George Eastman House acquires Merchant Ivory collection

Collection of 2,600 elements includes more than 40 film titles; James Ivory to be honored at Eastman House May 5

For Release 2010-04-14

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Archival footage of The Remains of the Day in the vaults at

George Eastman House.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film announces one of the most important acquisitions in its 61-year history — the collection of Merchant Ivory Productions.  This collection of 2,600 elements includes more than 40 film titles, such as Oscar®-winners A Room With a View (1986) and Howards End (1992) and Oscar® nominees such as The Remains of the Day (1993), Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990), and The Bostonians (1984). 

Film director James Ivory will be honored May 5 with the title of George Eastman Honorary Scholar — awarded for artistic achievement in motion pictures — on opening night of the 360 | 365 George Eastman House Film Festival, when he will present his new film, The City of Your Final Destination, which stars Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney. Past recipients of this honor include Jeff Bridges, John Frankenheimer, and Ken Burns.

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James Ivory on the set of The White Countess.

(Photograph by Tomoko Kikuchi)

“Ismail Merchant’s worry for years was that all those films of ours, made in so many places, stored in so many labs around the world, would never be brought safely home and might be lost,” Ivory said. “Now the George Eastman House motion picture archive is that home, safeguarding the continuing life of Merchant Ivory's work for the next generations.”

Merchant Ivory’s extensive filmography spans more than 40 years, and the collection at Eastman House also features their early Indian films, such as Shakespeare-Wallah (1965) and Bombay Talkie (1970), as well as the company’s earlier American films, the experimental Savages (1972) and the New York-set Roseland (1977). Basic elements on deposit in the George Eastman House archive include Merchant Ivory’s international successes, such as Autobiography of a Princess (1975), Quartet (1981), Heat and Dust (1983), Maurice (1987), and Jefferson in Paris (1995). Films directed by Ismail Merchant are also included, such as the Oscar®-nominated short The Creation of Woman (1961) and a fascinating earlier documentary, The Courtesans of Bombay (1984). Merchant passed away in 2005 during the editing of The White Countess, which he filmed in Shanghai with Ivory.

Merchant met personally with Eastman House representatives to plan the gift, which includes original negatives, interpositives, and 35mm archive prints made from the original negatives of some of Merchant Ivory’s most admired films. According to Ivory, it was Merchant’s dream to back this original material up with his own collection of his relevant contracts, correspondence, and other business papers that give an idea of how this fiercely independent production company has operated so successfully for over four decades, on four continents. The gathering of these archival documents has been the task of James Ivory, Merchant’s surviving partner, assisted by the staffs of Merchant Ivory’s offices in New York, London, Paris and Mumbai.

The Eastman House is the archive in which many filmmakers have chosen to preserve and house their films, including Cecil B. DeMille, Spike Lee, Ken Burns, Kathryn Bigelow, and Martin Scorsese, whose personal film collection of several thousand titles is at Eastman House. In March the Eastman House announced the acquisition of the coporate archive of Technicolor.

The Eastman House motion picture archive is the third largest in the United States, alongside Museum of Modern Art and surpassed only by UCLA and Library of Congress.  The Eastman House’s motion picture archive is housed on the estate of Kodak founder George Eastman, the father of popular photography and motion picture film.

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James Ivory and Laura Linney on the set of

The City of Your Final Destination.

(Photograph by Juan Quirno. Copyright 2009 Merchant Ivory Productions)

“The Merchant Ivory collection is a significant treasure in the George Eastman House archive,” said Dr. Anthony Bannon, the Ron and Donna Fielding Director of George Eastman House. “The celebrated films and behind-the-scenes photographs, correspondence, and screenplays tell a complete story of filmmaking by this legendary production team, and we are honored to preserve this collection at Eastman House.”

Merchant Ivory is a collaboration of three masters from three vastly different cultures – Ismail Merchant, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and James Ivory.  Producer Merchant was born in India.  Jhabvala, the screenwriter, was born in Germany and educated in England, and Ivory, the director, was born in the United States. Their partnership is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest partnership in independent cinema history. Merchant Ivory’s feature films (24 of them directed by Ivory), documentaries, and shorts have been praised for their visual beauty, their mature and intelligent themes, and the shrewd casting and fine acting from which they derive their unique power.

The diversity of Merchant Ivory’s cultural roots is evident in the range of locations in which their movies have been shot:  Delhi, Mumbai, and Benares; London, Paris, and Florence; New York, Boston, Port-of-Spain in Trinidad, Shanghai, and most recently Argentina.  The filmmakers capture a vital sense of place and often lyrical feeling for widely varying periods and landscapes, from Paris in the 1920s and Edwardian England, to 19th-century America and British India.

Part of this gift to Eastman House is the extensive correspondence and shared records between Merchant Ivory and film laboratories and film archives all over the world in the late 1990s, when the Merchant Ivory Foundation and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences restored nine of the greatest films of the master Indian director Satyajtt Ray. These included The Apu Trilogy, The Music Room, The Goddess, and Charulata.

About the George Eastman Honorary Scholar honor

Ivory will receive this honor on May 5 from George Eastman House and the 360 | 365 George Eastman House Film Festival, for artistic achievement in motion pictures. Eastman House first granted this title upon filmmaker Ken Burns in 1995, and has since awarded it to 13 others. The prestigious list features directors Norman Jewison, John Frankenheimer, Philip Kaufman, and John Landis; actors Dennis Hopper, Tony Curtis, Richard Widmark, and Jeff Bridges; cinematographer Haskell Wexler; film writer Roger Ebert; special-effects artist Ray Harryhausen; sound designer and film editor Walter Murch; and musician and music-on-film preservationist Michael Feinstein.

About George Eastman House

George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film was founded in 1947. The motion picture archive houses 30,000 film titles and 4 million film-related publicity stills, posters, scores, scripts, and pre-cinema artifacts. Eastman House also holds the world’s largest collection of camera technology. The Eastman House’s L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation is regarded as the premier venue of professional training in film preservation, restoration, and archiving. Annually George Eastman House restores more than 500 reels of film. For more information, visit www.eastmanhouse.org

About the 360 | 365 George Eastman House Film Festival

The 360 | 365 George Eastman House Film Festival (May 5–10, 2010) grew out of the successful Rochester High Falls International Film Festival, and features new feature films, films created by women, and preservation screenings, as well as a shorts program. The collaboration with George Eastman House grew from its longstanding relationship with the festival and marks the first time a major film archive has aligned with a contemporary film festival. 360 | 365 is year-round conversation that includes short- and feature-length emerging filmmakers in its Shorts Contest and New Director Series. For more information, visit www.film360365.com.



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