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RKO Radio Pictures Studio records
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Restrictions on Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Historical Note
  • UCLA Catalog Record ID
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Related Material
  • Scope and Content
  • Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: UCLA Library Special Collections
    Title: RKO Radio Pictures records
    Creator: RKO Radio Pictures
    Identifier/Call Number: PASC.0003
    Physical Description: 2042.5 Linear Feet (4085 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): circa 1921-circa 1956
    Abstract: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. was founded in 1928 and continued as a major motion picture studio for more than 27 years. The collection consists of script files, production information files, music scores and arrangements, script synopses and reader's reports, story submission cards, payroll records, and books from what appears to be the story department library. Included within the collection is information pertaining to ca. 3,000 plus produced and/or unproduced projects related to the studio's history.
    Language of Material: Materials are in English.
    Physical Location: Stored off-site. All requests to access special collections material must be made in advance using the request button located on this page.

    Restrictions on Access

    The payroll cards in this collection are restricted. Inquiries regarding these materials should be directed, in writing, to Special Collections reference (spec-coll@library.ucla.edu).

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of RKO Pictures, 1987.

    Organization and Arrangement

    The collection is organized into the following series:
    • Series 1. Feature Films and Shorts
    • Series 2. Story Department Records
    • Series 3. Payroll Records

    Historical Note

    RKO Radio Pictures was founded in 1928 and operated out of the former Robertson-Cole studios in Hollywood (now part of the Paramount lot). The company was born out of mergers among the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the Film Booking Offices of America (FBO) and the Keith-Albee-Orpheum vaudeville circuit in the 1920s. The result was Radio-Keith-Orpheum, better known as RKO. The studio built its prestige upon a generally high production standard and the participation of major stars, such as Fred Astaire, Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. Additionally, were the stars from behind the camera such as Edward Dmytryk, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Val Lewton, George Stevens, and Orson Welles, among others. Amongst its productions were The Bells of St. Mary's, Bringing Up Baby, Cat People, Cimarron, Citizen Kane, The Farmer's Daughter, Gunga Din, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Informer, King Kong, Kitty Foyle, Little Women, The Magnificent Ambersons, Morning Glory, Notorious, Suspicion and the classic Fred Astaire titles Carefree, Flying Down to Rio, Follow the Fleet, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Shall We Dance, Swing Time and Top Hat. Aside from its own productions, RKO also released Goldwyn, Disney and Selznick films such as The Best Years of Our Lives, Becky Sharp, It's a Wonderful Life, and a variety of Disney feature animation films up until 1954. The company continued as a major motion picture studio for more than 27 years. In 1948 Howard Hughes acquired a large share of RKO stock and gained control of the company. After a period of financial difficulties, the company ceased production in 1958, and the studio lot was closed and the real estate sold to Desilu. (Note: historical note based on information from Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Margaret Herrick Library website - http://www3.oscars.org/mhl/hn/RKO_hn.html  )

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 4233672 

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], RKO Radio Pictures Studio Records (Collection PASC 3). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed and machine-readable finding aid created by UCLA Library Special Collections staff and revised in 2008 by Tim Wilson of the Performing Arts Special Collections Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT) .

    Related Material

    RKO Radio Pictures photographs, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of script files, production information files, music scores and arrangements, script synopses and reader's reports, what appears to be Story Department files consisting of story submission cards and books, and payroll records. Included within the collection is information related to 2500-plus produced and/or unproduced projects produced and/or distributed by RKO.
    The script files may include various script drafts for 2000-plus feature films and shorts, both produced and unproduced or distributed by RKO. Included are files for 400-plus RKO shorts such as Deep House, Dummy Ache, Scratch-As-Catch-Can, and Should Wives Work?; 50-plus Path; shorts, and assorted RKO serials. The feature film writings include Alice Adams, Cat People, Cimarron, Gay Divorcee, Gunga Din, I Remember Mama, The Informer, King Kong, Kitty Foyle, Love Affair, Morning Glory, My Favorite Wife, The Sea Around Us, Shall We Dance, Stage Door, Suspicion, and Top Hat, to name a few.
    The production information files are day-to-day production records for RKO features films and some shorts. Each project file may include a mix of cast call sheets, extra talent requisitions, set accounting records, and possibly on-set production memoranda. Among the large number RKO productions represented in the files are the feature films Carefree, Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, Bringing Up Baby, and Enchanted Cottage; projects such as the Broadway Headliners series; and productions featuring the comedy team of Clark and McCullough, actors Edgar Kennedy, Leon Errol, Harry Sweet, and country and western singer, Ray Whitely, among others.
    The music files may include scores, parts for individual instruments, and music cue sheets for feature films and some shorts. The music files showcase composers such as Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Max Stiener, Franz Waxman, and Roy Webb to name a few.
    The script synopsis-reader report files include story synopsis-reader reports and occasional interdepartmental communication with comments about the works/story. Individual reports generally include title and author of the original work, type of work (i.e. Biographical), theme, summary, and reader name. The story submission cards contain resume-like information related to literary materials offered to or covered by RKO from 1928-1958. The file is organized by story title and by author name. Additionally there is a subject file index (which is not as voluminous as the title and author index files). The library of books comprises original literary properties including published plays, novels, and reference books. The payroll records include start and close payroll advice cards for various studio employees covering ca. 1921-1956 (with gaps
    Notably absent from the collection are legal records, stills, and publicity material related to RKO productions.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UC Regents. 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.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Motion picture studios -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archives.
    RKO Radio Pictures -- Archives