Agee, James, 1909-1955

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American poet, screenwriter, novelist.

From the description of James Agee Collection, 1928-1969. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122385744

James Agee was an American novelist, poet, playwright, and journalist.

From the description of James Agee collection of papers, 1933-[1952]. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122430943

From the guide to the James Agee collection of papers, 1933-[1952, (The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.)

American author, playwright, critic.

From the description of Manuscripts of James Agee, ca. 1930. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 32959655

Epithet: writer

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000758.0x000160

James Agee was an American author. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, he attended Harvard, where he wrote both poetry and prose. After graduation he took a job with Fortune magazine, wrote book and movie reviews, and published poetry and several books, including Let us now praise famous men. After leaving Fortune, he collaborated on the screenplays for The African Queen and Night of the Hunter, and published several novels before his death. He was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his unfinished autobiographical novel, A death in the family.

From the description of James Agee review of the movie, Wilson, circa 1944. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 58726283

James Rufus Agee was born on November 17, 1909, in Knoxville, Tennessee, the first of two children. His father, Hugh James Agee, was from rugged farming stock in the mountainous backwoods of Tennessee while Laura Tyler, his mother, had a more educated and artistic background. Her mother, Agee's grandmother, was among the first women to graduate from the University of Michigan. Throughout his life Agee was very aware of the contradictions of this twofold heritage. His mother was a devout Episcopalian and sheltered Agee whereas his father introduced adventure and pleasures such as going to the movies and taking his son to the pubs afterward. As a result, Agee was both timid and daring as a child. The death of Agee's father in an automobile accident in May 1916 was a major turning point in his life.

After vacationing near Sewanee, Tennessee, in the summer of 1918, Agee's mother decided to relocate there and enrolled her son at Saint Andrew's, an Episcopalian boarding school, which he attended from 1919-1924. Her reasoning was that it would allow him to be more in the company of men and would provide the religious training and education she felt was important. It had the effect, however, of causing Agee to feel not only cut off from the companionship of his father, but now from his mother as well. It was at Saint Andrew's that Agee formed the close ties with Father James Herold Flye that were to last a lifetime. Agee attended Knoxville High School for the 1924-25 school year and after a trip to Europe with Father Flye in the summer of 1925, he enrolled at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, where his interest in writing first began. Among his writings for the Exeter Monthly were twelve short stories, nine poems, several articles and reviews, and four plays.

Agee attended Harvard from 1928 to 1932 where he became increasingly committed to a literary career. He began to write poems, short stories, and articles for the Harvard Lampoon, the Crimson, and the Harvard Advocate. He first joined the editorial board in 1919 as an associate editor of the Advocate, and by 1921, became editor-in-chief. His parody of Time in the March 1921 issue of the Advocate was highly acclaimed. In fact, it was this article on Time which attracted Henry Luce, and resulted in an offer to write for Fortune. He accepted, thinking his journalistic career would be brief, but it lasted for more than fifteen years. Agee was constantly in despair that he may have sacrificed his own creative efforts for the demands a journalistic style imposed. However, his book of poetry, Permit Me Voyage, was published in 1934 as part of the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

In 1936, on assignment for Fortune, Agee and photographer Walker Evans went to Alabama to do a story on tenant farmers. By the time the project was finished three years later Agee had enough material for a book, which was published in 1941 as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Considered a failure at that time, it is now generally considered an original masterpiece. While working on Famous Men, Agee began reviewing books for Time in 1938, which soon expanded to films, and in 1941 he began a weekly column on film for The Nation, both projects ending in 1948. His most well known piece of criticism was Comedy's Greatest Era, published in 1949 in Life magazine, in which Agee extolled the era of silent movies. After 1948 Agee wrote principally film scripts and fiction. He wrote several screenplays and one full-length original script, Noa-Noa, based upon the journals of Paul Gauguin, which was never produced. Most well known is his work on The African Queen, which he wrote in collaboration with John Huston.

Agee's autobiographical novel, The Morning Watch (1951), is a tale about a young boy's experiences on a Good Friday morning while attending a boarding school, reminiscent of his own Good Friday activities. In A Death in the Family (1957), also autobiographical, Agee was finally able to write about the experience of a father's death and the reactions of various family members. Agee suffered a series of heart attacks beginning in 1951 and did not complete the novel for publication before his death. He began work on the screenplay, A Tanglewood Story, in 1954 but was unable to finish it, and several other projects he had begun, before his death from a heart attack on May 16, 1955. He was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1957 for A Death in the Family.

From the guide to the James Agee Collection TXRC98-A10., 1928-1969, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Erskine, Albert, 1911-1993. Albert Erskine papers, 1930-1999. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. The development of Agee's career as a writer : documents of twenty years : photocopy of typescript, [1982]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. James Agee letters, 1932-1938. Princeton University Library
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. James Agee-David McDowell Papers, 1909-1985. University of Tennessee, John C. Hodges Library
creatorOf James Agee Collection TXRC98-A10., 1928-1969 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Transition. Papers of the magazine Transition, 1933-1941. Harvard University, Houghton Library
creatorOf Musto, John, 1954-. Dove Sta Amore / Carl Sandburg [James Agee, Lawrence Ferlinghetti] / John Musto [manuscript]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Mosel, Tad. Tad Mosel papers, 1935-1991. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Vol. I. (ff.) A-Bair.James Stern, writer: Philip Antrobus: Letter to James Stern from Philip Antrobus: 1968.Walter Abish: James Stern, writer: Letters to James Stern from Walter Abish: 1969-1970.Sir Harold Mario Mitchell Acton, writer: James Stern,... British Library
referencedIn Fraser, Joni. The privilege of perception : a study of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale romance and James Agee's Let us now praise famous men : typescript, 1977 May. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Macbride, David. 1991 : for reader, 3 speakers, 3 instruments and piano / David Macbride. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Malina, Judith, 1926-. Judith Malina diaries, 1947-1959. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Houghton Mifflin Company. Houghton Mifflin Company correspondence, 1881-1981 (inclusive), 1940-1979 (bulk). Harvard University, Houghton Library
creatorOf Kubicek, Earl C. Abraham Lincoln : Lincoln and the theater / [compiled by Earl C. Kubicek]. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
creatorOf James Agee collection of papers, 1933-[1952 The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
referencedIn New Directions Publishing Corp. records, ca. 1933-1997. Houghton Library
referencedIn Arkansas History Commission. James V. Agee [graphic]. Arkansas History Commission
referencedIn Meacham, Harry M. (Harry Monroe), 1901-1975. Harry M. Meacham papers [manuscript] , 1900-75. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Jay and Si-Lan Chen Leyda Papers and Photographs, Bulk, 1930-1980, 1913-1987, bulk 1930-1980 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn Robert Lee Sherrod Papers, 1910-1963 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
creatorOf Mayer, William, 1925-. A death in the family : an opera : based on the James Agee novel and the Tad Mosel play, All the way home / William Mayer. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Bradley mss., 1902-1997 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957. Wyndham Lewis address books, circa 1929-1945. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Yaddo records, 1870-1980 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Mosel, Tad. A death in the family : a play in three acts / by Tad Mosel ; from the novel by James Agee. Ohio State University Libraries
referencedIn Wright, Laura Whitman. Letter, dated 27 May 1955, to David and Madeline McDowell. University of Tennessee, John C. Hodges Library
referencedIn Macdonald, Dwight. Dwight Macdonald papers, 1865-1984 (bulk 1920-1978) Yale University Library
creatorOf Welcher, Dan. Evening scenes : for tenor voice and six players / music by Dan Welcher ; poetry by James Agee. University of Maryland Libraries, UMD Libraries
referencedIn Angermeyer, Charles. A tribute to James Agee : typescript, [1972 Feb. 19]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Wieser, Jeffrey Noble. The consciousness of James Agee : the voice of introspection : typescript, 1974 April 5. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. James Agee Collection, 1928-1969. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Barber, Samuel, 1910-1981. Sure on this shining night / [words by] James Agee ; [music by] Samuel Barber. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn WBAI Radio (New York, N.Y.). WBAI radio station project : oral history, [197-?]. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. Recollections of James Agee : radio program, [197-?]. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Flye, James Harold,. Collection of papers and serials relating to James Agee, 1909-1955, 1937-1982 (bulk 1961-1971). Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Pasatieri, Thomas. Three poems of James Agee / Thomas Pasatieri. Northwestern University
referencedIn Tad Mosel papers, 1935-1991 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Leyda, Jay, 1910-1988. Jay and Si Lan Chen Leyda papers, 1913-1987 (bulk 1930-1980). Churchill County Museum
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. Manuscripts of James Agee, ca. 1930. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. James Agee collection of papers, 1933-[1952]. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Harvard University. Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Portraits. ca.1852-ca.2004. Harvard University Archives.
creatorOf Lewis, Peter Tod. Images : in memoriam James Agee : for chamber ensemble, piano, and reader / by Peter Lewis ; [words from Let us now praise famous men by James Agee and Walker Evans]. University of Iowa Libraries
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. Notes. University of Tennessee, John C. Hodges Library
referencedIn Papers of the magazine Transition, 1933-1941. Houghton Library
referencedIn Autograph File, A, 1518-2002. Houghton Library
referencedIn Cheuse, Alan. Videocassettes, compact disks and diskettes from the papers of Alan Cheuse [manuscript],ca. 1992-2004. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Mosel, Tad. All the way home / [Tad Mosel] Ohio State University Libraries
creatorOf Devany, Edward H. Let us now praise famous men : typescript, [1966]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. James Agee review of the movie, Wilson, circa 1944. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Evans, Walker, 1903-1975. Walker Evans photographs, 1935-1936. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Starr, Cecile. Cecile Starr papers, 1925-2001. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Dwight Macdonald papers, 1865-1984 (bulk 1920-1978) Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. Autograph letter unsigned : Cambridge, Mass., from "R.F." to Father [James Harold] Flye, 1968 June 21. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company correspondence, 1881-1981 (inclusive), 1940-1979 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Berlinski, Herman. The city : four songs for high voice and piano / music by Herman Berlinski. Jewish Theological Seminary of America
creatorOf Agee, James, 1909-1955. The night of the hunter : typescript, [1955]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn New Yorker records, ca.1924-1984 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Reisman, Philip. All the way home : typescript, 1962, Sep. 5. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Lucille Lortel papers, 1902-2000 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Cecile Starr Papers, 1925-2001. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Angermeyer, Charles. person
associatedWith Barber, Samuel, 1910-1981. person
associatedWith Berlinski, Herman. person
associatedWith Burden, Carter, person
associatedWith Cheuse, Alan. person
correspondedWith David Shedd Bradley person
associatedWith Devany, Edward H. person
associatedWith Ellison, Ralph. person
associatedWith Erskine, Albert, 1911-1993. person
associatedWith Evans, Walker, 1903-1975 person
associatedWith Fitzgerald, Robert, 1910- person
associatedWith Flye, James. person
associatedWith Fortune Magazine corporateBody
associatedWith Fraser, Joni. person
associatedWith Hobson, Wilder, 1906-1964. person
associatedWith Houghton Mifflin Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Huston, John, 1906-1987. person
associatedWith Kaufman, George S. (George Simon), 1889-1961 person
associatedWith Kazin, Alfred, 1915-1998. person
associatedWith Kracauer, Siegfried, 1889-1966 person
associatedWith Kramer, Victor A., person
associatedWith Kubicek, Earl C. person
associatedWith Lewis, Peter Tod. person
associatedWith Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957. person
associatedWith Leyda, Jay, 1910-1988. person
associatedWith Leyda, Si-lan Chen person
associatedWith Lortel, Lucille person
associatedWith Macbride, David. person
associatedWith Macdonald, Dwight. person
associatedWith MacDonald, Dwight. person
associatedWith MacGowan, Kenneth, 1888-1963 person
associatedWith MacLeish, Archibald, 1892- person
associatedWith MacLeish, Archibald, 1892-1982. person
associatedWith Malina, Judith, 1926- person
associatedWith Matthews, T. S. (Thomas Stanley), 1901- person
associatedWith Matthews, T. S. (Thomas Stanley), 1901-1991. person
associatedWith Mayer, William, 1925- person
associatedWith McDonough, David. person
associatedWith Meacham, Harry M. (Harry Monroe), 1901-1975. person
associatedWith Mosel, Tad person
associatedWith Mosel, Tad. person
associatedWith Musto, John, 1954- person
correspondedWith New Directions Publishing Corp. corporateBody
associatedWith Newhall, Beaumont, 1908- person
correspondedWith New Yorker Magazine, Inc corporateBody
associatedWith Osman, Dave, person
associatedWith Pasatieri, Thomas. person
associatedWith Phelps, Robert, 1922- person
associatedWith Reisman, Philip. person
associatedWith Rodman, Selden, 1909- person
associatedWith Saddler, Donald person
associatedWith Sarton, May, 1912-1995. person
associatedWith Sherrod, Robert Lee, 1909- person
associatedWith Starr, Cecile. person
associatedWith Starr, Cecile. person
associatedWith Steloff, Frances, b. 1887. person
associatedWith Taylor, Nan. person
associatedWith Tennessee Valley Authority. corporateBody
associatedWith Transition. corporateBody
associatedWith Transition. corporateBody
associatedWith WBAI Radio (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Welcher, Dan. person
associatedWith Wieser, Jeffrey Noble. person
associatedWith Wright, Laura Whitman. person
associatedWith Yaddo (Artist's colony) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Moving pictures
Authors
American poetry--20th century
Authors, American--20th century
Motion pictures
Male authors, American--20th century--Manuscripts
Novelists, American--20th century
Publishers and Publishing
Editors--20th century--Correspondence
Poets, American--20th century--Correspondence
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1909-11-27

Death 1955-05-16

Americans

English

Information

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Ark ID: w6rx9977

SNAC ID: 39346246