Five College Archives and Manuscript Collections
Home >> Sophia Smith Collection >> Agnes de Mille Papers, 1980-1993
Smith College seal
Agnes De Mille Papers, 1908-1993
11 boxes (4 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 46

Abstract:
Dancer and choreographer. The first woman to choreograph on Broadway, Agnes de Mille was an innovator who combined American folk dances with American music and transformed the world of musical comedy forever. Papers include writings, extensive family correspondence, photographs, research notes for two autobiographies, and memorabilia. Correspondence describes her life and activities in great detail and discusses many notable people including Cecil B. de Mille, Rebecca West, Fannie Hurst, Cole Porter, Martha Graham, Oscar Hammerstein, and Richard Rogers.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

Literary rights are owned by Agnes de Mille's son, Jonathan Prude. Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Agnes George de Mille was born in New York City, September 18, 1905, daughter of film producer, William de Mille and Anna (George) de Mille, daughter of economist Henry George. When Agnes was nine years old the family moved to Hollywood where her uncle, Cecil B. de Mille, was a motion picture director. Agnes entered university at age sixteen graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a degree in English. Although she began dancing in her early teens, it was not until after her graduation from college that she seriously considered dancing as a career. She studied with Theodore Koslov, Marie Rambert, Antony Tudor, and Tamara Karasvina, becoming a proficient ballet dancer. In 1925 her parents divorced and she and her sister, Margaret, moved back to New York with their mother. De Mille's first New York performance was in MacKlin Marow's production of Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera in 1927. She choreographed productions through the early 1930s, returning to Hollywood in 1934 to participate in Cecil B. de Mille's Cleopatra, from which she withdrew after differences arose over the dances. De Mille spent the 1937-38 season in England helping to form a ballet troupe in Oxford and choreographing Cole Porter's The Nymph Errant starring Gertrude Lawrence. She staged dances for Leslie Howard's Hamlet (1936), Ed Wynn's Hooray for What?(1937), Swingin' the Dream (1939), and a jazz version of A Midsummer's Night Dream. In 1939 she joined the New York Ballet Theatre as choreographer and performer. During her first season she choreographed Black Ritual, the first ballet of a classical American ballet company to be danced by all black dancers. She then established a company of her own and began a national tour. In 1941, de Mille devised a scenario for Rodeo for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo which was presented in 1942. In 1943 she did the choreography for Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein's hit musical Oklahoma!. She was one of the first women choreographers to work on Broadway doing the choreography for One Touch of Venus (1943), Bloomer Girl (1944), Carousel (1945), Brigadoon (1947), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), and Paint Your Wagon (1951). De Mille also published articles on dance and several books. These include two autobiographical works: Dance to the Piper (1952), and Promenade Home (1958), To A Young Dancer (1960), The Book of Dance (1963), Lizzie Borden: A Dance of Death (1968), The Dance in America (1971), and Speak to Me, Dance With Me (1973). Despite a stroke and heart attack in the mid 1970s, de Mille continued her writing, publishing two memoirs, Where the Wings Grow (1978) and Reprieve (1981). She also choreographed the ballets The Informer (1988) and The Other (1992).

Agnes de Mille combined American folk dances and American music into classic art and was an innovator in dance who transformed the world of musical comedy forever. She received many awards including twelve honorary degrees, the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for best choreography (1947 and 1962), Theatre Hall of Fame (1973), Handel Medallion (1976), John F. Kennedy Center Career Achievement Award (1980), and the National Medal of the Arts (1986).

On June 14, 1943 Agnes de Mille married Walter Foy Prude. They had one son, Jonathan.

She died October 7, 1993 in Manhattan at the age of 88.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Agnes de Mille Papers consist of four linear feet of correspondence, biographical and autobiographical material, research notes, manuscripts and typescripts, printed material, photographs, published writings, and memorabilia. The bulk of the papers date from 1914 to 1960 and focus on both personal and professional aspects of de Mille's life. Personal material can be found in the correspondence, especially to her mother, Anna George de Mille, and in the manuscript and research material for her two autobiographical books, Dance to the Piper and Promenade Home. Her professional life is reflected in the clippings and material related to her other writings about dance.

This collection is organized into three series:


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

Literary rights are owned by Agnes de Mille's son, Jonathan Prude. Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Agnes de Mille Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA

History of the Collection

Agnes de Mille donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection between 1959 and 1968, and her Dance To The Piper was purchased in 1994.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Susan Boone, 2000.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email Reference Form: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/emailform.html
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/

Language
English.