A Preliminary Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
This small, but significant collection contains material from Laurette Taylor's early acting days, ca. 1907, through her retirement years to her glorious return to the stage in her legendary performances of The Glass Menagerie (1945) by Tennessee Williams. Her career spanned the era of vaudeville and silent film to the war years of the mid-1940s. Included in this collection are correspondence, personal and theater photographs, photograph albums, press reviews, articles, legal documents, and contracts. Also included are writings of her son, Dwight Taylor, as well as papers and works of her second husband, J. Hartley Manners, the playwright whose partnership accounted for her early roles. Unfortunately, in contrast to Taylor's prolific professional life, little remains to document her career. According to her daughter, Marguerite Courtney, Laurette destroyed all press books, letters, programs, photograph albums, and other memorabilia associated with her life with Manners upon his death in 1928. Her most significant work during this time was her highly successful and long-running portrayal of Peg in Peg O' My Heart, written by Manners and produced in New York and London. For approximately a decade after her husband's death, Taylor retired from the stage, suffering with bouts of depression and alcoholism.
Correspondence consists of Laurette's letters to Dwight Taylor documenting her financial hardships, her tremendous success with The Glass Menagerie, including mention of Tennessee Williams, and her failing health beginning in 1945. Dwight's childhood letters chronicle his private school years and accompany typescript memories of his life with his famous mother. Correspondents also include John Barrymore, Booth Tarkington, James Cagney, and George Cukor.
Newspaper reviews cover Taylor's plays in the late 1930s, extensive coverage of The Glass Menagerie, and numerous obituaries. A large number of publicity and personal photographs are present, documenting her characters in plays such as The Bird of Paradise, L'Enfant Prodigue, Alice-Sit-By-The-Fire, Outward Bound, One Night in Rome, Humoresque, and The Glass Menagerie. A charming remnant of her many awards is the hand-lettered Barter Theatre Award presented by Eleanor Roosevelt in May 1939 for Taylor's portrayal of Mrs. Midget in Outward Bound. The award provides Miss Taylor with "one acre of land on the side of a mountain near Abingdon, Virginia" and "one sugar-cured Virginia ham."
Estate papers of J. Hartley Manners are included as well as a clothbound typescript edition of his 1920 play One Night in Rome, prepared for the farewell performance at the Garrick Theatre.
A number of published works and recordings were transferred to the HRHRC book collection. Included in this group are Lorette Taylor's The Greatest of These.....; Peg O' My Heart, Happiness and Other Plays, The Harp of Life, and The National Anthem by J. Hartley Manners; and Blood & Thunder and Joy Ride by Dwight Taylor. Taylor's recordings, mostly 78 RPM, include music cues for The Glass Menagerie (1945); a 1939 WJZ radio broadcast of Peg O' My Heart; Among My Souvenirs (1943); a segment of We The People (1945); a Rudy Vallee radio program (1939); and a very early 1913 voice recording trial done of Laurette Taylor in New York.
This collection received minimal rehousing, retaining the original annotated folders and document groupings. Some preservation photocopying was provided for fragile newspaper reviews.
See also Marguerite Courtney's biography, Laurette: The Intimate Biography of Laurette Taylor. New York: Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1955. (HRC PN 2287.T25.C6.1955c)
Open for research
Reg. No. 13416
Liz Murray, 1995
Laurette Taylor Papers--Folder List