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Boris Kaufman papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 562

Scope and Contents

The Boris Kaufman Papers contain professional papers, correspondence, writings, and other material documenting the life and work of cinematographer Boris Kaufman, as well as film production and cinematographic practice during the middle decades of the 20th century. Kaufman, educated and trained in Paris before moving to the United States in the early 1940s, is well known for his collaborations with the filmmakers Jean Vigo, Elia Kazan, and Sidney Lumet, among others, and was awarded an Academy Award for his work on Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954) in the category of black-and-white cinematography. The collection spans the years 1836 to 2004, with the bulk of the collection dating from the 1930s through 1970s.

The collection is housed in 26 boxes and organized into four series: Professional Papers, Correspondence, Writings, and Other Material. Boxes 21-23 contain Oversize material and boxes 24-26 contain Restricted Fragile Papers.

Series I, Professional Papers , housed in boxes 1-11, contains material relating to films on which Kaufman worked, including clippings, printed ephemera, contracts, correspondence, photographs, cut film and negatives, shooting scripts, manuscript notes, and crew and staff lists. Papers are arranged alphabetically first by title of film and then by type of material. Materials date from Les Halles Centrales (1927) to Tell Me that You Love Me, Junie Moon (1969).

The Professional Papers series features hundreds of stills and publicity (studio) photographs for several films, including L'Atalante, Baby Doll, The Fugitive Kind, On the Waterfront, That Kind of Woman, and Twelve Angry Men. There are photographs of Kaufman, directors, including Elia Kazan and Sidney Lumet, and actors and actresses, including Jean Daste, Dita Parlo, Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Henry Fonda, Eli Wallach, and Karl Malden, as well as other cast and crew members.

In addition to the photographs, shooting scripts for numerous films, including Baby Doll, The Brotherhood, The Fugitive Kind, Long Day's Journey into Night, On the Waterfront, and Splendor in the Grass are annotated with manuscript notes and diagrams on how to shoot particular scenes.

A small amount of correspondence has been maintained in the professional files. There are letters regarding production and fan mail. Cross-references have been provided to established headings in the Correspondence series when appropriate. The clippings and printed ephemera consist chiefly of reviews and publicity for films.

Series II, Correspondence , housed in boxes 12-15, is organized into four subseries: Boris Kaufman Correspondence, Helen Kaufman Correspondence, André Kaufman Correspondence, and Third Party Correspondence.

The Boris Kaufman Correspondence consists chiefly of single and small groups of incoming letters from production companies, colleagues in the film industry, film scholars, writers, and family; there are some carbons and holograph drafts of outgoing letters. Correspondents include: Claude Aveline, Dian Dincin Buchman, Jules Dassin, Abel Gance, Elia Kazan, Stanley Kubrick, Jean Lods, Sidney Lumet, Pierre Merle, Jean Painlevé, Otto Preminger, Claude Renoir, Jean Renoir, and Jean and Luce Vigo. Letters from filmmakers show the respect Kaufman enjoyed among professional members of the film community. Letters are chiefly in English and French, with some in Russian.

Helen Kaufman Correspondence, housed in box 14, consists of letters to Helen Kaufman, Boris Kaufman's wife. There are letters from family members, friends, and colleagues of her husband, including condolence letters following his death. Most letters date from 1980 to 1982. Noteworthy correspondents include Elia Kazan and Sidney Lumet. Letters are chiefly in English and French, with some in Russian.

André Kaufman Correspondence, housed in box 15, contains letters to André Kaufman, Boris and Helen's son. There are letters dating from 1983 to 2004 from Dian Dincin Buchman, Elia Kazan, John Mackay, and others.

The small group of Third Party Correspondence, housed in box 15, consists of all loose third party correspondence. The bulk of these letters probably came to Kaufman as enclosures and, over time, were separated from the original letters. The subseries includes introduction letters on Kaufman's behalf, all dating February 10, 1942, from Benedict Gimbel to broadcasting companies.

Series III, Writings , housed in box 16, is organized into two subseries: Writings of Boris Kaufman and Writings of Others.

Kaufman's writings include corrected drafts and printed versions for several articles and lectures. Among the writings are corrected holograph and typescript drafts, galley proofs, and a reprint for a 1959 article on cinematography entitled "Film Making as an Art." There are also reports submitted [to the Princeton Film Center?] on three photographic devices or techniques (the pictoscope, pictograph, and magigraph) and reflections on working with the filmmakers Jean Vigo and Elia Kazan.

The Writings of Others subseries includes articles relating to Kaufman or colleagues and articles written by Kaufman family members and colleagues. There is a biographical essay on Kaufman by Cecile Starr and interviews with Kaufman by Donald Crafton, Simon Kagan, and Jonas Mekas. In addition, there is a printed interview with Kaufman's brother Mikhail discussing production of The Man with a Movie Camera (1929), and a printed article, "The Factory of Facts and Other Writings," by his brother Dziga Vertov.

Series IV, Other Material , housed in boxes 17-20, is organized into five subseries: Artwork, Helen Kaufman Papers, Photographs, Printed Ephemera, and Other. The papers include manuscript notes, in French and Russian, dating from the Jean Vigo years.


  • 1836-2004


Language of Materials

Chiefly in English; some materials in French and Russian.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 20-21, 24-25 and 26 (Record album storage): Restricted fragile material. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Boris Kaufman Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Boris Kaufman Papers were acquired through purchase from André Kaufman on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 2005.


14.48 Linear Feet ((25 boxes) + 1 broadside, 1 record album storage)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Boris Kaufman Papers contain professional papers, correspondence, writings, and other material documenting the life and work of cinematographer Boris Kaufman, as well as film production and cinematographic practice in France and the United States during the middle decades of the 20th century.

BORIS KAUFMAN (1906-1980)

Boris Kaufman, a cinematographer, was born and raised in Bialystok, in the northeastern part of modern-day Poland and, following WWI, educated and trained in France. He is well known for his work with Jean Vigo in France from the late 1920s to the mid 1930s and for his work with Elia Kazan and Sidney Lumet in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s; Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954) won an Academy Award for best black-and-white cinematography. Kaufman was the youngest of three brothers, including filmmaker Denis Kaufman (who adopted the name Dziga Vertov) and cinematographer Mikhail Kaufman. Further information is available in standard print and online biographical resources.

The following chronology provides dates for key events and film projects:

1906 August 24 Boris Kaufman born in Bialystok, modern-day Poland

1927 Les Halles Centrales

1930 A propos de Nice

1933 Zéro de conduite

1934 L'Atalante

1936 On ne roule pas Antoinette

1938 Fort Dolorès

1939 Sérénade

1939-41 serves in French infantry

1941-42 moves to New York

1942-43 works for National Film Board of Canada

1943-45 works for U.S. Office of War Information

1945 A Better Tomorrow

1954 Garden of Eden

1954 On the Waterfront

1954 Within Man's Power

1956 Baby Doll

1956 Crowded Paradise

1956 Patterns

1956 Twelve Angry Men

1959 That Kind of Woman

1959 The Fugitive Kind

1961 Splendor in the Grass

1962 Long Day's Journey into Night

1963 All the Way Home

1964 The Pawnbroker

1964 The World of Henry Orient

1965 Film

1966 The Group

1967 Bye Bye Braverman

1968 Uptight

1968 The Brotherhood

1969 Tell Me that You Love Me, Junie Moon

1972 retires from filmmaking

1980 June 24 Boris Kaufman dies in New York

Guide to the Boris Kaufman Papers
by Michael L. Forstrom
March 2007
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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