Cornell, Katharine

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Epithet: American actress and director

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000835.0x0003d1

Katharine Cornell was an American actress and producer.

Katharine Cornell was born on February 16, 1893, in Berlin. After attending private schools in Buffalo, Cornell went to Oaksmere School, in Mamaroneck, New York, where she participated in many theatrical productions. Determined to pursue a career on the stage, she moved to New York in 1916. After unsuccessfully auditioning for a role with the Washington Square Players-an organization which would later become the Theatre Guild, Cornell was allowed to sit in on their rehearsals as an apprentice. When an actress playing the bit part of the mother in Bushido: A Japanese Tragedy failed to show up for rehearsals, the company managers gave the one-line part to the young actress who had become a constant presence at the rehearsals and Katharine Cornell made her New York debut. After small roles in a few other Washington Square Players productions, such as Plots and Playwrights and The Life of Man, Cornell was hired by an actress she had met years earlier in Buffalo, Jessie Bonstelle, to join her stock touring company in 1919. One of Cornell's earliest triumphs came when she played Jo in the 1920 London production of Little Women. However, back in her native country she still wasn't a star and continued touring with the Jessie Bonstelle company, but this time she was playing leads in plays such as The Man Outside in 1920. During the tour, Cornell fell in love with another member of the company, a young director named Guthrie McClintic. They were married from her aunt Lydia Cornell's house in Coburg, Ontario on September 8, 1921. His reputation as one of the most talented young directors in town made it easy for him and Cornell to work together. Cornell's next New York play and Broadway debut was Rachel Crothers' Nice People in 1921. Later that year, she would finally arrive as a major star on Broadway in the role of Sidney Fairfield, the self-sacrificing daughter of a mentally unstable father in Clemence Dane's A Bill of Divorcement. She continued to be praised for her performances in the 1923 productions of Dane's Will Shakespeare, Laura Pennington's The Enchanted Cottage and Sidney Howard's translation of Lorenzo DeAzteris' Casanova. 1924's The Way Things Happen, another Clemence Dane play, marked the start of the powerhouse professional team of Cornell and McClintic. Having established themselves as actress and director independently, the married couple embarked on their joint career and with a few exceptions, McClintic would direct and produce all of Cornell's subsequent plays. In 1924, Cornell played the title role in George Bernard Shaw's Candida for the first time. This was one of Cornell's favorite roles and she revived it several times on tour and on Broadway. Rudolph Besier's dramatic telling of the romance between two of England's great poets, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning had been rejected by 27 New York producers when it came to Cornell's attention. She immediately admired the play, but didn't see herself in the lead role as Elizabeth Barrett, until McClintic convinced her that she was ideally suited for it. Unsatisfied with the many American actors they had auditioned for the role of Robert Browning, Cornell and McClintic turned to the London stage and brought Brian Aherne over for his New York debut. The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1931) was not only a tremendous triumph for Cornell as an actress, but also her debut as a producer, which gave her a new position as an actress-manager. Cornell continued to tackle varied and challenging roles to great acclaim throughout the 30s and early 40s. In the late 40s Cornell took on leading roles in classics such as Antigone (1946) and her Tony-award winning turn in Antony and Cleopatra (1947). She also appeared in another Candida (1946), costarring with a young Marlon Brando. Now over 50, and with the styles of acting and writing changing, Cornell was finding it increasingly difficult to find plays that intrigued her. She appeared in period pieces, such as That Lady (1949), The Dark is Light Enough (1955) opposite Tyrone Power and The Firstborn (1958). She also appeared in light comedies, such as Maugham's The Constant Wife (1951) and The Prescott Proposals (1953). Before retiring, she would have one more triumph playing the role of Mrs. Patrick Campbell in Jerome Kilty's two-person play called Dear Liar. Nearing 70, feeling a lack of connection to the current theater and without the partner who had helped her shape her career for 40 years, Cornell retired from the stage. She died in her Martha Vineyard's home on June 9, 1974.

Guthrie McClintic was an American director and producer. Guthrie McClintic was born in Seattle, Washington on August 6, 1893. Even though McClintic's father was unsympathetic to his ambitions toward the stage, he eventually prevailed upon his parents to send him east in 1910 for theatrical training at New York's Academy for Dramatic Arts. McClintic found some work as an actor, appearing in a tour of Oliver Twist as well as on Broadway in such plays as The Truth (1914), Major Barbara (1916) and Captain Brassbound's Conversion (1916). He got a job in the offices of the director/producer Winthrop Ames, where he worked as a stage manager and casting director. His ambition was to become and director and producer himself and this was his role in Jessie Bonstelle's touring company, where he got to know Cornell. In addition to directing and producing most of Cornell's vehicles, McClintic was one of the most sought-after directors on Broadway and he continued to direct acclaimed productions with other stars, including new productions of classics starring great modern actors, such as Hamlet (1936) with John Gielgud and Medea (1949) with Judith Anderson. He also staged adaptations of classic novels such as Edith Wharton's The Old Maid (1935) and Ethan Frome (1936) and Anthony Trollope's Barchester Towers (1937). He also directed many new plays by contemporary authors, such as High Tor (1937) and Winterset (1935) and Key Largo (1939) by Maxwell Anderson, Tennessee Williams' You Touched Me (1945), Mamba's Daughters (1939) by Dorothy and Dubose Heyward and John Steinbeck's Burning Bright (1950). Dear Liar turned out to be both Cornell's and McClintic's last play. On October 29, 1961, McClintic passed away at his and Cornell's Palisades home.

From the description of Katharine Cornell Papers 1801-1983 (Bulk dates 1921-1974). (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 248634639

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Alexander Woollcott correspondence, ca. 1856-1943 (inclusive), 1920-1943 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Dan H. Laurence Collection. Candida / by Bernard Shaw; directed by Guthrie McClintic - program for production at the Cort Theatre, [New York], April 22, 1946. University of Guelph. McLaughlin Library
referencedIn Rogers Memorial Collection: Henry Munroe Rogers papers, 1812-1937 (bulk: 1862-1937) Houghton Library
referencedIn Welles mss., 1930-1950, (Bulk 1936-1947) Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Rockland County Historical Society (New City, N.Y.). Miscellaneous document collection, 1620-1950. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Howard D. Rothschild collection on, Ballets Russes, of Serge Diaghilev: Photographs and scrapbooks, 1909-1975. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Howard D. Rothschild papers, 1921-1989. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
creatorOf Cornell, Katharine. Katharine Cornell Papers 1801-1983 (Bulk dates 1921-1974). New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Will Rapport papers, 1931-1964. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn (ff. 1-87). A-I.includes:f. 1. Art. Photographs: William Archer, drama critic and author: Portrait photograph of W. Archer: circa 1880-1890.f. 2 Michael Barnes, son of Kenneth Barnes: Photograph of M. Barnes: 1944?.ff. 3, 4 Hermann Bahr, Germa... British Library
referencedIn American Vaudeville Museum collection, 1845-2007, (bulk 1910-1940) University of Arizona Libraries, Library Special Collections
creatorOf Dan H. Laurence Collection. Candida / by Bernard Shaw ; directed by Guthrie McClintic - program for production at the National Theatre, New York, May [1946]. University of Guelph. McLaughlin Library
creatorOf Edward Johnson Collection. Miscellaneous correspondence written to E. Johnson by his friends and business associates, and letters written by Johnson. University of Guelph. McLaughlin Library
referencedIn Souvenir programs for theatrical productions, 1906-2005. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Koussevitzky, Serge, 1874-1951. Serge Koussevitzky Archive, 1920-1976 (bulk: 1924-1951) Library of Congress. Music Division
referencedIn (ff. 88-147). J-N.includes:f. 1. Art. Photographs: William Archer, drama critic and author: Portrait photograph of W. Archer: circa 1880-1890.f. 2 Michael Barnes, son of Kenneth Barnes: Photograph of M. Barnes: 1944?.ff. 3, 4 Hermann Bahr, Ger... British Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Aherne, Brian person
associatedWith American Museum of Vaudeville corporateBody
correspondedWith Barrymore, Ethel, 1879-1959 person
associatedWith Besier, Rudolf, 1878-1942. person
correspondedWith Collier, Constance, 1878-1955 person
associatedWith Cornell, Katharine, 1893-1974. person
correspondedWith Coward, Noel, 1899-1973 person
associatedWith Cullen, Frank, 1936- person
associatedWith Dan H. Laurence Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Dan H. Laurence Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Edward Johnson Collection. corporateBody
correspondedWith Ferrer, José, 1912-1992 person
correspondedWith Fontanne, Lynn person
correspondedWith Gielgud, John, 1904-2000 person
correspondedWith Gordon, Ruth, 1896-1985 person
correspondedWith Hamilton, Nancy, 1908-1985 person
correspondedWith Hayes, Helen, 1900-1993 person
associatedWith Howard D. Rothschild, collector. person
correspondedWith Koussevitzky, Serge, 1874-1951 person
correspondedWith Leigh, Vivien, 1913-1967 person
correspondedWith Lunt, Alfred person
correspondedWith Macy, Gertrude person
associatedWith McClintic, Guthrie, 1893-1961. person
associatedWith McNeilly, Donald, 1945- person
associatedWith Rapport, Will. person
associatedWith Rockland County Historical Society (New City, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Rogers, Henry Munroe, 1839-1937 person
correspondedWith Rothschild, Howard D. person
associatedWith Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950. person
correspondedWith Taylor, Laurette, 1884-1946 person
correspondedWith Thorndike, Sybil, Dame, 1882-1976 person
associatedWith Welles, Orson, 1915-1985 person
correspondedWith Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983 person
correspondedWith Woollcott, Alexander, 1887-1943 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
United States
Theatrical producers and directors
Theatrical producers and directors


Active 1801

Active 1983



Ark ID: w6h41x7j

SNAC ID: 41950511