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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oscars in the Archives

Ah, the Oscars. I love them. The host's opening musical montage, the crisp tuxes and clouds of chiffon on the red carpet, the long-winded thank you speeches (OK, maybe not that part so much). In honor of this celebration of all things film, I dug up some thespians who appear in starring roles in the collections of the Archives of American Art

Jeanne Eagels, ca. 1918 / unidentified photographer. Elizabeth Piutti-Barth papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Star of the silver screen Jeanne Eagels got her start as a Ziegfield Follies girl, worked for several years as an actress on Broadway, and bridged the gap between silent film and the advent of the talkies, appearing in such films as The World and the Woman (1916), The Madonna of the Slums (1919) and The Letter (1929). Tragically, she died at the age of 39 in the same year that The Letter was released. She received the first ever posthumous nomination for an Academy Award for her work in that film, but lost out to Mary Pickford in Coquette. This photograph comes from the papers of Boston portraitist Elizabeth Piutti-Barth, who painted Eagels in two of her theatrical roles.

Caricature of Dick Van Dyke, between 1957 and 1968.
Alfred J. Frueh papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
There is no mistaking Dick Van Dyke's signature gawky charm in this caricature by Alfred Frueh, who frequently contributed caricatures of actors to the New Yorker. Though Van Dyke has filled his trophy case with several Emmys over the years for his work in television, the closest he ever came to an Oscar was when the Sherman Brothers won best original song in 1964 for the song Chim Chim Cher-ee, which he performed in Mary Poppins.

Lily Ludlow and Chloƫ Sevigny in costume, 2000 Nov. 30 / unidentified photographer.
Colin de Land collection, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
You may not recognize her immediately, but Chloƫ Sevigny is on the right of the two women in costume having their picture taken at a New York art scene Halloween party depicted in the Colin de Land collection. Sevigny's career has included a number of critically-acclaimed independent films, but it was her breakout role, in 1999's Boys Don't Cry, which garnered her a nomination for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, though the award went to Angelina Jolie for Girl, Interrupted.

For more Oscars-themed reads from around the Smithsonian, see:

Katherine Hepburn - Count 'em - Four Oscars and Designing Woman - Edith Head in Hollywood on the National Portrait Gallery Face to Face blog

Images of America - Chinese in Hollywood by Jenny Cho and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California on the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's BookDragon blog

Colin Firth: Actor. Writer. Academy Award Winner. Scientist? from Smithsonian Magazine

Bettina Smith, Digital Projects Librarian
Archives of American Art

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