Research Catalog

Mielziner family papers,

Title
Mielziner family papers, 1890-1935.
Author
Mielziner family.
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Vol/DateFormatAccessStatusCall NumberLocation
Box 1Mixed materialSupervised useAvailable*T-Mss 1993-006 Box 1Performing Arts Research Collections - Theatre
Box 2Mixed materialSupervised useAvailable*T-Mss 1993-006 Box 2Performing Arts Research Collections - Theatre
Box 3Mixed materialSupervised useAvailable*T-Mss 1993-006 Box 3Performing Arts Research Collections - Theatre
Box 4Mixed materialSupervised useAvailable*T-Mss 1993-006 Box 4Performing Arts Research Collections - Theatre
Box 5Mixed materialSupervised useAvailable*T-Mss 1993-006 Box 5Performing Arts Research Collections - Theatre
Box 6Mixed materialSupervised useAvailable*T-Mss 1993-006 Box 6Performing Arts Research Collections - Theatre

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Additional Authors
Description
5 boxes and 1 portfolio (3.38 lin. ft.)
Subjects
Access (note)
  • Collection is open to the public. Library policy on photography and photocopying will apply. Advance notice may be required.
Source (note)
  • Joanna and Leo F. Caproni, Jr.
Biography (note)
  • Artist Leo Mielziner (1869-1935) and his wife Ella McKenna Friend Mielziner (1873-1968), raised two sons, each of whom became prominent in the arts: Leo Jr. (1899-1962), a stage and screen actor and director who worked under the name Kenneth MacKenna, and Jo Mielziner (1901-1976), one of the most influential designers of theatrical scenery and lighting of the twentieth century.
  • Leo Mielziner, Jr., was born in 1899 in Canterbury, New Hampshire, and while still in his teens was acting in and directing stage plays.
  • Jo Mielziner, sometimes called the Dean of Designers, created scenic and lighting elements for dozens of Broadway shows, as well as Off-Broadway, regional, and university productions, between the 1920s and the 1970s.
Indexes/Finding Aids (note)
  • Finding aid available in repository and on the Internet.
Processing Action (note)
  • Processed
Call Number
*T-Mss 1993-006
Author
Mielziner family.
Title
Mielziner family papers, 1890-1935.
Restricted Access
Collection is open to the public. Library policy on photography and photocopying will apply. Advance notice may be required.
Summary
The Mielziner family papers consists of correspondence, other papers, and photographs relating to the Mielziner family, most of which is dated between 1910 and 1935. The material which comprises the Mielziner family papers was discovered in the Truro, Massachusetts cottage shared by Leo Sr. and Ella Mielziner in the years prior to Leo's death in August of 1935. Much of the correspondence is between family members. The parents also kept childhood letters, drawings, and poems written by their sons. Correspondence from other relatives includes a series of detailed letters written by Ella's mother, Margaret McKenna Friend, from the wartime Paris of 1914-1919. Letters from Kenneth MacKenna (i.e. Leo Mielziner, Jr.) during his career in movies for Fox Films, 1929-1934, shed interesting light on Hollywood during the early talkie period. Jo Mielziner's letters from the 1930s discuss his social life and travels, his professional activities, and his thoughts about the theater of his day. Ephemera includes family photographs, genealogical material, and sheet music for a tune composed in Leo Sr.'s honor by Theodore Stearns in 1920.
Biography
Artist Leo Mielziner (1869-1935) and his wife Ella McKenna Friend Mielziner (1873-1968), raised two sons, each of whom became prominent in the arts: Leo Jr. (1899-1962), a stage and screen actor and director who worked under the name Kenneth MacKenna, and Jo Mielziner (1901-1976), one of the most influential designers of theatrical scenery and lighting of the twentieth century. The son of a rabbi, Leo Mielziner was born in New York on December 8, 1869. After the family resettled in Cincinnati, Ohio, Leo studied at the Cincinnati Art Museum Academy, and later in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1896 Leo married Ella McKenna Friend, born March 18, 1873 in Manchester, New Hampshire, of Anglo-Irish descent. Leo and Ella raised their two sons first in Europe, then in New York, where Leo took commissions as a portraitist for well-to-do clients. The couple spent their retirement years on Cape Cod, where Leo died in August of 1935. Ella died in 1968 at the age of 94.
Leo Mielziner, Jr., was born in 1899 in Canterbury, New Hampshire, and while still in his teens was acting in and directing stage plays. After military service Leo signed a three-year acting contract with producer William Brady and changed his name to Kenneth MacKenna. By 1923 he had performed in seven Broadway shows, and had toured in two of them. MacKenna's stage credits include NERVES (1924) with Humphrey Bogart and Mary Phillips, and WHAT EVERY WOMAN KNOWS (1926) with Helen Hayes. In 1929 MacKenna was signed as a leading man by Fox Films, and appeared in John Ford's MEN WITHOUT WOMEN (1930), George Cukor's VIRTUOUS SIN (1930) with Walter Huston and Kay Francis, and THOSE WE LOVE (1932) with Mary Astor, among others. MacKenna also directed several movies, including THE SPIDER (1931) and WALLS OF GOLD (1933). He was married to actress Kay Francis from 1931 to 1934. In the mid-1930s MacKenna returned to New York and resumed his stage career. In 1938 he married actress Mary Phillips, former wife of Humphrey Bogart. Shortly afterward he was hired as a story editor for MGM, first in New York and then in Hollywood, eventually becoming head of the department. In the late 1950s MacKenna resumed his acting career, appearing on Broadway in Dore Schary's THE HIGHEST TREE (1959) and on screen in JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBURG (1961). He died of cancer in January of 1962, at the age of 62.
Jo Mielziner, sometimes called the Dean of Designers, created scenic and lighting elements for dozens of Broadway shows, as well as Off-Broadway, regional, and university productions, between the 1920s and the 1970s. Joseph Mielziner was born in Paris, France, on March 19, 1901, but was raised mostly in New York. After brief military service, Jo studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy, then in Europe. Through the influence of his brother, actor Kenneth MacKenna, Jo was hired to design sets for Theatre Guild productions, including THE GUARDSMAN (1924), featuring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Beginning in 1925 Jo Mielziner worked as assistant to designer Robert Edmond Jones. In the years that followed Jo designed a number of successful plays, including Eugene O'Neill's STRANGE INTERLUDE (1928), Elmer Rice's STREET SCENE (1929), THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (1931) with Katharine Cornell, and ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS (1938). He also designed musicals, including Rodgers and Hart's ON YOUR TOES (1936) and PAL JOEY (1940), and Rodgers and Hammerstein's CAROUSEL (1945), SOUTH PACIFIC (1949), and THE KING AND I (1951). The postwar years brought A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1947) and DEATH OF A SALESMAN (1949), two of Mielziner's best known designs. In later years he became influential in the fields of theater architecture and lighting technology. Jo Mielziner continued working up to his death at age 74 on March 15, 1976.
Indexes
Finding aid available in repository and on the Internet.
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Added Author
Mielziner, Jo, 1901-1976.
Mielziner, Leo, 1869-1935.
MacKenna, Kenneth, 1899-1962.
Mielziner, Ella Lane McKenna Friend.
Friend, Margaret McKenna.
Francis, Kay, 1905-1968.
Taylor, Phoebe Atwood, 1909-1976.
Stearns, Theodore.
Research Call Number
*T-Mss 1993-006
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