Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Gertrude Lawrence Papers, 1925-1986, bulk 1925-1952

Summary Information


This collection contains documents relating to Broadway actress Gertrude Lawrence (1898-1952), a British-born international star of musical theatre and film. The collection primarily consists of correspondences, and also includes manuscripts, photographs, diaries, and a notebook from her position teaching an acting course at Columbia University.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1917
Bib ID 10720982 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Lawrence, Gertrude
Title Gertrude Lawrence Papers, 1925-1986, bulk 1925-1952
Physical Description 1.68 linear feet (4 document boxes and 5 oversized folders)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in six series.



This collection consists primarily of correspondences between Lawrence and her husband Richard S. Aldrich, as well as letters to and from notables of the theatre world including Brooks Atkinson, P.G. Wodehouse, Michael Arlen, Noël Coward, Somerset Maugham, Peter Arno, Beverly Nichols, and Charles B. Cochran. It also includes several manuscripts of articles and poems, two of Lawrence's diaries, and a notebook detailing her experience teaching an acting course at Columbia University in 1951-1952.

  • Series I: Correspondences, 1926-1952

    This series contains over 150 individual letters, telegrams, and other forms of correspondence both to and from Gertrude Lawrence. Some letters include transcriptions created by the original collector, Doris Harris, which are arranged adjacent to the original documents. Most letters also have annotations from Harris of dates and correspondents' names, written in pencil on the original documents.

  • Series II: Manuscripts, 1941-1951

    This series includes manuscripts by Gertrude Lawrence, including a poem, book chapter, undelivered speech, and several articles including one for The New York Times. Topics include "Women and Beauty," "Mother v. Career Woman," and a reflection on her acting career. Some manuscripts include a transcription by Doris Harris. The book chapter is accompanied by a letter from Lawrence's editor, Edward Stasheff, and a table of contents for the entire proposed book can be found in Series III at the front of Lawrence's Columbia notebook.

  • Series III: Columbia University, 1951-1952

    This series includes materials relating to Gertrude Lawrence's position teaching a course on acting at Columbia University during the 1951-1952 academic year. Documents include a letter inviting Lawrence to join the Women's Faculty Club, a list of students registered in Acting 107 and Acting 108, a list of assignments for scenes in Acting 107, and a letter from impresario André Charlot offering Lawrence his thoughts on the pedagogy of acting. The highlight of the series is Lawrence's personal notebook containing her professorial notes and the notebook's black zipper casing with Lawrence's name embossed in gold.

  • Series IV: Personal, 1925-1955

    The series includes items and documents relating to Gertrude Lawrence's personal life. The first subseries contains two diaries from 1934 and 1945, and the second contains clippings, certificates, receipts, identification cards, and other miscellaneous documents from throughout her life.

  • Series V: Photographs, 1934-1951

    This series contains 52 photographs of Gertrude Lawrence, including headshots, performances stills, and personal photos. Most of the photos are undated, but some have a date on the reverse written in pencil or typed and pasted. Most publicity photos also have a copyright stamp on the reverse. Many performance stills have pencil annotations listing the title of the show. Photographs range in size from 3 ½" by 2 ½" to 13 ¼" x 10 ½". Five oversized photographs are located separately from the main collection, in Map Case 15-H-13.

  • Series VI: Collection materials, 1968-1986

    This series contains items compiled by the original owner of the collection, Doris Harris, after Gertrude Lawrence's death. Items include a series of letters responding to invitations to a screening of Star!, the 1968 film about Lawrence starring Julie Andrews, as well as two copies of journals from 1981 with an illustration of Gertrude Lawrence in Charlot's Revue of 1926 on the cover. Also included are tables of contents and collection descriptions compiled by Doris Harris, printed on letterhead from Doris Harris Autographs.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Gertrude Lawrence Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material-- Other Repositories

Gertrude Lawrence Papers, 1910-1952, New York Public Library

Gertrude Lawrence Scrapbook, 1952-1953, New York Public Library


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Custodial History

The collection was assembled by collector Doris Harris of Los Angeles, California, likely in the 1980s. It is not known how Harris acquired the collection. She imposed an order on the collection and created tables of contents and inventory lists for each box, which are now located in Series VI. She also included transcriptions with key letters and manuscripts, which remain with the original documents. In 1986, publisher David Copley of La Jolla, California purchased the collection from Doris Harris and held it privately until his death in 2012. At that point, the collection was purchased by bookseller Ken Karmiole of Santa Monica, California, who later sold it to Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2014.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Papers: Method of acquisition--Purchase. Source of Acquisition: Ken Karmiole. Date of acquisition--2014 March 21. Accession number--2013-2014-M176.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Emily A. Hawk (GSAS 2022).

Finding aid written by Emily A. Hawk (GSAS 2022) in June 2018.

Revision Description

2018-08-22 File created.

2018-08-27 XML document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi

2018-07-02 Updated record after processing. CCR.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Actors Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Actresses -- Great Britain Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Aldrich, Richard Stoddard, 1902-1986 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cochran, C. B (Charles Blake), 1872-1951 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University. School of General Studies Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Coward, Noel, 1899-1973 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Fairbanks, Douglas, Jr., 1909-2000 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lawrence, Gertrude Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Matthews, Jessie Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Motion picture acting Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Musical theater Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wodehouse, P. G (Pelham Grenville), 1881-1975 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note


Gertrude Lawrence (1898-1952), born Gertrud Alexandra Dagmar Lawrence Klasen, was a British theatrical performer remembered as one of the first international superstars. She had a successful career both in London and on Broadway, earning her adoring fans on both sides of the Atlantic. She performed in plays, musicals, and movies, having roles created for her by the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Noel Coward, and Cole Porter. Her most notable performances include the role of Kay in the Gershwins' Oh, Kay! (1926) and Anna Leonowens in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I (1951). Her 1952 death from undetected liver cancer brought on the first dimming of theatre lights both on Broadway and in the West End. In that same year, Lawrence also taught a course on acting at Columbia University.

She had one child, Pamela Howley (1918-2005), with her first husband, Francis Gordon-Howley. She later married theatrical producer Richard S. Aldrich in 1940, who served in World War II as Lawrence toured with the Entertainments National Service Association (E.N.S.A.). Professionally, she is known for her long-term friendship with Noel Coward, with whom she performed in many notable productions such as Private Lives (1931) and Tonight at 8:30 (1935).

After her death, Lawrence was memorialized in a biography by Aldrich, Gertrude Lawrence as Mrs. A: An Intimate Biography of a Great Star (1955), as well as in the film Star! (1968) featuring Julie Andrews as Gertrude Lawrence.