New York, NY— The Morgan Library & Museum has received an important collection of annotated scripts, notebooks, and correspondence from prominent American film director, producer, and screenwriter James Ivory (b. 1928). This collection, comprised of material representing thirty-two films, offers an illuminating record of Ivory’s work as a director and the history of Merchant Ivory Productions (ca. 1963-2010). In honor of this generous gift, the Morgan will display a selection of these remarkable items in the installation A Merchant Ivory Production from June 26 to October 28, 2018.
Over the course of nearly four and a half decades, Ivory collaborated with Indian-born film producer Ismail Merchant and German-born novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Merchant and Ivory worked on dozens of films together, twenty-two of which were written by Jhabvala. Well-known for their exquisite adaptations of the literature of Henry James (1843-1916), E. M. Forster (1879-1970), and Kazuo Ishiguro (b. 1954), the trio also collaborated on many original screenplays.
Two of their films have won multiple Academy Awards. Most recently, Ivory won both an Oscar and BAFTA for Call Me by Your Name (2017), making him the oldest-ever winner in any category for both awards. Their extraordinary partnership is documented in more than 1,500 letters and telegrams that form part of this collection. Their correspondence reveals the collaborative origins, the artistic developments, and the logistical feats that went into the films of Merchant Ivory Productions. Ivory has called one 10-page letter from Jhabvala about their film Shakespeare Wallah (1965) “the most important letter [she] ever wrote to [him] concerning [their] collaborative work as screenwriters.” Many letters also include script fragments, press clippings, and other ephemera, which remain with the collection.
Beginning June 26, visitors will be able to view the collection’s many highlights in the Lower Level of the Morgan, including the script materials for Call Me by Your Name and Ivory’s annotated copy of André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same title that he used while writing the screenplay. Ivory’s added notes, changes, sketches, and inserts transform the scripts into an important research collection.
The installation also features James Ivory’s annotated shooting scripts for the adaptations of Henry James’ The Bostonians (1984), E.M. Forster’s Maurice (1987), Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1993), and scripts of the production company’s films set in India such as Shakespeare Wallah (1965). Other exceptional items on view will be Ivory’s editing notebooks and the annotated “small scripts” that the director would use as quick reference on set and in the editing room.
“For a long time I’ve wanted to find a safe place nearby in New York for all the scripts I carried on to the sets of my films, a page or two each day, folded up in my back pocket, with things scribbled on them,” Mr. Ivory said. “I could never have imagined—dared not think—that they might someday end up in close proximity to the working papers of Albert Einstein and Galileo in the Morgan Library! But so it has happened, for which I’m very grateful to the Morgan for this honor and to its enthusiastic custodians for putting this installation together.”
“In addition to James Ivory’s achievements as a director and a screenwriter over the course of his sixty-year career, he was an innovator of filmmaking strategies,” said museum director Colin B. Bailey. “These materials will be the first of their kind in the Morgan’s collection, and will complement our Carter Burden Collection of American Literature, which includes strong holdings of screenplays and continuity scripts. We are enormously thankful for this extraordinary gift that will serve future generations of film scholars and historians.”
Image: André Aciman (b. 1951), Call Me by Your Name, New York: Picador, 2007, James Ivory’s copy. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York; gift of James Ivory, 2018. © Merchant Ivory Productions. Photography by Graham S. Haber.