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Finding Aid for Agnes De Mille correspondence and writings, 1871-1993.
Guide to the De Mille, Agnes Correspondence and writings, 1871-1993
40 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023-7498
- Processed by:
- Naomi Jackson
- Date Completed:
- May 1995
- Encoded by:
- Apex Data Services; revised by Dan Santamaria
- Date Completed:
- September 26, 2003; revised 2004
© 2004 The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
- Descriptive Summary
- Biographical History
- Scope and Content Note
- Separated Material
- I) PERSONAL PAPERS
- II) FAMILY CORRESPONDENCE AND PAPERS
- III) LEGAL AND FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENCE AND PAPERS
- IV) CORRESPONDENCE
- V) WRITINGS
- VI) GENERAL RESEARCH FILES BY SUBJECT
- VI) AGNES DE MILLE [HERITAGE] DANCE THEATRE--
Jerome Robbins Dance DivisionNew York, New York
Bequest. Estate of Agnes de Mille [note: 84 letters from Agnes de Mille to Therese Horner for the years 1946-1979 received from Carol Easton]. Received: February 1994.
Permission Required. Estate of Agnes De Mille.
Materials may not be photographed or photocopied without advanced permission.
Restrictions on Use
For permission to publish, contact the Curator, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Library for the Performing Arts.
De Mille, Agnes. Correspondence and writings, (S) *MGZMD 100, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Agnes George de Mille, dancer, choreographer, writer and spokesperson for the arts, was born September 18, 1905 in New York. She was the daughter of playwright William Churchill de Mille (1879?-1955) and Anna George de Mille (1878-1947), who was in turn the daughter of writer and single-tax advocate, Henry George (1839-1897). Agnes' uncle was the film producer/director, Cecil B. de Mille (1881-1959). She had a younger sister, Margaret (1908-1978).
In 1914, the de Milles moved to Hollywood where William was joining forces with Cecil in the motion picture industry. Agnes attended the Hollywood School for Girls, graduating in 1922, and went on to graduate from University of California in 1926 with a degree in English. William and Anna separated that year, being divorced in 1927, and Agnes spent that summer after graduating traveling in western Europe with her mother and sister. William married Clara Beranger, a colleague in the movie industry, in 1928 and lived with her in California for the remainder of his life.
Agnes' formal dance training did not begin until early adolescence in California with Theodore Kosloff. She did some performing in college shows although she did not train continuously during her college years. Soon after graduating, she began to give solo recitals and later with Warren Leonard in her own works. Her mother helped her produce these and accompanied her to concerts in various cities in the United States and in Europe. During this period, she settled once again in New York, at first living with her mother and sister, and then on her own.
Agnes moved to England in 1932 where she continued her dance training in ballet with Marie Rambert. She performed in her own work and those of her peers such as Antony Tudor under the auspices of Rambert.
Upon her permanent return to New York ca. 1939, she met Walter Prude (1909-) through Martha Graham who was under Prude's management. Agnes and Walter were married on June 14, 1943, in Hobbs, New Mexico during the time when Prude was in military service. The two were separated-except for infrequent visits-due to the war until 1945. Their son, Jonathan de Mille Prude, was born in 1946.
It was in this time in the early 1940's that de Mille's work as a choreographer began to be recognized in the United States. Her ballet “Rodeo” in 1942, created for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, brought her immediate acclaim and popularity as did her choreography for the Broadway show “Oklahoma!” the following year. She worked steadily for the next two decades both on Broadway and in the ballet, creating over a dozen works in each field. She had a long-enduring relationship with Ballet Theatre (American Ballet Theatre) and The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, for whom she created many of her ballets.
In 1953 she formed the Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre (Heritage Dance Theatre), which functioned most actively in 1953-1954 and 1973-1975. She strove to represent in its repertoire indigenious American dance forms by native choreographers and composers as well as folk forms.
On the eve of a major New York performance of her company in her lecture/performance of “Conversations About the Dance,” she suffered a serious cerebral hemorrhage. From the day of the stroke, May 15, 1975, onward, she has remained partially paralyzed on the right side of her body although she recovered from some of the other initial losses of her faculties. On November 9, 1977, she went on stage to realize the performance of “Conversations About the Dance,” and resumed an active, if limited, life in dance.
Agnes de Mille has long been a dominant figure in dance and the arts-as a creator as well as a spokesperson and writer. Before and since her appointment as a founding member of the National Council for the Arts in 1965, she took the cause of dance and the arts to millions of readers and viewers, hundreds of organizations and political conventions. She continues to do so.
In 1980, Agnes de Mille received the Kennedy Center Award - the highest nonmilitary award in the United States.
Scope and Content Note
The correspondence and writings of Agnes de Mille cover the period of 1871-1993 and were in the possession of Agnes de Mille at the time of her death. They relate to de Mille's life and career, and that of her family (including husband, William Prude, mother, Anna George de Mille, father, William de Mille, sister, Margaret de Mille, grandfather, Henry George and son, Jonathan Prude).
The bulk of the manuscript collection consists of correspondence between Agnes and various individuals and organizations, and writings for productions, publications and lectures. There is also a section of Heritage Dance Theatre material that includes correspondence, contracts and papers concerning the company.
The various Correspondence series were generally left as arranged by de Mille with a few necessary rearrangements. Files are alphabetical, by name of individual, organization, or ballet. Within the files material was arranged chronologically.
The collection constitutes an important source of information about the life and career Agnes de Mille. Particularly valuable is the documentation on her early choreography, as well as her speeches and lectures.
- personal correspondence between Agnes de Mille and Mary Green, Therese Horner, Hans Christian Lankes, Michael Menzies, and Fuki Uramatsu.
- testimonials to Agnes de Mille
- scenarios and choreographic notes for dances from the 1930s
- scripts for Omnibus television series
- scripts for unproduced dramatic works including Dance to the Piper, Henry George , and Lyric History
- early writings
- speeches and lectures
- material about Henry George
Language: English, some French
- I. PERSONAL PAPERS
- II. FAMILY CORRESPONDENCE AND PAPERS
- III. LEGAL AND FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENCE AND PAPERS
- IV. CORRESPONDENCE
- V. WRITINGS
- VI. GENERAL RESEARCH FILES BY SUBJECT
- VII. AGNES DE MILLE [HERITAGE] DANCE THEATRE
[includes love letter from William de Mille to Anna George de Mille, 1914]
[includes petition for probate of will]
[includes tribute program, and biographical material]
(including material on taxes, properties, contracts, permissions, etc.)
[re: piece entitled “Black Ritual”]
[includes letters from Cecil B. De Mille to his first cousin, Margaret Hoyt Robinson]
[re: Cecil B. De Mille, Claire Windsor and Sussue Hayakawa]
[includes letters to Walter Prude]
[re: Joe Takamine and Wooyenaka; Adrenilan]
[confusing: letters to Anne “Old Lady” from Alice George “Notz”; also 1 letter to William]
[re: Native American Dance, Eagle dance]
[includes letter from Liz's mother to A. Josephine Vermilye]
[re: Joe Takamine, Adrenilan; plus severe criticisms of Where the Wings Grow]
[re: North Carolina School of the Arts; Lucia Chase; Angna Enters]
[re: death of John Martin]
[includes oral history transcript]
[re: National Dance Panel]
[includes letters to the editor on following issues: mother's biography of Henry George, Archbishop of Milwaukee and Henry George; Martha Graham]
[agency covering De Mille's publications]
[some information on a piece entitled “Death and the Maiden”
[includes corr. from Ron Protus]
[re: purchasing of de Mille's collection]
[corresp. from Helene Obolensky]
[includes corresp. with Edward Weeks, Sybil Shearer, Jerry Robbins, Mary Martin]
[London Production with music by Cole Porter]
[includes misc. notes and Omnibus televesion scripts, plus scripts for program `Agnes, The Indomitable De Mille']
[includes 8 notebooks, 2 files]
Includes school papers, poems, stories, and issues of Pine Points (monthly publication by Hollywood School for Girls)
At the time of her death, Agnes de Mille was planning another volume of `Portraits'. The material in these boxes is believed to have been for this work, although the order or exact contents is not completely clear. Clear chapters exist on Geraldine Farar, Leonarde Keeler, the Fielding Family, Trude Rittman, Lucia Chase, Mrs. Lillie Oberwarth. Unclear are files on Hollywood, the First Congress on the Arts, Isadora Duncan, Bertha Moore, Ted Shawn, Jo Anthony, Ninette de Valois, and Louis and Elizabeth Pitman.)
contracts, correspondence and papers
Photographs, negatives, awards, and sound recordings have been separated from the papers.