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Posts by Diana Bertolini

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

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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 (1953),

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Life is a Cabaret! A Study Guide to a Great American Musical

If you're interested in doing research on a musical, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has an embarrassment of riches. To find all the information we have, you may have to look in many different places. Of course, your first move should be to consult with the knowledgeable staff at the 2nd Floor Drama Desk, who'll be able to guide your research.

As a way of providing a guide to doing research in general, I'll take a case in point, one of the great musicals, which NYPL has covered from every angle; John Kander and Fred Ebb's 1966 masterpiece, Cabaret. 

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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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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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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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Wait for Me, World: The Kander, Ebb and Wasserman Musical that Never Was

Dale WassermanMost archivists will tell you that the best part of our job is the feeling of possibility. Every time you open a box and start digging through it, you might find that something amazing — you might be making an intellectual discovery. This can be especially exciting when you’re dealing with a subject that you thought you pretty much had down cold. Professionally, I live for these moments and I had one while processing the Dale Wasserman Papers.

After his tremendous success writing the book for 

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The Lost Musicals: Joel Grey’s Star Vehicles, Part Two: The Grand Tour

I think I know why Joel Grey's 1975 star vehicle Goodtime Charley flopped, but I'm less clear about The Grand Tour. The story is powerful and charming. The star performance, was by all accounts one of the most special anyone had ever seen. And Herman's score is terrific — maybe not fully up to his standard of Hello, Dolly,

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The Lost Musicals: Joel Grey's Star Vehicles, Part One: "Goodtime Charley"

I recently processed the papers of one of the musical theater's greatest stars, Joel Grey. His Tony and Oscar winning performances as the bizarre, androgynous master of ceremonies of a nightclub in Hitler's Berlin in Kander and Ebb's Cabaret (1966) and its 1972 film adaptation made him a star; and Grey has had a long, successful career, highlighted by hits like

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Frank McHugh: A Beloved Character Actor Who Played an Important Role in World War II

Unless you’re a classic film buff, you’ve probably never heard of Frank McHugh, and most of the hundred odd movies he appeared in during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s have fallen into obscurity. Born into a theatrical family, McHugh (1898-1981) grew up touring in a Vaudeville act with his brother and sister. He honed his acting skills in the 1920s, performing in regional/stock productions and on the Broadway stage. He landed in Hollywood in 1930, along with the rash of New York theatre actors talking pictures created a demand for.

McHugh quickly became 

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The Lost Musicals: "Skyscraper"

The successful casting of non-singing stars (or at least stars not known for singing) such as Rosalind Russell in Wonderful Town, Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, and Richard Burton in Camelot inspired a trend in 1950s and 60s musicals. In his book Open a New 

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The Lost Musicals, Hollywood Edition: Comden and Green’s "Wonderland"

Wonderland isn’t technically lost — it was never made, but I found a rare script for this would-be film musical in the Betty Comden Papers. Betty Comden and Adolph Green were the two halves of the longest-running writing partnership in Broadway history. They met in 1933 at New York University and first worked together in the late 30s, writing sketches for the comedy group the Revuers, in which both also performed. They continued writing lyrics and scripts together until Green’s death in 2002. They are known for their lyrics to great Broadway shows like

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The Lost Musicals: Make Mine Manhattan

Richard Lewine and Arnold B. Horwitt’s Make Mine Manhattan, which clocked in 429 performances at the Broadhurst in 1948 might be the longest-running musical you’ve never heard of. I had never heard of it until I processed the Richard Lewine Papers in 2007. The collection includes scores and scripts from many musicals and revues Lewine composed before becoming a successful television producer. Make Mine Manhattan intrigued me the most 

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The Wheel Is Come Full Circle: A Production History of "King Lear" at the Public Theater (Part 2: 1996 & 2007)

Joseph Papp conceived of a marathon at the Public Theater of every one of Shakespeare’s plays, in the order in which they were written. This began under Papp in 1988 and was continued by the Theater’s subsequent artistic directors, Joanne Akalaitis and George C. Wolfe, after Papp’s retirement and death. After early productions at the Delacorte Theater in 1962 and 1973 (see my previous blog post), the Theater didn’t tackle King Lear again 

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The Wheel Is Come Full Circle: A Production History of King Lear at the Public Theater Part I: 1962 & 1973

Public Theater founder Joseph Papp at the Delacorte TheaterThis fall from October 18 - November 20, 2011, the Public Theater will be presenting a new production of what many consider Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, regal, emotionally powerful, complex, gory and notoriously difficult to pull off: King Lear. I will take this occasion to examine the production history of King Lear at The Public Theater (originally called The New York Shakespeare Festival.) They’ve done Lear four times, and all of the productions have had their 

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Here's to Peter Stone! Screenwriter, Book Writer, and… Speechwriter?

Peter Stone, the author of Charade and 1776, is the first writer to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony (three times!) award, and, as you would expect, his papers include extensive drafts for his works. The surprise find in the Library's Peter Stone Collection, however; is a group of envelopes marked “Speeches and Toasts.” During the latter part of his career, Stone was frequently asked to host awards shows and to write and deliver award tributes and memorial 

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The Lost Musicals: Uncovering the Dorothy Loudon flops Part Two: Lolita, My Love

After the disappointment of The Fig Leaves are Falling, Dorothy Loudon got a great part in a new musical with much more promise, but this one didn’t even make it to Broadway, despite being, without question, artistically superior.

The book and lyrics were by one of musical theatre’s heavy hitters, the music was by a successful pop hit composer and the source material was one of the twentieth century’s most acclaimed, controversial, and popular novels. The lyricist 

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The Lost Musicals: Uncovering the Dorothy Loudon Flops Part One: The Fig Leaves are Falling

What happens to a musical unrecorded? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Perhaps, but fortunately not forever in the case of two flop musicals from the late sixties/early seventies that tried to challenge American sexual mores, that also featured the sublime talents of one of the musical theatre’s incomparable divas, before she played Miss Hannighan in Annie and joined the ranks of the great musical stars.

Many of the classic 

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