Guthrie, A. B., Jr. (Alfred Bertram), 1901-1991

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Alfred Bertram "A. B." Guthrie was born on January 13, 1901 in Choteau, Montana. He graduated from Montana State University (now the University of Montana) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1923. Starting in 1926 Guthrie worked for the Lexington Leader in Kentucky, and for the next twenty-one years was a reporter, city editor, editorial writer, and executive editor. Guthrie was also a successful novelist, mainly writing about the American West. The Big Sky was his first novel published in 1947. His second novel, The Way West, earned him a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1949. Other books that Guthrie wrote include These Thousand Hills (1956), The Blue Hen's Chick (1965), an autobiography, and several western mysteries, short stories, poetry, and essays. The Way West was adapted into a screenplay and became a Hollywood movie in 1952 starring Kirk Douglas, Sally Field, and Robert Mitchum. Two other screenplays that Guthrie wrote were Shane (1953) and The Kentuckian (1955). In 1949, Guthrie was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Montana State University. In addition to his newspaper and fiction writing, Guthrie taught creative writing at the University of Kentucky until 1952. He died at his home near Choteau on April 26, 1991.

From the guide to the A. B.Guthrie Papers, 1947-1991, (Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections)

The A. B. Guthrie Jr. Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, printed material, and other documentation of Guthrie's life and career as a Western novelist. The papers include substantial business correspondence, particularly with agents, publishers and collaborators on film projects; family correspondence covering most of Guthrie's life; and manuscripts of and material relating to nearly all of Guthrie's books. There are also drafts of speeches, articles and other writings, including many reflecting Guthrie's interest in conservation.

From the description of A. B. Guthrie Jr. Papers, 1901-1991. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702135864

Alfred Bertram ("Bud") Guthrie Jr. was born in Bedford, Indiana, on January 13, 1901. The following June he moved with his family to Choteau, Montana, when his father became principal of the newly created Teton County High School there.

At age fourteen Guthrie began work as a printer's devil for the local newspaper, the Choteau Acantha . He graduated from high school in 1919 and entered the University of Washington to study journalism. After a semester he transferred to the University of Montana because, as he said, "I disliked the climate. Days on end of rain and cloudy skies." While at Montana, he studied under H. G. Merriam, considered the dean of Western journalists, and gained experience by contributing to the regional magazine Frontier.

Upon graduating with honors in 1923, Guthrie went with a friend to Mexico to work on an irrigation project. Soon after Guthrie went to California but failed to locate employment. He returned to Montana in 1924 and found temporary work with the Forest Service, which was conducting a decennial agricultural census. When this job ended, he left Montana to work in an uncle's flour and feed mill in Attica, New York. The mill burned down shortly after Guthrie arrived, leaving him unemployed once again.

In 1926, Guthrie found a position in journalism, working as a reporter on the Lexington Leader in Lexington, Kentucky. His new position and his rapid promotions meant that he felt able to ask his high school sweetheart, Harriet Larson, to marry him. Married in 1931, the couple had two children, Alfred Bertram Guthrie III and Helen Guthrie.

Throughout the 1930s, Guthrie's success as journalist with the Leader increased, but so did his desire to become a serious writer. In 1939 he took a leave of absence to travel to Minnesota with his mother, who was being treated for a terminal illness. While reading many Westerns and detective stories, Guthrie decided to write one himself, later noting that "I was going to write a Western and a mystery but I found out it did not come as easy as I thought it would." The result of this decision was the novel Murders at Moon Dance, published by Dutton in 1943. Although Guthrie later considered it "a trashy piece of work," it did fairly well for a first novel and was also published in England and Argentina.

In 1944 Guthrie received a Nieman Fellowship. During his term at Harvard he met Theodore Morrison, a member of the literature faculty and a former associate editor of the Atlantic Monthly. Under Morrison's tutelage, Guthrie's wrote his first major novel, The Big Sky . Published in 1947 by William Sloane and Associates, it was highly praised and brought him recognition. He immediately began research for a sequel to this popular success, and in 1949 he published The Way West.

The Way West won the Pulitzer Prize in May of 1950. His increasing stature brought him many requests for articles from such magazines as Life, Liberty, Atlantic Monthly, Westways, and the Saturday Evening Post. This income, along with the prize money, allowed Guthrie to retire from journalism and return to Montana.

In 1951 Guthrie was invited to Hollywood to write the screenplay for Jack Schaefer's Shane . After the movie's success, Guthrie went on to write several more scripts. including the Hecht-Hill film The Kentuckian and an adaptation of Bent's Fort that never went to production. His last work in Hollywood was a script based on his own novel These Thousand Hills (1956).

The Big It, Guthrie's first book of short stories, was published in 1960. Guthrie published little in the early 1960s, but his popular autobiography, The Blue Hen's Chick, appeared in 1965. His marriage to Harriet Larson had ended, and Guthrie married Carol Luthin in 1967.

Guthrie now decided to continue his "epic of the West" begun with The Big Sky, producing Arfive, (1970), The Last Valley (1975), and Fair Land, Fair Land (1982). During this period, continuing his early interest in detective Westerns, he wrote a series of books featuring the Western sleuth Chick Charleston (a county sheriff in Montana) and his educated sidekick Jason Beard. The series included Wild Pitch, The Genuine Article, and Playing Catch-up, and won a number of awards, including the Silver Spur Award of the Western Writers Association and an award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Guthrie's last "western entertainment," Murder in the Cotswolds (1989), featured the same characters but was set in the English countryside.

The preservation of the West he loved became a major concern of Guthrie's during his later years. He increasingly accepted public engagements and writing assignments that would allow him to speak out on Western environmental abuses, becoming a "patron saint" for a number of environmental organizations. In 1988 David Petersen edited and published a collection of Guthrie's preservationist writings: Big Sky, Fair Land: The Environmental Essays of A. B. Guthrie Jr.

A. B. Guthrie Jr. died in May 1991.

From the guide to the A. B. Guthrie Jr. Papers, 1901-1991, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Graves, John, 1920-. Papers, 1957-75, 1995. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Sam Schaefler historical and literary letters and documents, 1674-1970s Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Guthrie, A. B. (Alfred Bertram), 1901-1991. A. B. Guthrie Jr. Papers, 1901-1991. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Elisabeth Fraser papers, 1920-1999 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf A. B. Guthrie Jr. Papers, 1901-1991 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Comden, Betty. Miscellaneous movie screenplays, 1938-1980. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf A. B.Guthrie Papers, 1947-1991 Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn John Graves Papers TXRC96-A0., 1957-75, 1995 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Call, Hughie, 1890-1969. Papers, 1936-1978. University of Oregon Libraries
creatorOf Schulberg, Budd. Letter, 1952 Oct. 1, New Hope, Pa., to Edward C. Lathem / Budd Schulberg. Dartmouth College Library
creatorOf Maddow, Ben, 1909-1992. The way west : screenplay, 1966 May 20 / by Ben Maddow ; from the novel by A.B. Guthrie, Jr. Ohio State University Libraries
creatorOf Guthrie, A. B. (Alfred Bertram), 1901-1991. Correspondence to Maxwell Struthers Burt, 1948. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Egan, Ferol. Ferol Egan papers, [ca. 1966-1986]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company correspondence, 1881-1981 (inclusive), 1940-1979 (bulk). Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abbey, Edward, 1927-1989. person
associatedWith Aley, Maxwell. person
associatedWith Brandt & Brandt. corporateBody
associatedWith Brandt & Brandt. corporateBody
associatedWith Call, Hughie, 1890-1969. person
associatedWith Catton, Bruce, 1899-1978. person
associatedWith Ciardi, John, 1916-1986. person
associatedWith Clark, Thomas D. (Thomas Dionysius), 1903-2005. person
associatedWith Clark, Walter Van Tilburg, 1909-1971. person
associatedWith Conant, James Bryant, 1893-1978. person
associatedWith De Voto, Bernard Augustine, 1897-1955. person
associatedWith Egan, Ferol. person
associatedWith Egon, Ferol. person
associatedWith Egon, Ferol. person
associatedWith Fraser, Elisabeth person
associatedWith Graves, John, 1920- person
associatedWith Gries, Tom. person
associatedWith Guthrie, Carol Luthin. person
associatedWith Guthrie, Carol Luthin. person
associatedWith Guthrie, Harriet Larson. person
associatedWith Guthrie, Harriet Larson. person
associatedWith Helman, Betty. person
associatedWith Helman, Betty. person
associatedWith Houghton Mifflin Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Howard, Joseph Kinsey, 1906-1951. person
associatedWith Jennison, Keith Warren. person
associatedWith Maddow, Ben, 1909-1992. person
associatedWith McGraw-Hill Book Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Merriam, H. G. (Harold Guy), 1883-1980. person
associatedWith Miller-Guthrie, Helen person
associatedWith Morrison, Theodore, 1901-1988. person
associatedWith Morse, Caroline. person
associatedWith Nature Conservancy (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Prescott, Orville. person
associatedWith Schaefler, Sam, 1920-, person
associatedWith Schulberg, Budd. person
associatedWith Sierra Club. corporateBody
associatedWith Stegner, Wallace Earle, 1909-1993. person
associatedWith University of Montana corporateBody
associatedWith White, Theodore H. (Theodore Harold), 1915-1986. person
associatedWith William Sloane Associates, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Worcester, Donald E. (Donald Emmet), 1915-2003. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
West (U.S.)
United States
West (U.S.)
Literary agents
American literature
Western stories
Best sellers
Western films
Conservation of natural resources--West (U.S.)
Conservation of natural resources
Moving Images
Authors and publishers
Authors and publishers--United States
Publishers and publishing--United States
Film adaptations
American literature--West (U.S.)
Literary agents--United States
American literature--20th century
Conservation of natural resources--United States
Publishers and Publishing
Authors, American--Montana


Birth 1901-01-13

Death 1991-04-26






Ark ID: w66q26zq

SNAC ID: 34618651