Amos Vogel was born on 18 April 1921, in Vienna, Austria, to intellectual left-wing middle-class Jewish parents. In the fall of 1938, six months after the Nazis had annexed the country, Vogel and his parents left Austria for the United States. In preparation for his planned move to Palestine, he accepted a scholarship in agricultural training from the National Youth Administration and took classes at the University of Georgia in agricultural sciences.
After deciding to remain in America, Vogel took a degree in economics from the New School for Social Research in New York. From 1947 until 1963, he and his wife Marcia ran Cinema 16, the most successful and influential membership film society in North American history, at its height boasting seven thousand members. Cinema 16 also became the most important distributor of non-mainstream cinema in the United States.
After the demise of Cinema 16, Vogel founded the Lincoln Center Film Department and was co-founder of the New York Film Festival, of which he became the first director where he programmed until 1968. In 1963 he published the children’s book How Little Lori Visited Times Square, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak. His 1974 book Film as a Subversive Art details the “accelerating world-wide trend toward a more liberated cinema, in which subjects and forms hitherto considered unthinkable or forbidden are boldly explored.”
Vogel worked a film consultant to Grove Press and National Educational Television, a program director of the National Public Television Conference, and served as Chairman of the American Selection Committee for the Cannes, Moscow, Berlin and Venice film festivals. He taught at Harvard University, the New School for Social Research, New York University, and for several years at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School.
Amos Vogel died in his Greenwich Village apartment, where he had lived with his family for several decades, on 24 April 2012. Here for the New York Times obituary (PDF here) and here for details from the Film Society of Lincoln Center.