- My NYPL
New & Notable
Made at NYPL
Tools and Services
- Using the Library
I am a...
- Classes & Events
- Support the Library
Katharine Cornell papers, 1801-1983; bulk dates, 1921-1974
Cornell, Katharine, 1893-1974.
- 202 linear feet (260 boxes)
Collection is open to the public. Library policy on photography and photocopying will apply. Advance notice may be required.
This collection consists of personal and professional files of the actress and producer Katharine Cornell and her husband, the director and producer Guthrie McClintic. This collection includes material from as early as 1801 and as late and 1983, but the bulk of the material is frombetween 1921 and 1974. This collection includes business and personal correspondence to and from Katharine Cornell,Gertrude Macy, Nancy Hamilton and Guthrie McClintic, including correspondence with famous friends and colleagues, such as Brian Aherne, Ethel Barrymore, Constance Collier, Noel Coward, Edith Evans, Jose Ferrer, Lynn Fontanne, John Gielgud, Ruth Gordon, Helen Hayes, Vivien Leigh, Alfred Lunt, Marian Seldes, Laurette Taylor,Sybil Thorndike and Tennessee Williams. This collection also includes personal items, such as artwork, awards, honorary degrees, legal documents, personal business files,publicity materials and writings by and about Cornell and McClintic, including each of their autobiographies. This collection contains scripts and programs for plays, concerts, dance performances, events, exhibitions, musicals, operas, plays, tributes and vaudeville shows, inwhich Cornell and McClintic were not involved. The strength of this collection is the detailed documentation of the many productions which starred, were directed or produced by Cornell or McClintic. These productions are represented in this collection though scrapbooks of clippings, photographs and production materials, such as contracts, correspondence, scripts, programs, financial records, publicity materials, and files pertaining to technical aspects of productions. The productions covered in this collection include The Age of Innocence, Alien Corn, Antigone, Anthony and Cleopatra, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Bernadine, Candida, Captain Carvallo, Comeof Age, The Constant Wife, The Dark is Light Enough, Dear Liar, Dishonored Lady, The Doctor's Dilemma, The Dover Road, The Firstborn, Flowers of the Forest, The Green Hat,Hamlet, High Tor, How to Get Tough About It, I am a Camera,Jezebel, The Lady Who Came to Stay , The Letter, The Male Animal, Mamba's Daughters, Medea, Missouri Legend, Mrs. Partridge Presents, Mrs. Patterson, The Prescott Proposals,No Time for Comedy, Romeo and Juliet, A Roomful of Roses, Rose Burke, Saint Joan, Spring Again, The Star Wagon, ThatLady, The Three Sisters, The Truth About Plays, The VelvetGlove, Wild December, The Wingless Victory, Winterset, Yellow Jack and You Touched Me.
Katharine Cornell was an American actress and producer. Katharine Cornell was born on February 16, 1893, in Berlin. After attending private schools in Buffalo, Cornell went to Oaksmere School, in Mamaroneck, New York, where she participated in many theatrical productions. Determined to pursue a career on the stage, she moved to New York in 1916. After unsuccessfully auditioning for a role with the Washington Square Players-an organization which would later become the Theatre Guild, Cornell was allowed to sit in on their rehearsals as an apprentice. When an actress playing the bit part of the mother in Bushido: A Japanese Tragedy failed to show up for rehearsals, the company managers gave the one-line part tothe young actress who had become a constant presence at the rehearsals and Katharine Cornell made her New York debut. After small roles in a few other Washington Square Players productions, such as Plots and Playwrights and TheLife of Man, Cornell was hired by an actress she had met years earlier in Buffalo, Jessie Bonstelle, to join her stock touring company in 1919. One of Cornell's earliest triumphs came when she played Jo in the 1920 London production of Little Women. However, back in her native country she still wasn't a star and continued touring withthe Jessie Bonstelle company, but this time she was playing leads in plays such as The Man Outside in 1920. During the tour, Cornell fell in love with another member of the company, a young director named Guthrie McClintic. They were married from her aunt Lydia Cornell's house in Coburg, Ontario on September 8, 1921. His reputation as one of the most talented young directors in town made it easy for him and Cornell to work together. Cornell's next New York play and Broadway debut was Rachel Crothers' NicePeople in 1921. Later that year, she would finally arrive as a major star on Broadway in the role of Sidney Fairfield, the self-sacrificing daughter of a mentally unstable father in Clemence Dane's A Bill of Divorcement. She continued to be praised for her performances in the 1923 productions of Dane's Will Shakespeare, Laura Pennington's The Enchanted Cottage and Sidney Howard's translation of Lorenzo DeAzteris' Casanova. 1924's The WayThings Happen, another Clemence Dane play, marked the start of the powerhouse professional team of Cornell and McClintic. Having established themselves as actress and director independently, the married couple embarked on their joint career and with a few exceptions, McClintic would direct and produce all of Cornell's subsequent plays. In 1924, Cornell played the title role in George Bernard Shaw's Candida for the first time. This was one ofCornell's favorite roles and she revived it several times on tour and on Broadway. Rudolph Besier's dramatic tellingof the romance between two of England's great poets, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning had been rejected by27 New York producers when it came to Cornell's attention.She immediately admired the play, but didn't see herself in the lead role as Elizabeth Barrett, until McClintic convinced her that she was ideally suited for it. Unsatisfied with the many American actors they had auditioned for the role of Robert Browning, Cornell and McClintic turned to the London stage and brought Brian Aherne over for his New York debut. The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1931) was not only a tremendous triumph for Cornell as an actress, but also her debut as a producer, which gave her a new position as an actress-manager. Cornell continued to tackle varied and challenging roles to great acclaim throughout the 30s and early 40s. In the late 40s Cornell took on leading roles in classics such as Antigone (1946) and her Tony-award winning turn in Antony and Cleopatra (1947). She also appeared in another Candida (1946), costarring with a young Marlon Brando. Now over 50, and with the styles of acting and writing changing, Cornell was finding it increasingly difficult to find plays that intrigued her. She appeared in period pieces, such as That Lady (1949), The Dark is Light Enough (1955) opposite Tyrone Power and The Firstborn (1958). She also appeared in light comedies,such as Maugham's The Constant Wife (1951) and The Prescott Proposals (1953). Before retiring, she would haveone more triumph playing the role of Mrs. Patrick Campbellin Jerome Kilty's two-person play called Dear Liar. Nearing 70, feeling a lack of connection to the current theater and without the partner who had helped her shape her career for 40 years, Cornell retired from the stage. She died in her Martha Vineyard's home on June 9, 1974.
Guthrie McClintic was an American director and producer. Guthrie McClintic was born in Seattle, Washington on August 6, 1893. Even though McClintic's father was unsympathetic to his ambitions toward the stage, he eventually prevailed upon his parents to send him east in 1910 for theatrical training at New York's Academy for Dramatic Arts. McClintic found some work as an actor, appearing in a tour of Oliver Twist as well as on Broadwayin such plays as The Truth (1914), Major Barbara (1916) and Captain Brassbound's Conversion (1916). He got a job in the offices of the director/producer Winthrop Ames, where he worked as a stage manager and casting director. His ambition was to become and director and producer himself and this was his role in Jessie Bonstelle's touring company, where he got to know Cornell. In additionto directing and producing most of Cornell's vehicles, McClintic was one of the most sought-after directors on Broadway and he continued to direct acclaimed productions with other stars, including new productions of classics starring great modern actors, such as Hamlet (1936) with John Gielgud and Medea (1949) with Judith Anderson. He also staged adaptations of classic novels such as Edith Wharton's The Old Maid (1935) and Ethan Frome (1936) and Anthony Trollope's Barchester Towers (1937). He also directed many new plays by contemporary authors, such as High Tor (1937) and Winterset (1935) and Key Largo (1939) by Maxwell Anderson, Tennessee Williams' You Touched Me (1945), Mamba's Daughters (1939) by Dorothy and Dubose Heyward and John Steinbeck's Burning Bright (1950). Dear Liar turned out to be both Cornell's and McClintic's last play. On October 29, 1961, McClintic passed away at his and Cornell's Palisades home.
Controlled Access Terms
- Cornell, Katharine, 1893-1974.
- McClintic, Guthrie, 1893-1961.
- Aherne, Brian -- Correspondence.
- Barrymore, Ethel, 1879-1959 -- Correspondence.
- Collier, Constance, 1878-1955 -- Correspondence.
- Coward, Noel, 1899-1973 -- Correspondence.
- Ferrer, José, 1912-1992 -- Correspondence.
- Fontanne, Lynn -- Correspondence.
- Gielgud, John, 1904-2000 -- Correspondence.
- Gordon, Ruth, 1896-1985 -- Correspondence.
- Hamilton, Nancy, 1908-1985 -- Correspondence.
- Hayes, Helen, 1900-1993 -- Correspondence.
- Leigh, Vivien, 1913-1967 -- Correspondence.
- Lunt, Alfred -- Correspondence.
- Macy, Gertrude -- Correspondence.
- Taylor, Laurette, 1884-1946 -- Correspondence.
- Thorndike, Sybil, Dame, 1882-1976 -- Correspondence.
- Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983 -- Correspondence.
- Actresses -- United States.
- Theatrical producers and directors -- United States.
- Theater -- New York (State) -- New York -- History -- 20th century.
- Financial records.
- Legal records.
- Personal papers.
- Promotional material.
- Theatrical producers and directors.
Additional Creator Names
- Besier, Rudolf, 1878-1942. Barretts of Wimpole Street.
- Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950. Candida.