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Table of Contents
Using the Collection
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Series I: Correspondences, 1926-1952
Series IV: Personal, 1925-1955
Series V: Photographs, 1934-1951
At a Glance
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.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
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.
The 1934 diary is locked, and cannot be accessed until it is opened by a specialist.
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.
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
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.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
This collection was processed by Emily A. Hawk (GSAS 2022).
Finding aid written by Emily A. Hawk (GSAS 2022) in June 2018.
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.
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.