Biography and History

James Rufus Agee was an American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter, and film critic. In the 1940's, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S. His autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), won the author a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. After graduating from Harvard University, Agee wrote for Fortune and Time magazines, although he is better known for his later film criticism in The Nation. He married Olivia (Via) Saunders on January 28, 1933; they divorced in 1938. In 1934, he published his only volume of poetry, Permit Me Voyage. In the summer of 1936, Agee spent eight weeks on assignment for Fortune with photographer Walker Evans living among sharecroppers in Alabama. While Fortune did not publish his article, Agee turned the material into a book entitled Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). It sold only 600 copies before being remaindered. Agee's career as a movie scriptwriter was curtailed by alcoholism, but he is nevertheless one of the credited screenwriters on two of the most respected films of the 1950's: The African Queen (1951) and The Night of the Hunter (1955).

Source: From the finding aid for C1329

  • James Agee Letters. 1932-1938 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1329

    Consists of selected letters by the American author, journalist, and screenwriter James Agee, addressed to his first wife, Olivia Saunders. Several of them date from the period Agee was in Alabama working on what would become Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941).