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Jay Riley papers, 1959-1988
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Restrictions on Access
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance/Source of Acquisition
  • Biography/History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • UCLA Catalog Record ID

  • Title: Jay Riley papers
    Collection number: 2277
    Contributing Institution: UCLA Library Special Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 3.0 linear ft. (4 boxes, 1 carton and 1 flat box)
    Date: 1959-1988, bulk 1970s-1980s
    Abstract: Jay Riley was an African American actor who started his career in 1932. He appeared in Broadway productions and also found roles in motion pictures and television. The collection consists of script material, photographs and a small amount of biographical information, press clippings, ephemera, books, and audiovisual materials related to Riley’s career.
    Language of Materials: English
    Physical Location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    COLLECTION CONTAINS AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS: Audiovisual materials in this collection will require assessment and possible digitization for safe access. To review these audiovisual materials you must notify the reference desk in advance of your visit.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Jay Riley Papers (Collection 2277). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Mercedes Riley; 2013.


    James Merriman Riley, professionally known as Jay Flash Riley, Jay Riley, and Joe Riley, was born June 24, 1916 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He got his start acting in 1932 with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Theater project. His first appeared on Broadway in the role of Jack Stanton in Orson Welles's production of Native Son (1941). Other Broadway appearances include Carmen Jones (1943), On the Town (1944), Finian's Rainbow (1947), The Wiz (1975), and Bubbling Brown Sugar (1976). Riley spent time in Europe (ca. mid-1960s and 1970s) and appeared in and produced a stage production of Trumpets of Our Lord. Additionally, he appeared in films such as Cleopatra and The She Beast, and did voice-overs dubbing 200-plus films. Riley's television credits include appearances on Frank's Place, Good Times, Sanford and Son, Taxi, and The White Shadow. In 1979, Riley won the Los Angeles Weekly's Lawree Award for Outstanding Performance of the Year for his role in Bubbling Brown Sugar. In 1988, shortly before his death, he appeared in the MGM film Memories of Me. He died September 20, 1988 in Los Angeles, California.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of materials related to the career of African American actor Jay Riley. The majority of the materials are script materials and photographs. Additionally included are a small amount of biographical information, press clippings, ephemera, books, and audiovisual materials. Script materials represent projects for which Riley may have been involved in some capacity, such as Bubbling Brown Sugar, Trumpets of Our Lord, and The Wiz. The photographs are professional and/or personal in nature; professional photographs are mostly headshots of Riley. Notably absent from the collection are items representing his television work and his involvement with foreign-made films, such as Cleopatra and The She Beast.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged into the following series:
    • Series 1. Personal and Biographical Materials
    • Series 2. Correspondence
    • Series 3. Projects
    • Series 4. Photographs
    • Series 5. Books and Audiovisual Materials

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 7685605 

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Riley, Jay -- Archives
    African American actors -- Archives