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James Broughton papers, 1895-1999

Finding Aid

Prepared by Alex Gildzen, Fred Previts, Barb Bass, and Nancy Birk; completed May 2000; Updated April 2009
59 rsbs, 2 flat oversize boxes, 61 cubic feet, 11th floor


Biographical Note

James Richard Broughton was born on November 10, 1913 in Modesto, California. He was raised in California and graduated from Stanford University in 1936. After studying playwriting and directing in New York Broughton returned to California and began making experimental films, including "The Pleasure Garden" which won a special jury prize at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival. During this time Broughton wrote and published poetry as one of San Francisco's "Renaissance Poets," which included among others Helen Adam, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, and Eve Triem. From 1958 to 1964 Broughton was resident playwright with the Playhouse Repertory Theater in San Francisco and six of his plays were first performed there. In 1968 Broughton returned to filmmaking with "The Bed" and he continued to make films for the next twenty years, including "Dreamwood"(1972), "Testament"(1974) and "Scattered Remains"(1988). His films have won numerous awards at film festivals throughout the world and in 1989 the American Film Institute presented a lifetime achievement award to Broughton.

In the 1960s and 1970s Broughton taught at San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Art Institute and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Broughton continued to write as well and has published more than twenty books, including A Long Undressing (1971), The Androgyne Journal (1977), Graffiti for the Johns of Heaven (1983), and Special Deliveries: New and Selected Poems (1990). In 1993 he completed his memoirs, Coming Unbuttoned.

James Broughton died on May 17, 1999 at the age of 85.


Scope and Content

In 1977 the Department of Special Collections and Archives purchased James Broughton's manuscripts and correspondence to enhance its collection of contemporary poetry. The collection consists primarily of manuscripts and drafts relating to Broughton's poetry and filmmaking; personal correspondence and business correspondence; and publicity material including magazine and newspaper articles about him as well as reviews of his works. Because of Broughton's influence in both the San Francisco poetry movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the development of avant-garde filmmaking, scholars will find this collection valuable in studying modern American poetry as well as the history of experimental films.


The James Broughton Papers are processed in two separate collections which reflect changes in cataloging manuscripts and personal papers in the department. The materials in Collection 1 have been cataloged on an item-level basis, which is how the department processed manuscript material during its first 20 or so years. Collection 2 reflects common contemporary archival processing which allows for grouping like materials together.

Please note that Broughton's films were transferred to the Anthology Film Archives in New York, New York, in 2003.