Scope and arrangement
Primarily documenting the career of playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, this collection consists of correspondence, material relating to production of his works, draft and development material for unproduced works and other writings, office papers, vital records, financial and legal records, photographs, and research material. Some personal material is also included in the collection, including correspondence, childhood mementos, and photographs; however, the emphasis is clearly on Chayefsky's work rather than his person.
Correspondence, overwhelmingly of a professional nature, stretches from 1944 until his death in 1981. Individual correspondents range from childhood friends to celebrities and notable public figures. The development of Gideon and The Passion of Josef D. is shown through letters to and from Tyrone Guthrie, while correspondence with production designer Ted Haworth discusses their career trajectories, the entertainment industry, and personal events in a refreshingly frank manner. Chayefsky also discusses the work of others, as demonstrated by an extensive letter to producer Walter Wanger providing feedback on the script for Cleopatra (1963), while a character analysis of that historic title character can be found in a letter to Martin Goldblatt. The correspondence with organizations shows the wide range of social, political, and professional concerns Chayefsky maintained throughout his life. Additionally evident is Chayefsky's role as a cultural emissary in dealings with various US agencies and international bodies. In contrast, Chayefsky's family correspondence discusses personal matters, though rarely in great depth, and contains very little information regarding his work. V-mail sent to his childhood friend Della Wasserman predates his professional writing career and talks quite candidly about his experiences during World War II. Many tributes to Chayefsky's life and work can be found in the condolence letters and cards sent to his wife, Susan.
The collection is rich in material pertaining to Chayefsky's works for stage and screen dating back to his earliest production, No T.O. For Love, which was written during his recuperation from injuries sustained in Germany in 1945. Production material often includes extensive drafts and revisions of scripts, story development notes, casting files, ephemera and clippings, and production-related correspondence. Most thoroughly documented here are his later works, in particular The Latent Heterosexual, The Hospital, Network, and Altered States. Relatively little material relating to his radio scripts and Philco-Goodyear teleplays is available here; in many instances these early productions are represented only by a small volume of correspondence or a single script.
Also abundant in the papers is material relating to collaborations and adaptations ultimately aborted, or completed without Chayefsky's participation. Material for a film on the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay for Elizabeth Taylor, notes in response to a treatment for the I.B. Singer story Yentl, and notes for a treatment of John Reed's Reds for Warren Beatty are representative of the latter. Though not a collaborative effort, Chayefsky offered long-time friend Bob Fosse feedback on portions of the scripts for Sweet Charity and Chicago. A number of unfinished or unproduced original works are also included, such as notes and draft material for a literary satire called Mrs. Orlando, scripts for a political thriller, The Habakkuk Conspiracy, and a pilot script for a comedic television series, The Imposters.
Office papers document Chayefsky's professional life through calendars, date books and numerous biographies generated for biographical dictionaries. The Personal Papers Series represents his early life through vital records and childhood mementos, and also contains material belonging to his mother, wife, and son.
The Financial and Legal Series records the administrative aspects of both his private life and his career, and contains production budgets, royalty statements, contracts, permissions, and other evidence of the financial and legal life cycle of his works. The day-to-day operation of multiple production companies is evidenced through business records and ledgers, while more mundane records such as bank accounts, insurance information, charitable donations, household expenses, and receipts are also present.
Chayefsky rigorously annotated the research material he collected, and such notes give a window into the writer's thought processes as he laid the groundwork for his productions. His life as a member of both the Hollywood and Broadway communities is well documented in photographs, though his private life is only sparingly captured on film, and various awards announce critical praise for his work as well as appreciation for his social efforts. The papers give tremendous insight into the working life of one of America's celebrated writers
The Paddy Chayefsky papers are arranged in nine series:
- 1944-199038 boxes
This series consists of correspondence of both a personal and professional nature documenting Chayefsky's career as a writer, and includes both correspondence between Chayefsky and individuals, and between Chayefsky and the numerous professional, artistic and political organization with which he was involved. The earliest letters in this collection come in the form of V-Mail sent by Paddy from Germany detailing his World War II experiences, and correspondence continues through his death in 1981.
- 1945-199881 boxes, 32 reels microfilm
Produced Works contains material relating to the artistic development and production of Paddy's works, including radio plays, stage plays and screenplays, and serves as a record of the life cycle of his productions from notes on the initial concept to the promotion of the final product. The type of material contained in this series ranges from correspondence with directors, producers and studios to promotional material and clippings. Many productions are represented through multiple treatment and script drafts (many annotated by Chayefsky), as well as a quantity of discarded material kept in the original bulk order as it was received. Research material, often heavily annotated by Chayefsky, is available, as is related ephemera such as programs and flyers. Production files often contain notes on casting and staffing, rehearsal schedules, and shooting schedules. Some foreign productions and revivals have also been documented here, though this should not be considered an exhaustive source of information on these productions. Also included are a number of notebooks containing early development notes and brainstorming for various productions.
Chayefsky's later works, specifically The Latent Heterosexual, The Hospital, Network, and Altered States are most extensively represented in this collection, while his work during the Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse era is less thoroughly documented, often with only a single copy of a script extant to represent many of his radio and teleplays. Notable within this series is a script from Chayefsky's first theatrical project, No T.O. For Love, which he wrote while serving in the US Army, and which opened on the West End in 1945. Documentation of a lawsuit brought against Chayefsky by one of his scientific consultants on Altered States is also present.
Finally, a number of spiral-bound notebooks reside in this series containing development notes, fragments of dialogue and other draft material relating to both produced and unproduced works, as well as material unrelated to specific productions. Often, material for multiple works is contained in a single notebook. Many of these productions are referenced by working or descriptive titles only while other works remain unidentified. Notes for Jackie Gleason's Gigot can be found here, as well as a diary kept during his 1959 trip to the Soviet Union. Extensive notes for The Passion of Josef D., Gideon, The Latent Heterosexual and The Hospital are included, as are remarks on Walter Wanger's script for Cleopatra, and draft material for a number of unproduced works including a television series about the life of photographer Robert Capa and a play about Lee Harvey Oswald.
- 1949-198121 boxes
This series contains various drafts of screenplays, theatrical plays, speeches, lectures and other creative material not covered in Series II: Produced Works. None of the original dramatic works contained in this Series reached production; many were abandoned at the conceptual stage, and are documented only by a few notes or a short treatment, others, such as The Habbakkuk Conspiracy, were ready for production but were never optioned. Throughout his career, Chayefsky accepted work on collaborations and adaptations, but in many cases he removed himself from the project prior to its completion, and extant material from these projects can be found in this Series. Also in this Series are Chayefsky's non-fictional writings, including speeches, eulogies, and articles about the process of writing.
- 1948-199025 boxes
This series documents Chayefsky's professional life through date books and planners, address books, miscellaneous notes and memos, biographical material and clippings. Also included here are awards and certificates (see also Series IX: Oversized Material) and a large body of unsolicited material in the form of treatments, scripts, galleys and manuscript drafts sent to Chayefsky from various authors, agents, and other members of the entertainment industry.
- 1932-19849 boxes
Some of Chayefsky's vital records can be found in this series, mainly in facsimile form, including copies of his birth and death certificates, early school and armed forces records, and some genealogical material. Also included here is material relating to personal travel, and material relating to his immediate family including his mother Gussie, his wife Susan, and his son Dan.
- 79 boxes
The Financial and Legal series contains documentation of the administrative aspects of Chayefsky's career and personal life. Included here are financial records pertaining to produced works and to Chayefsky's production companies; records relating to the operation of various offices and the Chayefsky household, documentation of business-related travel, personal finances, and philanthropy. It consists of fourteen Sub-series.
- ca. 1940s-19897 boxes
This series contains candid and professional photographs of events in Chayefsky's life, photographs of events surrounding productions, promotional photographs, photographs taken at various parties and functions, and some family photographs. It is divided into six sub-series.
- 1907-197915 boxes
This series contains books, articles, clippings and other research material collected by Chayefsky for project development or personal interest. All of the books are annotated by Chayefsky, as are some of the articles.
- 1956-198011 boxes
Contains photographs, lobby cards, and promotional items. Awards, plaques and large certificates are also included. Of particular note are selections from the original score for The Goddess and two caricatures of Chayefsky of unknown attribution.