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Agnes De Mille papers, 1897-1993
4.5 linear feet (12 containers)
Collection number: SSC.MS.00046

Abstract:
Agnes De Mille was a 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:

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Restrictions on use:

To the extent that she owned copyright, Agnes de Mille transferred literary rights to her son, Jonathan Prude, upon her death in 1993, in her works donated to Smith College. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by Agnes de Mille, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Sophia Smith Collection

Biographical / Historical

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

The Agnes de Mille papers consist 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:

  1. I. Biographical Material
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Works and Writings

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

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Restrictions on use:

To the extent that she owned copyright, Agnes de Mille transferred literary rights to her son, Jonathan Prude, upon her death in 1993, in her works donated to Smith College. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by Agnes de Mille, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Preferred Citation

Agnes de Mille papers, Sophia Smith Collection, SSC-MS-00046, Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts.

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.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

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

Email: specialcollections@smith.edu
URL: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections
Language
English
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Contents List
SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL‡SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL
1908-93


This series contains clippings and articles, photographs, theater programs, and miscellaneous memorabilia. The clippings and articles cover de Mille's career from 1933 to her death in 1993 and include several short pieces authored by her. A group of clippings copied from photostats of her press books located at the New York Public Library and those specifically related to And Promenade Home, Fall River Legend, and Nymph Errant are located in SERIES III. WORKS AND WRITINGS. There are two portraits of de Mille, a photograph of Leicester Square Theater in London with de Mille's name on the marquee, and a Christmas card with a young Agnes de Mille on the front. All are undated. Theater programs include five from various theaters in England in the 1930s and one from the Majestic Theatre in New York (1941). Miscellaneous memorabilia includes an unidentified verse and a sketch; and locks of hair (1908-34) from Anna, Agnes, and Margaret de Mille and Margaret's daughter Judy.

Contents


Box 1: folder 1
Clippings and articles
1933-93

Box 1: folder 2
General

[See also SERIES III. WORKS AND WRITINGS]

Photographs
undated

Box 1: folder 3
Theater programs
1933-41

Box 1: folder 4
Miscellaneous memorabilia
1908-34 undated

Box 1: folder 5
SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE‡SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE
1897-1945


The correspondence comprises the most significant portion of the Agnes de Mille papers. This series consists of letters from and to Agnes de Mille and Anna George de Mille. Letters Agnes de Mille wrote to Margaret Storrs Grierson in 1963 are also included. They describe the circumstances under which the correspondence was written and provide identification and personal information about the correspondents and people mentioned in the letters. The letters to Grierson in conjunction with the rest of the correspondence provide a fascinating look into de Mille's relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances and an aggregate picture of the theater in New York and London in the 1930s and 40s. Her lengthy letters to her mother (1914-46) and her husband (1944-45), are of particular interest. They describe her life and activities in great detail and provide insights and gossip about many notable people including Cecil B. de Mille, Rebecca West, Gertrude Lawrence, Noel Coward, Fannie Hurst, Cole Porter, Elizabeth Bowen, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, Oscar Hammerstein, and Richard Rogers. This series also contains several letters from William de Mille to Anna George de Mille (1897-1903).

From Agnes de Mille



Bently, Madison
1937

Box 2: folder 1
de Mille, Anna George



1914-34

Box 2: folder 2-11
1935-46

Box 3: folder 1-7
Grierson, Margaret Storrs
1963

Box 3: folder 8
Hammerstein, Dorothy (Mrs. Oscar)
1963

Box 3: folder 9
Prude, Walter
1944-45

Box 3: folder 10
To Agnes de Mille



Anthony, Joseph
1939-43

Box 3: folder 11
Barton, Craig
1943 1945

Box 3: folder 12
Bliss, Arthur
undated

Box 3: folder 13
Cochran, Charles B.
1932

Box 3: folder 14
Ferdinand (Twitch) Davis
1933

Box 3: folder 15
de Mille, Anna George
1937-45

Box 3: folder 16
de Mille, Clara
1946

Box 3: folder 17
de Mille, Margaret
1945

Box 3: folder 18
Dix, Beulah Marie
1935

Box 3: folder 19
Fiske, Gladys
1944

Box 3: folder 20
Haskell, Arnold
1933

Box 3: folder 21
Keeler, Leonarde
1943

Box 3: folder 22
Laing, Hugh
undated

Box 3: folder 23
Ludlum, Mabel Stuart
1930

Box 3: folder 24
Madsen, Arthur W.
1934

Box 3: folder 25
Martin, John
1929-35

Box 3: folder 26
Menuhin, Diana (Mrs. Yehudi)
undated

Box 3: folder 27
Prude, Walter
1952

Box 3: folder 28
Read, Ramon
undated

Box 3: folder 29
Smith, Oliver
1945

Box 3: folder 30
West, Rebecca
1934?

Box 3: folder 31
Miscellaneous
1922-33 undated

Box 3: folder 32
Anna George de Mille to Judy Fineman
1946

Box 3: folder 33
To Anna George de Mille



de Mille, Margaret
1925-37

Box 3: folder 34
de Mille, William C.
1897-1903

Box 3: folder 35
Prude, Walter
1943-46

Box 3: folder 36
Read, Ramon
1934

Box 3: folder 37
SERIES III. WORKS AND WRITINGS ‡SERIES III. WORKS AND WRITINGS
1920-1970


This series contains notes, manuscripts, typescripts, printed material, and clippings relating to both the choreography works and published and unpublished writings of Agnes de Mille. Choreography works include original scripts for Act II of Carousel (1945); sketches, notes, scenes and drawings from the dream ballet from Oklahoma! (1943); Fall River Legend (1946) with an article written in 1968 about the play; and clippings and the program from Nymph Errant (1933). Published writings include Dance to the Piper (1951), "Edwardian Lady" (McCalls,1961), "Goodnight C. B." (Esquire, n.d.), The Book of the Dance (1963), "Russian Journals" (Dance Perspectives #44, 1970), "One Hundred and Fifty Dollars Away From Anything" written for The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Souvenir Program, "Methods of Choreography" (Vogue, n.d.), And Promenade Home, (1958), and To A Young Dancer (1960). Unpublished manuscripts include an article on Alicia Markova (n.d.); a lecture on Marquis de Cuevas (n.d.); and "Handbook for Dancers" which may have been an early draft of To A Young Dancer. This series also includes copies of clippings (1924-48) from de Mille's press book located at the New York Public Library.

Dance To The Piper
1951


Notes and early drafts
undated

Box 4: folder 1
Original manuscript
undated

Box 4: folder 2
Notebooks (12)
undated

Box 4
Various versions with editorial comments
undated

Box 5
Final manuscript
undated

Box 6
Published work (Boston, Little Brown and Co.)
1951

Box 6
"Edwardian Lady,"
1961

Box 6: folder 1
"Goodnight C.B.,"
undated

Box 6: folder 2
"Alicia Markova,"
undated

Box 6: folder 3
"Methods of Choreography,"
undated

Box 6: folder 4
"Marquis de Cuevas,"
undated

Box 7: folder 1
Carousel: original script for Act II
undated

Box 7: folder 2
Fall River Legend



Original script
1946

Box 7: folder 3
"Lady With An Ax: The Dramatic Story of Fall River Legend," McCalls
1968

Box 7: folder 4
Oklahoma: sketches, notes and scenes for Dream Ballet
1954

Box 7: folder 5
Nymph Errant: clippings, program and telegrams
1933

Box 7: folder 6
And Promenade Home
1958


Original manuscript (chapters not in book)


Box 8: folder 1
Incomplete and revised chapters


Box 8: folder 2
Manuscript with Catherine Bowen's comments


Box 8: folder 3
Clippings
1958

Box 8: folder 4
Notebooks (11)


Box 8
Typescripts and carbon copy
undated

Box 9
To A Young Dancer
1960


Chapters for Atlantic with letters from the editor
1959

Box 10: folder 1
Notes


Box 10: folder 2-3
"Handbook For Dancers,"
undated

Box 10: folder 4
Book of the Dance
1963


Notes


Box 10: folder 5
Manuscript


Box 10: folder 6
Draft of Chapter VIII


Box 10: folder 7
Miscellaneous



Clippings
1928-48

Box 11
The Dance In America, United States Information Agency
undated

Box 11
"Russian Journals," Dance Perspectives vol. 44
1970

Box 11
"One Hundred and Fifty Dollars Away From Anything," The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Souvenir Program
1969

Box 11
Poster for a Paris dance recital
1938

Map case Flat File:
Photostats of clippings
1942

Map case Flat File:
Accession 2010-S-0037. Two 16 mm films



Processing information:

This inventory was created at time of accessioning and may be incomplete.

Agnes De Mille in a dance rehearsal, and being interviewed
1974
2 Reels
Box 1
Unidentified film (probably of Agnes De Mille)
1971
1 Reels
Box 1

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Ballet--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Choreographers--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Coward, Noel, 1899-1973
  • Dance--History--20th century--Sources
  • Dancers--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • De Mille family
  • De Mille, Agnes
  • De Mille, Cecil B., (Cecil Blount), 1881-1959
  • Europe--Description and travel--Sources
  • George, Henry, 1839-1897
  • Graham, Martha
  • Hurst, Fannie, 1889-1968
  • Lawrence, Gertrude
  • Millay, Edna St. Vincent, 1892-1950
  • Performing Arts--History--20th century--Sources
  • Prude, Jonathan
  • St. Denis, Ruth, 1880-1968
  • Theater--History--20th century--Sources
  • West, Rebecca, Dame, 1892-
  • de Mille, Agnes

Genre terms
  • Ephemera
  • Manuscripts
  • Research
  • Writings
  • correspondence
  • memorabilia
  • photographs


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