Friday, November 22, 2019

"Is It You?"

Headshot of Maude Adams
This is a line uttered by actress Jane Seymour in the 1980 romantic drama film Somewhere in Time. In the movie, Seymour portrays the fictional character of Elise McKenna, an actress living in the early part of the 20th century who falls in love with a writer from 1971, portrayed by the late Christopher Reeves. It is a tale of star-crossed love and was based on the novel "Bid Time Return" by Richard Matheson.

Matheson based Elise's character on the actress Maude Adams who was a famous stage actress in the late 19th and early 20th century. Today, Adams is best known for portraying Peter Pan on the American stage in 1905.  However, as an actress she was in demand, touring the country in plays such as The Little Minister, Quality Street, Joan of Arc, and The Legend of Leonora. She retired from the stage in 1918 and did not return until 1931, when she played in a production of The Merchant of Venice in Ohio.
Photo of Maude Adams as Peter Pan

At its release Somewhere in Time was not a critical success but has over the years become a cult movie whose followers meet once a year at the famed hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan where the movie takes place.

Matheson used many characters from Maude Adam’s life for his book, including basing Elise’s manager in the book on Charles Frohman, the man who oversaw Adam’s career. He also gave his protagonist the name of a roommate of Adams'.

We have here at Rauner a small collection of Maud Adams’ papers. The collection is particularly rich in photographs of Adams on and off the stage.

Maude Adams retired again from acting in the 1930s and became the head of the drama department at Stephens College in Missouri where she taught until 1949.

To view the collection, ask for MS-285.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Dough for the Big Game

Letter from October 17, 1901Charles Sylvester was a member of Dartmouth's class of 1905 and the son of a shoe maker in Haverhill, Massachusett. Throughout his years at college, he kept up a regular correspondence with his sister and his mother, writing at least once a week, often twice.

His letters open up a view into college life not usually well documented: the day-to-day struggles of a student of modest means. The letters from his freshman year are focused on the many jobs he takes on to earn money, alongside his commentary on Dartmouth's social world. Football, of course, dominates most of the conversation. On Thursday, October 17th, 1901, he writes:
The college will be depopulated within a few days, about five hundred fellows are going to the game, probably more. Those who haven't the "dough" are borrowing and those who have are lending with an open hand. Chase is going and is going to Groveland [MA], Sunday. Don't I wish that I were. I shall not, however, borrow any money.
That Saturday, the day of the game, he reports:
Wouldn't I have liked to have seen that game. The college--what there is left of it--is crazy. They telegraphed the results up just as soon as it was ascertained.
He clearly wasn't one of the guys with the "dough."

You can read all of Sylvester's letters by asking for MS-853.