the Movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Going Steady, Deeper Into Movies, Reeling, When the Lights Go Down, Hooked, Movie Love, and For Keeps. One of her lengthier columns in The New Yorker became the basis for her book The Citizen Kane Book: Raising Kane which also contained the shooting script for the film. She received numerous awards for her criticism: The 1970 American Academy of Arts and Letters award for literature, The National Book Award in 1974, as well as awards from P.E.N. in 1996 and the 1999 National Book Critics Circle's Ivan Sandrof Award. In addition, she received honorary degrees from various colleges and universities. Kael died on September 3, 2001 at the age of 82.

The correspondence is comprised of personal letters from colleagues and friends, those relating to her writings, and many fan letters. Very few copies of Kael's own letters are present. The Director's files contain notes taken by Kael during the film screenings, typescript or holograph drafts of articles about the films by Kael and others, and related materials such as press kits, stills and clippings. The Writings section includes holograph drafts, typescripts and notes for her articles and books, as well as research and production materials, and advertisements. Files concerning her stint at KPFA and tear sheets of most of her "Current Cinema" columns are also present. Screenplays and play scripts submitted for her perusal make up most of the Writings by Others section. Kael clipped thousands of articles from magazines and newspapers. These clippings comprise the bulk of the Subjects file. Items in the Memorabilia section include Kael's awards, certificates and diplomas, programs from various film festivals and photographs. Among the audio-visual tapes are recordings from KPFA broadcasts.

The collection is organized into the following series: I. Correspondence; II. Directors; III. Writings by Kael; IV. Writings by Others; V. Subjects; VI. Memorabilia; VII. Audiovisual. An inventory is available.

Purchase. 2007

Collection size: 110,000 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.