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Herbert Kline Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 10 Sep 2009

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.

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).

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Table of Contents

Correspondence-subject files


Printed material