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Herbert Kline Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Kline, Herbert.
Title: Herbert Kline Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1919-1971
Quantity: 4.5 linear ft.
Abstract: Correspondence, clippings, writings, memorabilia, scrapbooks of the documentary film maker who chronicled political crises in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.
Language: Majority in English, a few items in Spanish and Hebrew.
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Herbert Kline (1910-1999) was an American documentary film maker who chronicled political crises in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.

Herbert Kline was born in Davenport, Iowa. As a young man he edited Chicago's liberal New Theater magazine and joined the Photo League, a group of politically progressive photojournalists and documentarists. His work documented a wide range of issues in Europe and Central America, including the Spanish Civil War ( Heart of Spain, 1937; Return to Life, 1938), the rise of Hitler and fascism ( Crisis, 1938; Lights Out in Europe, 1939; My Father's House, 1941), and peasant life in Mexico ( The Forgotten Village, 1941). His sentiments earned him a place on the House Un-American Affairs Committee blacklist and between 1949 and 1970 he produced only one film, an adaptation of Jack London's short story "The Mexican" entitled The Fighter. His Walls of Fire (1971), about Mexican artists Diego Rivera and David Alfaro, was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for best documentary film.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Herbert Kline Papers contains correspondence subject files, memorabilia, printed material, writings, and videotapes.

Correspondence-subject files primarily relate to Kline's film projects, though there is also correspondence with some individuals (John Steinbeck, Cornell Wilde). Many of the film projects were based on novels or stories by other authors (for example, The Fighter was based on a short story by Jack London); where known, original authors are given in parentheses after the film title. Not all projects came to fruition.

Memorabilia consists of three scrapbooks and assorted miscellaneous items. The scrapbook postcards is particularly interesting, containing both progressive and communist graphic images as well as postcards issues by the Spanish ministry of propaganda. Although the postcards have been removed from their scrapbook pages they remain in original order. The other two scrapbooks consist almost entirely of clippings related to Kline's films.

The bulk of Printed material is clippings related to Kline's films. There are also a few catalogs and advertisements for independent, documentary, or educational films and a few miscellaneous items.

Videos contains four tapes comprising two of Kline's later works, one on acting and one on modern art.

Writings includes articles, notes and partial manuscript of Kline's autobiography which he had called Misadventures of a Film Gypsy, an outline, a poem, several screenplays, a children's story written for his daughter Elissa, and two plays by playwright and director Noel Langley (1911-1980).

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Arrangement of the Collection

All series are arranged in alphabetical order.

Because the majority of clippings were oversize, as well as in brittle and yellowed condition, they have been filed separately under Clippings rather than with the movie to which they pertain. Researchers should review the entire finding aid to ensure locating all relevant material.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Originals of two of the three scrapbooks are restricted due to fragile condition and may not be opened without special permission. Photocopies are provided in the collection. Access to beta tapes requires advance notice to produce working copy.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

Several issues of Doho, a liberal newspaper created by and for "nisei" or second-generation Japanese Americans, were sent to Rare Books for cataloging (Sep 2009). Please refer to the Classic Catalog to locate these items.

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Subject Headings


Kline, Herbert.


War films.
Documentary films.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Motion pictures and the war.


Czechoslovakia -- History -- 1918-1938.
Europe, Eastern -- History -- 20th century.
Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- Motion pictures and the war.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)


Motion picture producers and directors.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Herbert Kline Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Elissa Kline, 2009.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 10 Sep 2009
Revision history: 15 Apr 2013 - bioghist correction (MRC)

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Correspondence-subject files
Adam and Eve
See Franklyn costs
Box 1 Blaze of Glory 1966 - summary only
Box 1 Bolivar 1959-1961 - includes photographs
Box 1 Crisis 1939 - photographs, program from world premiere at 55th Street Playhouse
Danton's Death
See Wilde, Cornell.
Box 1 Dark Wedding (Ramon Sender) 1953
Box 1 Essex, Harry / "The Walls of Heaven" undated - novella?
Box 1 Family correspondence 1919, 1963, undated - most to Josy Kline (wife); one from Elissa Kline (daughter) and one to Kline's siblings
Box 1 The Fighter (Jack London) 1951-1952, undated - includes photographs, clipping of color advertisement, legal documents
Box 1 "Franklyn costs" 1955 - material from envelope labeled by Kline as "Franklyn costs for Adam & Eve and English film"
Box 1 Let Me Breathe Thunder (Bill Attaway) 1953
Box 1 Lights Out in Europe - photographs only
Box 1 The Mexican (Jack London) 1950
Box 1 Moll Flanders 1955
Box 1 My Father's House (Meyer Levin) 1945-1947 - includes photographs, double-page spread advertisement, story outline with earlier title, "The Survivors" (2 folders)
Box 1 On Love and Terror 1967 - includes photocopy of clipping from The Jerusalem Post
Box 1 "Wall photos" - photographs from an envelope so labeled by Kline
Box 1 Unidentified
See also specific movie titles, several have photographs
Box 1 Song of Ruth (Irving Feinman) 1960-1962 - includes a few clippings
Box 1 Spain, Spanish hospitals 1937 - letters of introduction, expenses, etc. relating to a public relations film on Spanish hospitals
Box 2 Sparks Fly Upward (Oliver La Farge) 1953
Box 2 Star Rover (Jack London) 1953
Box 2 Steinbeck, John 1940, 1952
See also Clippings: The Forgotten Village
The Survivors
See My Father's House
Box 2 Sword of Galilee 1961 - includes proposed casting
Box 2 The Thief and the Cross 1959 - also mentions film on Barabbas
Box 2 Thieves' Market - photos only
Box 2 Tia Juana Miracle (Zeilicovici) 1962
A Time to Love
See On Love and Terror
Box 2 Walls of Fire 1971 - advertisement, partial transcript of voice-overs
Box 2 Wilde, Cornell 1961
Box 2 The Yankee 1952
Box 2 Miscellaneous correspondence 1935-1966, undated
Box 2 Miscellaneous other
Oversize 1 Scrapbook, postcards circa 1935-1950? - collection of liberal, leftist, progressive, and/or communist graphic-image postcards from various countries; also includes photographic postcards put out by the Spanish Ministry of Propaganda
Oversize 2 Scrapbooks, miscellaneous circa 1935-1953 - clippings related to Kline's movies (2 volumes)
RESTRICTED: Box contains both original scrapbooks and complete photocopies. Originals are restricted due to fragile condition and researchers should use the photocopies only.
Box 2 Miscellaneous
Printed material
Box 2 About Kline 1955, undated
Oversize 3 Bolivar 1960
Oversize 3 The Cleveland Story / The Kid from Cleveland 1949
Oversize 3 Crisis 1939 - includes large double-page spread advertisement / poster
Oversize 3 The Fighter 1952
Oversize 3 Forgotten Village 1941
Oversize 3 Heart of Spain 1937?
Oversize 3 Hostages 1942-1943
Oversize 3 Lights out in Europe 1940
Oversize 3 My Father's House 1947
Oversize 3 See What I Mean 1944
Oversize 4 Miscellaneous - subjects include Elia Kazan's statement on his Communist Party membership, Palestine, Spanish Civil War, World War II
Film sources
Box 2 Catalogs
Box 2 Individual films - fliers, ads, reviews, etc.
Box 2 Miscellaneous
Box 5 The Challenge of Modern Art (2 Betamax tapes)
Box 5 Acting: Lee Strasberg and the Actors Studio (2 Betamax tapes)
Box 2 "Behind Loyalist Lines," New York Times 18 Apr 1937
Box 2 "Films Without Make-Believe," Magazine of Art Feb 1942
Box 2 "Misadventures of a Film Gypsy" - notes, original photographs, heavily annotated photocopies of articles and photographs, partial draft manuscript (starts with p. 115) (2 folders)
Box 3 "See What I Mean?"
Box 3 Untitled, on the sinking of the HMS Thetis - unattributed; may or may not be by Kline
Box 3 Bolivar (2 folders)
Box 3 Calypsoland (with Bill Attaway)
Box 3 The Hill of Hope (with Aben Kandel)
Box 3 Love, Hate and Greed
Box 3 A Love Story
Box 3 Nicaragua (with Stephen Kandel)
Box 3 The Sun and the Sword (with Bill Attaway)
Box 4 Nighwatch - "a story by Daddy...for Ethan and Elissa"
Box 4 Unidentified fragments
By others
Box 4 Langley, Noel / The Ambush of Young Days - play
Box 4 Langley, Noel / The Big Squeeze - play

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