Biographical/historical: Joel G. Sayre was a journalist, author, screenwriter and foreign correspondent. He was born December 13, 1900 in Marion, Indiana, the son of Joel Grover Sayre, a businessman, and Nora Clemens Sayre, a photographer and interior decorator. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio, attended the Columbus Academy there, and a private school in Cleveland. One of his childhood friends became the notable author James Thurber. At age sixteen, with the encouragement of the Governor of Ohio, James M. Cox, who took a personal interest in him, he attempted to enlist in the American army, but was refused because of his age. Fortified with a false certificate of birth, he succeeded in joining the Canadian Army and was sent to Siberia with its Expeditionary Force.
After the war he took a degree in literature at Oxford University in England, and studied medicine, briefly, at Heidelberg. He began his career in journalism as police reporter for the Columbus Journal, a hometown newspaper which did not provide adequate scope for his burgeoning talent. After a brief stint as sports columnist for The Boston Herald, he became a reporter for the New York World and the New York Herald Tribune where he specialized in crime reporting covering closely the career of the notorious criminal, John Thomas "Legs" Diamond. During this period he wrote numerous articles for The New Yorker and published two successful satirical novels, Hizzoner the Mayor, and Rackety Rax, which dealt with corruption in politics and in college football. During the mid-thirties he was called to Hollywood as screenwriter on several films including Annie Oakley, Gunga Din, and The Road to Glory. On the latter film he collaborated with the novelist, William Faulkner.
During World War II, as foreign correspondent for The New Yorker, he covered the Persian Gulf Command which supplied the Soviet Union with munitions and other materials through Iran. As correspondent he was present at the historic Teheran Conference of 1943. His New Yorker articles were later reproduced in his book Persian Gulf Command; Some Marvels on the Road to Kazvin. In 1945 the New Yorker sent him to Germany to cover the last phases of the war in Europe. His book, The House Without a Roof, about a Jewish family in the Third Reich, resulted from his experiences there.
In the 1950s Sayre continued to write for The New Yorker and other magazines. In mid-decade he left Time magazine where he had briefly been a staff writer, to return to screenwriting and to his peregrinations abroad, living for a time in London. In 1960 he returned to America to take a teaching position at the Annenburg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1971 he retired from teaching and settled in Virginia. The year before his death on September 9, 1979, he moved to Taftsville, Vermont to be with his life-long friend, Jeanette Lowe. His wife, Gertrude, died in 1960. At the time of his death he was survived by his daughter, Nora Sayre, and a niece, Mary Sayre Haverstock, of Arlington, Virginia.
Content: The papers include miscellaneous correspondence received; correspondence sent to his daughter, the author and cultural historian, Nora Sayre, and to his wife, Gertrude Lynahan Sayre; typescript and holograph drafts of his novels, plays, and articles; clippings of his published newspaper articles and sports columns; diary notes; reminiscences of his childhood in Columbus, Ohio and of life as newspaper reporter in New York City and as Hollywood screenwriter; and photographs of himself, his wife, daughter and friends.