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Posts from the Billy Rose Theatre Division

Kay Brown Barrett: The First Victim of "Scarlett Fever"

Laurence Olivier and Kay Brown BarrettI recently processed the papers of talent scout and agent Kay Brown Barrett, known professionally as Kay Brown, or Katherine Brown. In her capacity as a scout for Selznick International Pictures, she was instrumental in some of the studio's biggest coups. She put Selznick onto the Daphne du Maurier novel, Rebecca, which would be Alfred Hitchcock's first 

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A Disturbed Genius Seen Through the Eyes of an Intimate Friend: William Inge and Barbara Baxley

Barbara BaxleyThough not as well remembered today as Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, William Inge was the most successful and acclaimed playwright in America in the 1950s. During that decade, Inge produced an unbroken string of successful plays: Come Back Little Sheba (1950), the Pulitzer Prize winner Picnic 

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Create Your Own Classic Film Festival

Mildred Pierce (T Photo B, Billy Rose Theatre Division)The fourth annual TCM Classic Film Festival, held April 25 to 28 in Hollywood, included screenings of roughly 80 films and featured at least as many special guests, including Jane Fonda, Eva Marie Saint, Max von Sydow, and Mel Brooks. Festivalgoers got to watch Fonda add her hand and footprints to the TCL (formerly Graumann's) Chinese Theatre forecourt, listen to Tippi Hedren discuss her experience working with Alfred Hitchcock, 

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A Family for My Art: Poets at the American Place Theatre

The Place

Anne Sexton and Marian SeldesIn 1963, a small not-for-profit theater called the American Place Theatre was founded in St. Clements Church, a Victorian Gothic church tucked away in Manhattan's Theater District. The theater was founded by the minister and actor Sidney Lanier, acting teacher Wynn Handman, and actor Michael Tolan. Their goal was to foster good writing for theater by providing a place where American writers, both emerging and established, could find support in writing new works for the stage. Their vision shines through the entirety of the

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Dorothy Loudon's Luv Letters

Life on the road was a hard-knock life for Dorothy Loudon, who spent much of the sixties traveling to far flung locations all over North America to perform in her cabaret act and, later, in the touring companies of Luv and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. A guarded person whenever she wasn't "on," Loudon hated leaving her beloved Manhattan, but—in the days before Annie made her a Broadway star—it was the most lucrative way to ply her trade.

A breakdown of the Luv tour shows just how grueling those ten months of Loudon's life 

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When They Trod the Boards: Christopher Walken, Song and Dance Man

How do we love Christopher Walken? On his 70th birthday, let us count the ways. Star of film, TV, and NYPL's own iBook Point, somehow everyone has a favorite film that stars him, be it The Deer Hunter, True Romance, or Pulp Fiction. The consummate villain, he faced off

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Musical of the Month: Make Mine Manhattan

A guest post by UnsungMusicalsCo director, Ben West

The CompanyPhotograph © Dixie Sheridan Currently in its fifth year, UnsungMusicalsCo. (UMC) is a not-for-profit production company that I founded with the aim of researching, restoring and presenting obscure but artistically sound works from the Golden Age of musical theatre. It should be noted upfront that I am perhaps more liberal than most in my definition of the Golden Age, by which I mean those 40 glorious years between the Follies: Mr. Florenz Ziegfeld's in 1931 and Mr. Stephen 

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Metamorphosis of a Song: “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”

I've blogged before about my joy in finding something I never knew existed in the richly varied archival holdings of the New York Public Library, but while processing the James Barton Papers, I had an epiphany of another color: finding something I've wanted to get my hands on for nearly twenty years.

Bear with me while I set the scene for this discovery with some personal history. It would be an understatement to say that I'm a fan of lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner.

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A Cold Night's Death: The Allure of Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Cubiculo Theatre: What’s in a Name?

Every neighborhood, street, and building in New York has a history. Sometimes all that is left is an obscure name. That is what has become of the Cubiculo Condominium at 414 West 51st Street, which is described on a real estate site as a fabulous brownstone penthouse duplex with 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths "right out of La Bohème but without all the coughing and the poverty." The condo in 

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"It's Great! But Why is it Here?" Musical Revue Research Guide, Part 2

In the Research Guide, Part I, I advised that the easiest way to find information at LPA is by name or title. I advised that the research can benefit by compiling a list of every person in or involved in a production and serendipity can come your way. That third dancer from the left can become a star and/or obsessive collector or just happen to have the right piece of information in a clipping file. Sometimes, however, you can do your research prep and be looking in a 

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Dorothy Loudon and Annie

Dorothy Loudon wasn't working. Neither was Annie.

Loudon, by the mid-1970s, had gone into a semi-voluntary semi-retirement. The Women, in 1973, was the last of a half-dozen promising Broadway shows (if you count Lolita, My Love, which never quite made it to New York) that closed in less than three months. She had enjoyed more success touring — Paul Zindel's The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, in 1971-1972, had been her favorite stage role — but Loudon was tired of the road, and hated leaving New York.

She turned down 

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The Lost Musicals: Redhead

Musicals are often most associated with women, or at least with divas: the larger than life stars that musicals are built around. To get a show produced you want to have a decent score and story, but another thing that sells the backers — and the audience — is having a name attached. You need Ethel Merman, Gertrude Lawrence, Mary Martin, Julie Andrews, Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury, Carol Channing, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, or last but not least, the star of our show, that improbably sexy, brittle but strong, mercurial, redheaded dancer, Gwen 

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You Never Can Tell: Musical Revue Research Guide, Part 1

Visitors to the exhibition and blog channel The Great American Revue have peppered me with questions that can be summarized as: "where do you find that stuff?" Substitute artifacts for "stuff" and it becomes a request for a research guide.

The New York Public Library has been collecting performing arts content since the 1880s and online cataloging since the 1980s. Most of the material in the Revues 

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Martin Pakledinaz for "The Pajama Game" (2006)

Legendary Broadway composer and lyricist Richard Adler passed away this year on June 21st. His seamless partnership with friend and composer Jerry Ross in the 1950s led to the hit musical scores and lyrics for The Pajama Game in its original Broadway run in 1954. Directed by George Abbott and Jerome Robbins, the show went on to win a Tony Award for best musical.

Fast forward to 2006, and we find Broadway director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall guiding and choreographing a 21st century revival of The Pajama Game with the Roundabout Theatre Company. Marshall 

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How Not to Succeed in Business

The idea of late blooming was essential to Dorothy Loudon's mythology.

Although she admitted to being 44 at the time of Annie (a fiction that many internet sites, including the Internet Movie Database, presently maintain), Loudon was actually 52. Prior to Annie, Loudon had been through nearly three decades of supper clubs, television, and touring companies, and a series of near misses on Broadway — projects that collapsed before they went on (including a musical version of Casablanca and

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Robot Dawn: The Stage Origins of a Sci-Fi Idol

Nothing is more strange to man than his own image. —Dr. Alquist, sole survivor of the robot rebellion.

It's standard sci-fi melodrama now: The robots evolve and become indistinguishable from their creators. They rise up and in their revolt decide to eradicate the human race. Sound familiar? Well, before you start looking for Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's not 1984 and we're not in a movie theatre. The year is 1922 and it's all happening live on stage in an Off-Broadway 

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Remembering Martin Pakledinaz, 1953-2012

Costume designer Martin Pakledinaz in his New York office in 2005 with costume bibles he donated this year to New York Public Library for Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Diane Bondareff for The New York Times.

“Costumes have to tell you in a moment what that person is feeling, what they’re going through, what changes are happening.”                                                                   

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Ruth Chatterton: A Screen Career in Photographs (In Defense of the Fan Collection)

Ruth Chatterton, 1921This post is about a fascinating, talented and beautiful movie star of the 1930s named Ruth Chatterton. However, it's also about a dedicated fan who preserved her legacy. Yes, this is the type of collection many archivists dread: the much-maligned fan collection.

Perhaps I better explain this for any laymen reading. If the library had Ruth Chatterton's Papers, that would mean that the stage and film actress, novelist and aviatrix (!) maintained her own photographs, scripts, correspondence, programs, clippings, etc. and gave them to us (or her 

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Musical of the Month: Oh, Boy!

A guest post By Laura Frankos Oh, Boy!: Kern, Bolton, Wodehouse and the Princess Theatre Musicals The Genesis of the Series

Image ID: th-56990In 1913, the Shuberts added another theatre to their empire at 104 West 39th Street, on the edge of the theatre district. Architect William Albert Swaney, who had built the Winter Garden for the brothers, designed an intimate 299-seat house, with an understated Georgian exterior of red brick and limestone and five stories of office space for rental income. The theatre, dubbed the Princess, spent its first seasons as "the Theatre of 

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