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Special Collections Online at UT

The Night of the Hunter Collection

Identifier: MS-3795

  • Staff Only

This collection contains the original 259 page edited manuscript for Davis Grubb's 1953 acclaimed novel, The Night of the Hunter. The pages of the work are unbound and include extensive notes; Grubb contributes by use of black ink, and editorial corrections are in red ink. Additionally, fifteen pages are included that comprise an annotated rough draft of the novel’s front matter. This includes a title page, a copyright page, a dedication, a table of contents, and "Epigraph" from Moby Dick, and the first four pages of book one, “The Hanging Man.” In varying colors, editions and deletions are found throughout. A circular red stamp on the back of several pages of this draft reveals that it was received for edit on June 23, 1953. Also included are three photographs taken from the set of the 1955 copyrighted film adaptation of the novel, with credits under each photograph. These pictures illustrate director Charles Laughton guiding and interacting with the cast of the movie.


  • 1953-1955

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


0.25 Linear Feet


Collection containing original 259 page edited manuscript for Davis Grubb's 1953 acclaimed novel The Night of the Hunter, fifteen pages of front matter drafting and publication instructions, and three pictures from the set of the 1955 film adapation directed by Charles Laughton.

Biographical/Historical Note

Written by author Davis Grubb and published in 1953 by Harper Brothers, The Night of the Hunter is a thriller novel set in the Southern United States during the Great Depression. This tale is based on the true story of serial killer Harry Powers, who was hanged in 1932 for the murders of two widows and three children in West Virginia. Playing on southern gothic literary troupes, the novel details the murderous scheming of con-man Reverend Harry Powell in his plot to obtain a ten thousand dollar sum from the house of his deceased cell mate’s widow and children.

At its time of publication, this book was a bestseller and a finalist for the 1955 National Book Award. Following the success of the novel, producer Paul Gregory slated the creation of a film adaptation starring Robert Mitchum with collaborative help from friend Charles Laughton and Knoxville-born screenwriter James Agee. Initially, this film failed to garner success from neither audiences nor critics; therefore, it was the only film Charles Laughton directed. Today, this film is critically recognized and acclaimed. Specifically, the United States Library of Congress selected The Night of the Hunter for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1992. The film is praised not only for Robert Mitchum’s performance but for the historical and aesthetic significance of its production. Particularly, it is classified as a film noir and praised for its southern gothic literary influence, German Expressionism, and leanings on the silent era as important classifying elements of the film’s style and theme.

Related Materials

Interested researchers may wish to consult MS-3964, The Night of the Hunter Pressbook, 1955.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA