Jay Leyda

Jay Leyda
Born February 12, 1910
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died February 15, 1988(1988-02-15) (aged 78)
New York City, United States
Occupation Filmmaker
Spouse(s) Si-lan Chen

Jay Leyda (February 12, 1910 – February 15, 1988)[1] was an American avant-garde filmmaker and film historian, noted for his work on U.S, Soviet, and Chinese cinema, as well as his collections of documentation on the day-to-day lives of Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson.

Life and work

Leyda was born on February 12, 1910, in Detroit, Michigan. He was a member of the Workers Film and Photo League in the early 1930s. He travelled to the Soviet Union in 1933 to study filmmaking at State Film Institute, Moscow, with Sergei Eisenstein. He participated in the filming of Eisenstein's lost film Bezhin Meadow (1935–37).[1] When he returned to the United States in 1936 to become an assistant film curator at the Museum of Modern Art, he brought the only complete print of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. In the 1940s he translated Eisenstein's writings.

His The Melville Log (1951) was a day to day compilation of documents which he had painstakingly collected on the life of Herman Melville.[2]

Leyda’s wife, Si-lan Chen, a ballet dancer of international reputation, was the daughter of Eugene Chen, a colleague of the Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen. Leyda was invited in 1959 to work at the Film Archive of China in Beijing, where he stayed until 1964. His account of Chinese film history, Dianying, was the first full length treatment to appear in English. Although he could use the basic (and now outdated) Chinese scholarship only in summary translations, Leyda’s knowledge of film gave him still useful insights into individual films and techniques.[3]

He was awarded the Eastman Kodak Gold Medal Award in 1984. He taught at New York University from 1973 until his death in New York on February 15, 1988, of heart failure. He was professor and dissertation advisor to noted film historian, Charles H. Harpole (creator of the ten volume History of American Cinema, dedicated to Leyda) and leading film theorist, Tom Gunning. In 1981 he was a member of the jury at the 12th Moscow International Film Festival.[4]

Selected filmography

Selected bibliography


  1. 1 2 David Stirk and Elena Pinto Simon in Christie, Ian; Taylor, Richard (1993). Eisenstein Rediscovered. Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 0-415-04950-4. OCLC 252972811.
  2. Leyda, Jay (1951). The Melville Log: A Documentary Life of Herman Melville, 1819–1891. New York: Harcourt, Brace. OCLC 174510154.
  3. Jay Leyda, Dianying: An Account of Films and the Film Audience in China (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1972), xii
  4. "12th Moscow International Film Festival (1981)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
  5. Jay Leyda (1931). "A Bronx Morning". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  6. Sidney Meyers and Jay Leyda (1937). "People of the Cumberland". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  7. Barsam, Richard Meran (1992). Nonfiction film. Indiana University Press. p. 148. ISBN 0-253-20706-1. OCLC 24107769.

External links

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