Dwain Esper papers, 1928-1984

Finding aid prepared by Anh Kiet Ngo, under the supervision of Melissa Haley; machine-readable finding aid created by Caroline Cubé.
UCLA Library Special Collections
Room A1713, Charles E. Young Research Library
Box 951575
Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1575
(310) 825-4988
Finding aid last updated 14 July 2016.

Title: Dwain Esper papers
Collection number: 2301
Contributing Institution: UCLA Library Special Collections
Language of Material: English
Physical Description: 1.8 linear ft. (2 document boxes and 1 oversize flatbox)
Date (inclusive): 1928-1984
Abstract: This collection primarily contains material belonging to movie producer and director Dwain Esper and his wife Hildagarde, including photographs, correspondence, business records, and advertisements, many of which are connected to Esper's movies and career.
Physical Location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
Creator: Esper, Dwain

Restrictions on Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Dwain Esper Papers (Collection 2301). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

Provenance/Source of Acquisition

Gift of Francis M. Woods and Kimberly Douglas, 2014.


Dwain Esper (1892-1982) was an American producer and director of exploitation films including Narcotic (1933), Maniac (1934), Marihuana (1936), and Sex Madness (1938). He is best-known as producer/distributor of the cult classic Reefer Madness (1936). In 1920, Esper married Hildagarde Stadie (1895-1993), who also wrote some of his movies.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of correspondence, legal and copyright material, photographs, and advertisements related to Dwain Esper's films, and well as business and financial records. Also present are some personal papers and photographs, as well as two sex education booklets by Hildagarde Esper. There is no material in this collection related to the film Reefer Madness.

Organization and Arrangement

The collection is organized into the following series:
  • Series 1. Film-related papers
  • Series 2. Business records
  • Series 3. Personal material
  • Series 4. Photographs
  • Series 5. Advertisements
  • Series 6. Books

UCLA Catalog Record ID

UCLA Catalog Record ID: 7810170 

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Esper, Hildagarde
Renay, Liz
Exploitation films
Maniac (Motion picture: 1934)

Container List


Series 1. Film-related papers. 1930-1984.

Scope and Content

Series includes copyright paperwork, legal agreements, publicity material, correspondence, ratings paperwork, and a script (Maniac) related to specific films produced by Esper or of interest to him. Also present is a small amount of financial records, primarily invoices for film prints, as well as correspondence regarding theatrical releases and M.J.W. Theatrical Enterprises, Inc. Advertisements for Esper's films are located in Series 5.
Box 1, Folder 1

"Egyptian Picture." undated.

Box 1, Folder 2

French Peep Show. 1972-1977.

Box 1, Folder 3

Halfway to Hell. 1962.

Box 1, Folder 4

Hitler's Strange Love Life. 1973.

Scope and Content

Alternative titles include Will It Happen Again? and Conform or Die.
Box 1, Folder 5

How to Undress in Front of Your Husband. 1935, undated .

Box 1, Folder 6

Ingagi. 1930, 1950, 1978.

Box 1, Folder 7

Maniac. undated .

Box 1, Folder 8

Will It Happen Again?. 1948, 1975.

Scope and Content

Alternative title for Hitler's Strange Love Life.
Box 1, Folder 9

Legal/copyright records. 1950-1984.

Box 1, Folder 10

Correspondence. 1950, 1971-1976.

Box 1, Folder 11

Financial records. 1972-1973.


Series 2. Business records. 1957-1970.

Scope and Content

Includes financial records, correspondence, and reports relating to other business or real estate dealings of Dwain and Hildagarde Esper.
Box 1, Folder 12

Tempest Mining Corporation. 1970.

Box 1, Folder 13

Warm Springs Lead-Zinc Prospect. 1957.

Box 1, Folder 14

Financial records. 1957-1964.


Series 3. Personal material. 1942-[1984].

Scope and Content

Series includes Esper's membership cards, notes. clippings, entertainment magazines, and ephemera. Also present are photographs (box 1), clippings, and posters related to cult film star and burlesque performer Liz Renay (1926-2007).
Box 1, Folder 15

Notes. 1982, undated .

Box 1, Folder 16

Membership cards. 1942-1969.

Box 1, Folder 17

Clippings. 1945-[1984].

Box 2, Folder 1

Magazines and ephemera. 1945-1979, undated.

Box 1, Folder 18, Box 2, Folder 2

Liz Renay material. 1970s.


Series 4. Photographs. [1900s]-1960.

Scope and Content

Series contains primarily reprints of historic photographs of 20th century figures and events, including Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun, Benito Mussolini, and Vladimir Lenin, as well as Nazi concentration camps. Also present are film stills from Forbidden Adventure, images of marquees of theaters screening Esper's films, and family photographs.
Box 1, Folder 19

Hitler/Nazi Germany. undated.

Box 1, Folder 20

Buchenwald/concentration camps. undated.

Box 1, Folder 21

Eva Braun. undated.

Box 1, Folder 22

Mussolini/Italy. undated.

Box 1, Folder 23

Lenin/USSR. undated.

Box 1, Folder 24

Other historical figures. undated.

Box 1, Folder 25

Forbidden Adventure stills. undated.

Box 1, Folder 26

Theater marquees. undated.

Box 1, Folder 27

Film stills (non-Esper). undated .

Box 1, Folder 28

Family photographs. [1900s]-1960.


Series 5. Advertisements. Undated.

Scope and Content Note

Series consists of lobby cards for Forbidden Adventure and mock-ups of advertisements for other Esper films, as well as some promotional material for a few non-Esper films.
Box 2, Folder 3

Forbidden Adventure. undated.

Box 2, Folder 4

Narcotic. undated.

Box 2, Folder 5

Hitler's Strange Love Life. undated.

Scope and Content

Includes one full-size poster.
Box 2, Folder 6

Other films. undated.

Box 1, Folder 29

Ads (relief mats). undated.

Box 3

Series 6. Books. 1934-1948.

Scope and Content

Contains two sex education booklets by Hildagarde Esper: Your Sex Questions Answered... What Every Modern Mother and Father Should Know (1934), and Facts of Life: What Every Adult Should Know about Sex and Its Relation to Human Happiness (1948). Also present is The Book of Poe: Tales, Criticism, Poems (1934).