There is no doubt that John Huston – the famed director of motion picture classics such as The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The African Queen – loved Ireland. He lived, for many years, in a house called St. Clerans near Craughwell, Co. Galway, he was an Irish citizen, and the last movie he directed before his death in 1987 was an adaptation of James Joyce’s short story "The Dead." It is only fitting, then, that the National University of Ireland, Galway’s Huston School of Film and Digital Media, founded in 2003, recently launched The Huston Archive.
Officially presented to the university on November 22nd in the Bailey Allen Hall, the archive includes draft scripts, production notes, recordings, legal documents, publicity materials and interviews – many of which concern Huston’s work on The Dead. Two of Huston’s children, Allegra and Tony (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay of The Dead), were in attendance. Of their decision to give the materials to NUI Galway, Tony said “The Academy of Motion Picture and Arts Sciences [in Los Angeles] has most of Dad’s own copies of scripts and I just thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to create an alternative pool on another continent, so that any researcher into John Huston would be compelled to come to Galway, would be compelled to come to Ireland – for it not to be merely an intellectual exercise. You can’t come to Ireland without being influenced by the weather, the people, the air; it’s instantaneous.” He added, “The Irish people really appreciated his magnificence, they saw something about him. The Irish really loved Dad’s attitude towards life.”
Among the rare items in the archive are a riding crop that was given to Huston during the filming of The African Queen, beautifully illustrated storyboards and designs by Stephen Grimes, and a draft of the script for the film Freud: The Secret Passion by Jean-Paul Sartre, who visited Huston at St. Clerans in 1958. According to Tony, these materials are unique because “people who are interested in Dad will be able to see these things, get a sense of the man, in a way that is much more than just information.” The documents also include a copy of the May 1987 edition of Irish America, which featured an interview with Huston from the set of The Dead (pictured above).
The collection will be housed in the James Hardiman Library, which also holds the papers of Irish writer John McGahern and the archives of the Druid and Lyric theatres. A good portion of the collection, said Rod Stoneman, Director of the Huston School of Film and Digital Media, will also be available online, which he sees as a vital factor in its accessibility. He explained, “The archive as an online presence is carrying film into the present and future of digital media.” He called the archive “an exciting development for those interested in John Huston’s work. It is at the intersection of American cinema and Irish culture.”