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Joseph Moncure March (AC 1920) Papers

Identifier: MA.00210

Scope and Contents

Literary manuscripts, filmscripts, personal and professional correspondence, and some other material (including movie films, recordings and works of art) produced by or relating to Joseph Moncure March (1899-1977), Amherst College Class of 1920. Virtually all periods of his life are represented.

There is a substantial amount of unpublished or un-filmed material, some of which is probably related to subsequent work titled differently.

It should be noted that March was involved with the making of many films for which there is no script in this collection.


  • Creation: 1896-1999
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1917-1977


Conditions Governing Access note

There is no restriction on access to the March Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use note

Requests for permission to publish material from the March Papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Moncure March was born in New York City in 1899. After graduation from Amherst College (1918) and service in the US Army, he held various editorial positions, did free lance writing and published poetry. In 1929 he went to Hollywood under contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. From then until 1975 he worked in the film industry as writer and producer with various motion picture companies. March died in Los Angeles, California in 1977.

Joseph Moncure March: A Chronology

1899 July 27
Born in New York City, son of Moncure March and Regina Anker. His father was a New York corporate lawyer, attorney-in-chief and head of the law department for the Equitable Life Assurance Company, N.Y. His mother was born in Vienna, the daughter of a Viennese physician. Educated in Vienna and Berlin, she died when Joseph was 16 years old. Moncure March remarried to Katherine O'Connell. Important members of the March family include his grandfather, Francis Andrew March, scholar and philologist, and his uncle, General Peyton Conway March, Chief of Staff of the American army during World War II.
Attends DeWitt Clinton High School, New York City (Public School 165)
Attends Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey
1916 September-1918 April
Attends Amherst College (majors in Greek, Latin, and English; member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity)
1918 April 16
Enlists in United States Army. Private overseas with Battery B, 105th Field Artillery, 27th Division, American Expeditionary.Forces. Participates in Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives
1919 April 3
Honorable discharge
1919 September-1920 June
Amherst College. Graduates Honoris Causa in 1920 (academic requirements were not completed but the degree was awarded in recognition of World War I service)
Marries Cyra Thomas, a Vassar graduate. Divorces. She dies sometime before 1931 May 5.
Managing Editor, The Telephone Review. New York Telephone Company, Publicity Department. Similar work for other organizations. Also writing during these years, chiefly verse.
Managing editor, The New Yorker.
The New York Evening Post "Literary Supplement"
Marries Sue Wise, a New York society girl and artist
Freelance writer. Publishes three books (two narrative verse and one lyric poems): The Wild Party Chicago, Pascal Covici, 1928; London Heineman, 1928. The Set Up Chicago, Covici-Friede, 1928; London, Martin Secker, 1928. Fifteen Lyrics New York, The Fountain Press, 1929 (417 copies printed at the Harbor Press.) The first two receive considerable critical acclaim.
Divorces Sue Wise
1932 February 4
Marries Peggy Prior, former film actress recently divorced from actor Theodore von Elty. Subsequent publicized court case over custody of her two children, which she wins.
Hollywood motion picture scriptwriter. Moves to Hollywood under contract with Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios. Subsequent three-year writing contract with Howard Hughes, for whom he also works as a co-director, supervisor, and general manager during Hughes' absence. Salary in 1932 is $45,000. Also works in this period for Paramount, Columbia, Republic, Fox, Universal, and independent companies. Credits (and some cast) listed in American Film Institute Catalog: Feature Films include:
"Hell's Angels" (Caddo Co., 1930) with Jean Harlow and Ben Lyon
"Journey's End" (Tiffany-Gainsborough Prod., 1930)
"A Man From Wyoming" (Paramount Publix Corp., 1930) with Gary Cooper
"Hot Saturday" (Paramount Publix, Corp., 1932) with Cary Grant
"Madame Butterfly" (Paramount Publix Corp., 1932) with Spencer Tracy
"Sky Devils" (Caddo Co., 1932) with Spencer Tracy
"Hoop-la" (Fox Film Corp., 1933) with Clara Bow
"Jennie" Gerhardt (Paramount Prod., 1933)
"Jealousy" (Columbia Pictures Corp., 1934)
"Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round" (Reliance Pictures, Inc. 1934) with Jack Benny
"Two Alone" (RXO Radio Pictures, Inc. 1934)
"Let 'Em Have It" (Reliance Pictures, 1935)
"Rumba" (Paramount Prod., 1935) with George Raft and Carole Lombard
"And Sudden Death" (Paramount Prod., 1936)
"The Music Goes Round" (Columbia Pictures, 1936)
"Hideaway Girl" (Paramount Pictures, 1936) with Robert Cummings
"Flirting With Fate" (David L. Loew Prod., 1938)
"Her Jungle Love" (Paramount Pictures, 1938) with Dorothy Lamour and Ray Milland
"Woman Doctor" (Republic Pictures, 1939)
"Forgotten Girls" (Republic Pictures, 1940)
"Lone Star Raiders" (Republic Pictures, 1940)
"Three Faces West" (Republic Pictures, 1940) with John Wayne
Leaves Hollywood disenchanted. Lives briefly in New York City, then moves to Connecticut when he takes a job as a sheet metal worker in the Groton submarine shipyard. Soon becomes manager of the Gordon L. Hall Co., manufacturer of sheet metal assembly equipment.
Moves back to New York. Writer-producer of documentary films for the Office of War Information's Motion Picture Division (overseas branch Operating in New York City)
Free lance writer for documentaries and industrial public relations films for the State Department, the United Nations, and industry. Titles March mentions include:
"Tanglewood" (MPO for State Dept.)
"Yellowstone" (MPO for Ford Motor Co.)
"A Bottle of Milk" (State Dept.)
"Tomorrow Meets Today" (MPO for Ford Motor Co.)
"Cross Roads U.S.A. (Film Counselors for O.I.I.C.)
"Oil Tanker" (Film Counselors for Texaco)
Motion picture rights to "The Set Up" sold to R.K.O. in 1947. The feature film of it, starring Robert Ryan, was released in 1949.
Writer Producer, MPO Productions, Inc. Credits include:
"The American Road" (Ford Motor Co.)
"American Farmer" (Ford Motor Co.)
"Garden Wise" (Monsanto)
"Masters of Maintenance" (American Airlines)
Resigns MPO October 1953, but comes to a revised agreement to write three films a year thereafter. Credits include:
"American Cowboy" (Ford Motor Co.)
"Giants in the Land" (General Motors)
"Design for Dreaming (General Motors)
"The Stylists" (Ford Motor Co.)
"Equation for Progress" (Ford Research)
"Plan for Learning" (U.S. Steel)
"CPA" (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants)
"Where Were You" (Ford Motor Co.)
circa 1954
Motion picture rights to The Wild Party sold to R.K.O.
Retires and returns to California to live near Hollywood
Continues writing, especially an unpublished book-length piece entitled "Hollywood Idyll." Contributes articles to The New Yorker Magazine.
Sells motion picture rights to The Wild Party to Crown Publishers, Inc.
"The Wild Party" (American International Pictures) is released starring James Coco and Raquel Welch.
1977 February 15
Dies in Los Angeles, California


12.5 Linear feet (11 record storage boxes, 2 half archives boxes, 1 flat box, 1 oversize flat box)

Language of Materials



Poet, essayist and Hollywood screenwriter who is best known for his long narrative poems The Wild Party and The Set-Up. Collection includes literary manuscripts, film-scripts, personal and professional correspondence, and other material (including motion pictures, recordings and works of art).


This collection is organized into five series:

  1. Series 1: Personal Papers, 1896-1999 (bulk 1917-1977)
  2. Series 2: Professional Papers, 1928-1977
  3. Series 3: Literary Manuscripts, circa 1917-1974
  4. Series 4: Filmscripts, 1929-1975
  5. Series 5: Objects

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The bulk of the collection was the gift of Mrs. Alexander Scourby in 1985-1986. March gave manuscripts of "The Set-Up" and "The Wild Party" in 1972.

Related Archival Materials note

Alumni Biographical Files - Class of 1920 - March, Joseph

Processing Information note

Processed: 2002 February - 2003 May
Floyd Merritt '51, Archivist Emeritus
Jess Mynes, Archives Intern
Barbara Trippel Simmons, Processing Archivist

Floyd Merritt and Barbara Trippel Simmons
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299