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Arthur Freed papers

Identifier: 2151

Scope and Contents

The Arthur Freed papers, 1919-1975, consist of film files (produced and unproduced), considered projects, playscripts and screenplays, personal papers, correspondence and letters, awards, certificates and ephemera, books and scrapbooks, artwork and stills, and phonograph records created and collected by Arthur Freed during his life and career as a producer and lyricist.

The majority of the collection comprises film files featuring scripts, production information (Assistant Director's reports, daily progress reports, budgets and picture estimates, memos and correspondence regarding censorship, legal issues, talent, and contracts), press and publicity (ads, clippings, trailers, photograph stills and negatives, and first reports), and sheet music. Signature film files within the collection include "An American in Paris", "Annie Get Your Gun", "Brigadoon", "Gigi", "Meet Me in St. Louis", "On the Town", "Show Boat", "Singin' in the Rain", "The Wizard of Oz", and "Ziegfeld Follies". Also featured is information on unproduced projects, including "Green Mansions", "Huckleberry Finn", and "Say it With Music", as well as information on projects Freed considered producing, but ultimately never took off. There are also a few playscripts and screenplays from films Freed did not produce, including "The Merry Widow" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown".

A large portion of the collection comprises phonograph records of Freed's productions, featuring the pre-recorded versions of the songs that were used within the films, as well as a few rehersal versions. They are, for the most part, stored in record collection albums. There is also oversized artwork and photographs in the form of framed costume design artwork and film stills.

The remainder of the collection consists of awards, certificates, and ephemera including a replica Showboat model, a framed telegram from William Randolph Hearst, numerous Exhibitor Laurel awards, two Golden Globe Awards ("An American in Paris", "Gigi"), books, and a scrapbook for "Strike Up the Band". Freed's personal papers within the collection comprise sheet music and lyrics, nominations and awards he received, publicity regarding his achievements and career, articles he wrote, lectures he gave, events he attended, a few 16mm and 35mm film reels, and a collection of magazines and film journals. Freed's correspondence and letters include items to and from such indviduals as Fred Astaire, Leslie Caron, Judy Garland, Jerome Kern, Ira Gershwin, and William Saroyan. The collection also contains material of Freed's that was in the possession of author Hugh Fordin while working on his book, "The World of Entertainment! Hollywood's Greatest Musicals". As a result, files containing Fordin's own research are found within the collection as well.


  • 1919 - 1975


Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Cinematic Arts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Cinematic Arts Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical Note

Arthur Freed, born September 9, 1894 in Charlson, South Dakota, was an American lyricist and Hollywood film producer. Freed began his career in show business as a song plugger for a music publisher before appearing with the Marx Brothers in vaudeville. After serving in WWI (in which he acted as a performer in military shows and was a sergeant first class), Freed returned to vaudeville where he wrote songs and special material for nightclub revues. His first hit song was "I Cried for You". In 1923, he married Renee Klein, whom he met in San Francisco. A year later they had a daughter, Barbara, and had also moved to Los Angeles.

While directing a stage musical in Hollywood in 1928, Freed was hired by Irving Thalberg as a lyricist for MGM, penning songs for "The Broadway Melody". Freed would go on to write lyrics for numerous films, including "The Hollywood Revue" (where he penned the song "Singin' in the Rain"), "The Pagan", "A Night at the Opera", "Going Hollywood", "San Francisco", and "Broadway Melody of 1938."

Freed was responsible for Metro's purchase of "The Wizard of Oz" from Samuel Goldwyn for $20,000 as a vehicle for Judy Garland. As a result, Freed asked if he could produce the film, but was only afforded associate producer credit due to his inexperience. That same year, Freed would fully produce "Babes in Arms". Freed worked as a producer for the next two decades, primarily on MGM musicals including "An American in Paris", "Show Boat", "Meet Me in St. Louis", "Singin' in the Rain" (in which he also penned all the songs), "Ziegfeld Follies", and "Gigi." His forty-five productions from 1939 to 1961 earned Metro $280,000,000, a record held by no other producer in Hollywood at the time of his death. He won two Academy Awards ("An American in Paris", "Gigi"), was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for four terms (1963-1967), and was given the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award in 1951.

Freed passed away as a result of a heart attack on April 12, 1973 in Bel Air. He was 78.


75 Linear Feet (62 boxes)

Language of Materials



Arthur Freed was an American lyricist and producer, best known for his MGM musical productions of such films as "An American in Paris", "Singin' in the Rain", "Meet Me in St. Louis", and "Gigi". This collection comprises primarly film files (produced and unproduced), considered projects, playscripts and screenplays, phonograph albums, and artwork and stills. It also contains personal papers, correspondence and letters, awards, certificates and ephemera, and books and scrapbooks.


The collection is organized into the following series: 1. Film files (produced); 2. Film files (unproduced); 3. Considered projects, playscripts, and screenplays; 4. Personal papers; 5. Correspondence and letters; 6. Awards, certificates, and ephemera; 7. Books and scrapbooks; 6. Phonograph records ; 7. Artwork and stills.

Produced film files have been organized further into subseries, alphabetically by film title. Unproduced film files have been organized into two alphabetical sub-series (A-L and M-Z) by film title. Books, phonograph albums, and artwork have also been arranged alphabetically.

The personal papers, correspondence and letters, and awards, certificates, and ephemera series' have been arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Arthur Freed, December 30, 1969. Additional material that was in the possession of writer Hugh Fordin while researching his book on Freed was received on July 28, 1989.

Processing Information

Many of the paper materials were originally housed in manila envelopes within boxes, with the name of the film and production number listed on the envelope. Most likely the original archivist then arranged the collection largely by film title, making original order unknown. Intellectual order was kept, largely, intact.

Acetate film reels were separated from the rest of the materials and placed in their own archival boxes. These two boxes were then transfered for housing at USC's Moving Image Archives.

Finding aid for the Arthur Freed papers
Sarah Cassone
2018 August
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Cinematic Arts Library Repository

Doheny Memorial Library G4
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0185 United States