“She Flourishes:” Chapters in the History of Princeton Women.

Mudd Manuscript Library’s new exhibition features women at Princeton, from the days of Evelyn College (1887-1897), mainly attended by daughters of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary professors, to the appointment of Shirley Tilghman as the first woman president of Princeton University in 2001. For the first time our exhibit is accompanied by historical film footage from the archives. This compilation of segments from films and videos, most of which was featured previously in The Reel Mudd, is shown here.

The footage covers forty years of history of Princeton women, from the admission of Sabra Meservey as the first woman at the Graduate School in 1961 to Shirley Tilghman’s presidency. Subjects covered include the introduction of coeduation, student activism and Sally Frank, and activities of the Women’s Center and SHARE (Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources, and Education).

The compilation opens with footage of the Class of 1939′s junior prom in 1938 (taken from its Class film), which was attended by 606 women (all listed by name in the Daily Prince). Women only entered academic life at Princeton in 1961, when Sabra Meservey was admitted at to the Graduate School. The footage at 0:37 shows Meservey’s humorous account of her initial conversation with President Robert Goheen, who ultimately oversaw the introduction of undergraduate coeducation in 1969, and wanted to use Meservey as a “test case” at the Graduate School. (For the full story, see the the blog about the Celebration of Coeducation at the Graduate School.)

The only filmed recollections about the early years of coeducation were found on the documentary Looking Back: Reflections of Black Princeton Alumni (1:32), created on the occasion of Princeton’s 250th anniversary in 1996. The changes on campus did not please everybody. In 1974 Princeton icon Frederick Fox ’39 reached out to disgruntled alumni in the film A Walk in the Springtime, pointing out, perhaps tongue in cheek, that Nassau Hall’s two bronze tigers were male and female (3:19). In the following fragment, taken from the short Academy award winning film Princeton, A Search For Answers (1973), women feature prominently (3:55).

The last fragments feature woman activism and the gains of the women’s movement of the 1970s and the 1980s. Two fragments were taken from the Class of 1986′s Video Yearbook: a speech from Sally Frank ’80, who sued the last three all-male eating clubs (4:18), and a Women’s Center sit-in in May 1, 1986 (4:45). The last two fragments have not been featured yet in The Reel Mudd but will be shortly. The first is a sketch from “Sex on a Saturday Night,” a theater performance for freshmen about sexual harassment, presented by SHARE (5:11), The film ends with the inauguration of Shirley Tilghman (5:11) in 2001, taken from the documentary “Robert F. Goheen ’40, *48; Reflections of a President” (2006).

The exhibit “She Flourishes:” Chapters in the History of Princeton Women may be visited during Mudd Library’s opening hours on weekdays between 9.00 am and 4.45 pm. from now until the end of August 2012.

“Princeton: A Search for Answers,” 1973

During a morning session of the President’s Conference in the early 1970s, a member of the student panel told the assembled alumni that she had come to Princeton “not to find a way of making a living, but instead to find a way of making a life.” Filmmakers Julian Krainin and DeWitt Sage used this statement in their proposal in 1972 for a new recruitment film for Princeton University. “It seems that it should be the responsibility of a great university not so much to answer the question of how to “make a life,” but to present the student with at least the tools and courage with which he or she might discover the answer.”

The resulting film Princeton: A Search for Answers won an Oscar  in 1974 for Documentary Short Subject. Film producer and director Joshua Logan ’31, who had started his stage writing and directing career in Princeton’s Triangle Club, was one of the first to see it. “I not only believe that it is a moving, funny, and stimulating account of a University I once knew but had almost forgotten,”  he wrote to his fellow members of the Academy. “It tells about the gleam that flits across the human mind and gives us all something to hope for, to live for. It makes the human race quite a bit more respectable then (sic) we have recently thought it to be.” The film which has recently been remastered (2013) is featured here.

In order to write the film treatment and script, Dewitt Sage spent several months on campus, attending classes and seminars, and talking with students, faculty and staff. Once the film treatment was approved, Julian Krainin took over to supervise the actual camera work. During 1972 and early 1973 fourteen and a half hours of 16mm color footage was shot for the thirty minute film. The outtakes are kept in the University Archives. To accompany the film, the Office of Communications produced a handsome brochure with quotes and information about the faculty featured (see SearchForAnswers.pdf).

As already suggested by the title, the film’s main emphasis is on education, scholarship, and student-instructor relations. The film includes footage of tutorials and lectures by physics professor and Dean of the Faculty Aaron Lemonick (1:50, 9:11), and professors Edward Cone (Music, 3:01, 29:48), John Wheeler (Physics 7:05), Daniel Seltzer (English, 12:39), and Ann Douglas Wood (English, 25:02). Wheeler is filmed during a lecture about the implications of black holes (he is credited with coining the phrase in 1967), while Dan Seltzer teaches a Shakespeare acting class and lectures about Henry IV (Part 2). Additional footage features Princeton president William Bowen during a question and answer session with alumni and undergraduates (9:55, 26:11, 27:49) and the work of two graduate students: Niall O’Murchadha (Physics, 5:10, 26:51) and Maury Wolfe (Architecture, 16:11).

Produced only a few years after the introduction of co-education in 1969, at a time when diversification of the student body was a priority for Princeton, women and African American students feature prominently in campus scenes (9:40, 20:56, 24:36) and in the class rooms. There is little emphasis in the film on extracurricular activities. In addition to footage of the Glee Club singing Bach in Alexander Hall (directed by Professor of Music Walter Nollner, 17:47), sport scenes are limited to marathon running and rowing (23:25). Additional footage includes students sharing their views of Princeton in a pub (19:45, the legal drinking age was still eighteen!) Some historical photographs and footage is shown at 22:27, including a fragment of a chemistry lecture by the famous Hubert Alyea (previously featured) and the Triangle Club.

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Being Jewish at Princeton: from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s days to the Center of Jewish Life

“The Princeton of today is not the Princeton of Scott Fitzgerald. And by that I mean you can feel comfortable being Jewish, you can feel comfortable being Asian, you can feel comfortable being African American. And while this might not always have been true (…) it is definitely true today.” The speaker is Erik Ruben ’98 (1:46), one of the students featured in the promotional video below about the Center for Jewish Life, which opened in 1993. Today’s entry takes a brief look at the history of the admission of Jewish students at Princeton since the 1920s.

F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s 1920 debut novel, This Side of Paradise, was set at Princeton and reflected the atmosphere of the eating clubs and of the university itself, which (not to Princeton’s liking) he described as “the pleasantest country club in America.” Fitzgerald wrote his book at a time when some northeastern colleges and universities, particularly in urban areas where many Eastern European Jewish immigrants had settled, perceived they had a “Jewish problem” in that if they admitted too many Jewish students, Protestant middle and upper class students would be driven away. Columbia, which had the largest Jewish enrollment at 40%, was the first to impose a quota in 1921. Princeton, however, always claimed not to use quotas. As late as 1948 Radcliffe Heermance, Princeton’s first director of admissions from 1922 to 1950, vehemently denied a claim that Princeton used a quota to keep Jewish students under 4%. “We’ve never had a quota system, we don’t have a quota system, we will never have a quota system” he told the Daily Princetonian.

Hutchins121770.jpgA letter from former University of Chicago president Robert Hutchins, who visited Princeton President John Grier Hibben in the early 1930s, indicated otherwise. Hutchins wrote Princeton senior Steven L. Buenning ’71 In December 1970, as Buenning was seeking information for his senior thesis, a biography about Hibben. In the letter Hutchins recalls how he had asked Hibben about the number of Jewish students at Princeton. According to Hutchins, Hibben claimed that the number just happened, whereupon his wife exclaimed: “Jack Hibben, I don’t see how you can sit there and lie to this young man. You know very well that you and Dean Eisenhart get together every year and fix the quota.”
This anecdote has been quoted in several books, and in their footnotes the authors refer to Buenning’s thesis only, which includes quotes from the letter. Above we reproduce the original letter, which is found in Hibben’s presidential papers in the Office of the President Records (AC117, Series 14, Box 65, folder 6). The first paragraph, in which Hutchins recalls Hibben’s professed ignorance about the reasons why black students did not come to Princeton, is remarkable in itself. Unlike Yale and Harvard, Princeton did not admit African American students  until World War II (the first four African Americans were in the Navy V-12 program).  For more information about African American students at Princeton, see our previous blog.

Heermance limited Jewish enrollment by developing an admission policy that put an emphasis on “character,” which, however subjective, was still regarded as defensible in public. Criteria like “manhood,” “leadership” “participation in athletics” and “home environment and companions” were assessed by using interviews, letters of recommendation, and a social ranking system. A powerful disincentive to even apply was the anti-Semitic reputation of Princeton’s eating clubs, which considered most Jews “unclubbable.”

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A lesson for fundraisers: the solicitation process for “A Campaign for Princeton,” 1982

In a previous blog we discussed the three-year $53 Million Campaign, launched at the beginning of Robert’s Goheen’s presidency in 1959. On an even larger scale was the five-year fundraising campaign that was launched on February 19, 1982 during the presidency of Goheen’s successor William G. Bowen. The goal for “A Campaign for Princeton” was set at $275 million (raised to $330 million in January 1984). Three years into the campaign, the fund drive ran like a “well-oiled machine,” according to the Daily Princetonian, bringing in more than $1 million a week. Fifty-five professionals worked with a body of 2.500 alumni volunteers, spread over seventeen regions, who were trained to ask fellow alumni to give at their maximum capacity. Featured here is “You Ask For It: An Introduction to Campaign Solicitation,” an instructional film that, however much a product of the 1980s, may still be of interest for today’s fundraisers.

The campaign goals were summarized in a Campaign Primer, published at the launch of the campaign. A full list and description of the goals, which included academic programs, facilities, student aid, and residential colleges, can be found at  CampaignPrimer.pdf.

Alumni solicitors prepared to “make an ask” to prospective donors with the help of a written solicitation plan, provided by Princeton’s campaign staff. The solicitation plan, according to the Volunteer Handbook, contained particular information about the “prospect” as well as specific guidelines on how to work with the person to “help ensure maximum giving.”  For the first time in Princeton’s fundraising history, alumni with capital gift potential were asked to make one single commitment to the campaign that included both Annual Giving (AG) and a capital gift (this was known as a “joint ask”). As the campaign was spread over five years, it allowed for all alumni to be addressed with their class’ major reunion goals in mind.

Solicitors were not meant  to be bashful about their “ask.” Outright gifts of cash or assets (generally securities) were first priority, according to the Volunteer Handbook, but if that was a problem, other charitable tax planning techniques were encouraged. “If you are persuaded that a donor simply cannot meet the requested level through an outright gift, you should then introduce Planned Giving to the negotiation.” Since these techniques were rather sophisticated, further negotiations were referred to Princeton’s Planned Giving staff.

The above VHS video features two alumni ‘novices’ to the soliciting process, who ask an experienced alumnus named Jim, a regional chairman in charge of Major Gifts, in a staged interview for advice. The woman in the film is in charge of “Special Gifts” for her Class’ 10th Reunion, and the male novice alumnus is asked to solicit money for a large capital gift from a man who never donated more than $2.500 for Annual Giving. The film lets Jim go back in history, showing one failed soliciting attempt at the beginning of his career, because he was not well enough prepared (1:05). This is followed by his account of one recent successful attempt, in which an alumnus ended up giving much more than he initially thought he could manage, partially through Planned Giving (5:03).

Although the University Archives contain a lot of information about the campaign itself, information about the VHS film featured here is lacking. In the lists of Regional Chairmen Major Gifts, provided in the Volunteer Handbook, there is no James or Jim, hence the people in the staged interview may not be actual alumni. If you can provide more information about the making of the film, please let us know!

For more information on the campaign itself, see The Story of A Campaign for Princeton, 1981-1986 by William McCleery.

This VHS video is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (Item no. 1422)

Post-War Princeton: The building of Firestone Library, the Dillon Gym, and Bicentennial celebrations, 1945-1949

From the start of the Depression until the end of World War II, construction activity at Princeton, like at other universities, was at a near standstill. The first buildings to be erected here as part of the post-war building boom on American campuses were the Dillon Gym and the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library. The four silent films discussed on this post, which are all in color, capture the beginning of the construction of Firestone Library, the dedication of the Dillon Gym in June 1947, and other activities at the close of the bicentennial celebrations of 1946-1947 and the immediate years thereafter.

The origin of the 16mm film that is featured here is unknown. Although it seems excruciatingly slow at times, the 14 minute long time lapse footage spans almost one and a half years, during which the excavation work for Firestone Library was undertaken, the structure of the three underground floors almost completed, and the steel structure of the upper part of the library erected.

Firestone ground.jpgAs can be seen on this campus map, the space between Washington Road and the then library (what is now Chancellor Green and Pyne Hall) was quite open. During most of the film the camera is facing the Engineering Building on Washington Road (now Burr and Green Hall), and moves between the Joseph Henry House, home of the Dean of the College (the white house seen on the left) and the ’77 Laboratory (the square brick building with the crescent shaped windows on the right). This biology laboratory, donated by the Class of 1877 at its tenth reunion, was demolished in the summer of 1946, which is captured starting at 9:15. The ’77 Lab appears as a pile of rubble at 9:21, when the Bracket Dynamo Laboratory behind it becomes visible. This second lab is gradually broken down in the footage that follows.

The Joseph Henry House, however, was not destroyed but moved instead, for the third time since it was built in 1837. Although the camera focused on the excavation work, preparations for the move to its present location, which according to the Prince started in April 1946, can be followed from 8:40 at the top of the screen. The actual move took place at the end of May, and the house can be seen to have moved a few yards between 9:45 and 9:48. Most of the footage concerns the digging and excavation work prior to the construction work, which had started on Christmas Eve 1945, and was subcontracted to George M. Brewster and Sons (Turner Construction Company was the contractor). The work of Brewster’s “blasting crew,” which according to the Prince in March consisted of a “blast expert,” a “powder monkey” and twelve drillers, can be followed from 3:28, with two explosions visible at 4:35 and 6:48.

Only the last few minutes of the film (10:39-14.15), capture the beginning of the construction of the Firestone Library itself, starting with the lowest floor. The snow at 11.31, surrounding the concrete columns, indicates that a year has passed since the time lapse filming began. On January 15, 1947 the Prince wrote that most of the underground structure had been completed. The footage at 11.53, which includes a view on Nassau Street, must have been filmed during or shortly after February 1947, when the library, according to the Prince had risen above the ground. The film ends with footage of the building of the steel structure of the library’s three floors (13:11), the last shots of which indicating that it is springtime now (13:32).

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Princeton’s Bicentennial: Charter Day, October 19, 1946

In the 1946-1947 academic year, Princeton celebrated its 200th anniversary with a series of convocations and events, ending with a concluding ceremony, captured in a newsreel, which included a convocation address by US President Harry Truman. Today’s blog features another newsreel about the University’s bicentennial year that focuses on “Charter Day,” October 19, 1946. In addition to Princeton’s almost 200-year old charter and the “largest procession in Princeton history” at the time (which included 23 honorary degrees recipients), the newsreel addresses the beginning of intercollegiate football, depicting a re-enactment of the first football game between Princeton and Rutgers from November 6, 1869 during halftime of the 1946 Princeton-Rutgers game.

Princeton’s charter, granted to the University on October 22, 1746 (then still known as the “College of New Jersey”) is shown fleetingly in the newsreel (0:38). Readers of our regular blog already know that the charter, on intermittent display during the celebration of Mudd Manuscript Library’s 50th anniversary, is actually not the original (which was lost) but the second charter, drawn up in 1748. (An explanation can be found in our Frequently Asked Questions.) The famous early picture of Nassau Hall that follows at 0:48 is the copper engraving by Philadelphia artist Henry Dawkins (copied from a drawing by Princeton student William Tennent, Class of 1758), which was printed in Samuel Blair’s Account of the College of New Jersey (1764). For more information about the engraver, who was also a counterfeiter of paper money, see Julie Mellby’s Graphic Arts blog.

Over 500 people comprised the academic procession that opened and closed the morning’s convocation, according to the Prince, including faculty, trustees, representatives of all alumni classes and members of the Undergraduate Council. The procession included an official delegation from the United Nations, headed by Secretary General Trygve Lie, and members from the State Bicentennial Commission, including Walter E. Edge, Governor of New Jersey. Lie (1:42) and Edge (2:11) were among the 23 honorary degree recipients, as were the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, the Spanish writer Salvador De Madariaga, and the French philosopher Jacques Maritain (2:21–not all recipients are clearly visible).

The last eight minutes of the newsreel are occupied by the 38th Rutgers-Princeton football game in the afternoon (2:47), with a humorous reenactment of the first Rutgers-Princeton game of November 6, 1869 (5:51), considered the ‘birth’ of intercollegiate football. A description of the football game and the reenactment by Theatre Intime and members of the Rutgers soccer team can be found in the Prince. A copy of the program notes about the 1869 football game, with an explanation of the rules, may be downloaded at Twenty-four Stalwart Men.pdf. A second article from the program, summarizing the history of the Princeton-Rutgers football rivalry, can be viewed at  77 Years Princeton-Rutgers.pdf. More information about early football can be found in Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession by Mark Bernstein ’83, who wrote our previous blog entry.

The footage on this 16mm film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (part of item no. 0092).

Princeton traditions, old and new: the Class of 1986′s “video yearbook”

The Class of 1986 was a ‘historic’ class, so the freshmen were told: they were the first to begin their Princeton years in the new social system of the residential colleges. According to their Class History in the Nassau Herald, however, the students carried on as the generations before them. “We worked hard and we partied hard. This blend of continuity and change, of tradition and transition, would characterize our four year stay at Old Nassau.” The ‘video yearbook’ featured here, in itself a reminder of the “class films” of the 1920s and 1930s, is an expression of that experience. A fast-paced arrangement of videotaped snippets capturing campus events and student life, the 26 minute film is a celebration of both old and new.

The video yearbook, produced by “Ground Floor Video,” a group of students under the direction of Glenn Picher ’86, was filmed during the class’ junior and senior year. Meant as a complement to the print yearbook, according to the Prince, the film contains selections from some thirty to forty hours of videotape, accompanied by original music composed by Peter Curtiss ’86 (other music credits can be found at 25:55). The film is divided into seven chapters: Student Life (1:03), Academics (5:33), Sports (7:08), Holidays (10:39), Campus issues (15:09), Spring (17:15), and Graduation weekend (20:50).

The sports and spring scenes, along with the Graduation weekend events were already traditional elements in the class films of the 1920s. Incoming freshmen were introduced to other Princeton traditions in the Special Class of 1986 issue of the Daily Princetonian. Some of those traditions are captured in the “video yearbook” featured here. They include the bonfire on Cannon Green after a major sports victory–in this case the football team’s “Big Three Title,” the first since 1967 (9:44, compare with the bonfire of the Class of 1923); House Parties (19:29; compare with the class film of the Class of 1939); and “Arch Sing” (12:48), reminiscent of the tradition of “Senior Singing” as seen in the Class of 1928 footage. The footage in the  “Graduation Weekend” (20:50), capturing the P-rade, the breaking of the pipes on Cannon Green, and the commencement ceremonies is very similar to the films from six decades previous depicting the graduation of the Classes of 1921 and 1928.

Additionally, more recent traditions featured here include the “Nude Olympics (12:00), and the party activities of “blow pong” (3:35 and 4:47), and what is assumed to be the “Trees and Trolls,” the annual rumble between the over 6 ft tall and the shorter members of the then still all-male eating club, the Tiger Inn (4:23). Both activities were accompanied by copious amounts of beer. During 1986′s freshmen year the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, making senior year the first year that most students could legally drink alcohol.

Of particular interest for the topic of “traditions” is the address of Sally Frank ’80 at the Woodrow Wilson School on November 20, 1985 (16:28). Earlier that year, Sally Frank had won her lawsuit against the all-male eating clubs of Cottage, Ivy, and Tiger Inn, which she had filed in 1979 after they refused her a chance to bicker due to her gender. Additional issues addressed in the section ‘Campus protests’ include the blockade of the entrance to Nassau Hall on May 23, 1985 to protest Princeton’s  investments policies with respect to South Africa (15:09) and the Women’s Center sit-in of May 1, 1986 (16:52).

Within the video a few other faces have been identified as the following.

  • English professor John Fleming is shown lecturing (5:39)
  • The late art historian John R. Martin (5:56)
  • President Bill Bowen (6:32, appears again 19:05).
  • The late art professor Jerry Buchanan critiques a student’s work (5:42).
  • Harold Medina ’09 is seen riding in a golf cart (21:20)
  • Dr. Ruth Westheimer makes a brief appearance (22:41)

This VHS tape is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1324).

Moving Corwin Hall 100 feet, May 20, 1963

Robertson Hall, the building that currently houses the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (WWSPIA) has been featured in two newsreels: the “Princeton newsreel” of 1961, announcing the, at the time anonymous, $35 million gift of Charles S. Robertson ’26 and his wife, Marie; and the 1966 newsreel about President Lyndon Johnson’s visit to dedicate the building. This post features the building that originally housed the Woodrow Wilson School: Corwin Hall, erected in 1951 and originally known as “Wilson Hall,” which had to be moved 100 feet to make way for the new WWSPIA facility.

The spectacular move of the building to its present site between Wallace and Robertson Hall was recorded via time lapse filming on an 8mm camera by Lawrence l. Rauch *49, who donated the footage to the Princeton University Archives. The engineering feat was accomplished by the New York firm of Spencer, White, and Prentiss, using hydraulic jacks to push the building along twelve steel tracks. The actual moving took only twelve hours but two months were needed to prepare for it and another three months to secure the building to its new foundation.

When Robertson Hall was completed in 1965, Wilson Hall was re-assigned to one of WWSPIA’s chief allies, the Department of Politics, and to the Center of International Studies. Its name was changed to Corwin Hall, in honor of Edward S. Corwin, the first chairman of the Department of Politics and the long-time holder of the McCormick Professorship of Jurisprudence, the professorship originally held by Woodrow Wilson.

This 8mm film, a gift from Lawrence L. Rauch *49, is part of the Princeton University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1980). Adapted from the post by John DeLooper in Mudd Manuscript Library’s Blog with excerpts from Alexander Leitch A Princeton Companion (Princeton University Press, 1978).  

Commencement and reunions in 1928, and Princeton’s penultimate flour picture

In a recent blog we shared our oldest film depicting President Hibben’s inauguration in 1912 and some unexpected footage of Woodrow Wilson. In today’s post we show you more surprise footage from that reel: commencement activities and P-rade scenes, most of which we had already found in a puzzling “film mosaic” on another reel. We now have identified the mystery footage as scenes from the class films of the Class of 1928. The footage from both reels is featured here, along with two reunion films that helped date the materials. Together the four films capture the commencement and reunion weekend of 1928, which included a particularly spectacular P-rade, when many classes were, according to the Prince, “decked in gaudy and grotesque costumes.”

As a bonus there is footage of the Class of 1928′s freshmen ‘flour picture’ from 1924–the first in many years in which only water and flour were used, which apparently made this hazing tradition too tame to survive–it was abolished in 1926.

According to the list of class films in the records of the Graduate Council, the Class of 1928 had three  film reels capturing their commencement, with some of the footage similar to the graduation film of the Class of 1921. The footage featured here contains only a few scenes, without the titles that originally accompanied them. The film, which is not in chronological order, opens at the end of the class exercises on Monday, June 18 with the breaking of the pipes on Cannon Green, which symbolized the breaking of ties with undergraduate life. The footage is followed at 0:22 by the commencement exercises on Tuesday, June 19, ending with the singing of “Old Nassau” (0:44).

1928gradsx.jpgThe film continues on Saturday, June 16 in front of Nassau Hall (0:54), where all alumni were waiting for the Class of 1928 to lead the P-rade. After the arrival of the 466 graduating seniors, carrying white umbrellas (1:04, left), the other classes would join in, beginning with the youngest. The footage at 1:16 shows various classes coming through the Arch at Prospect Avenue, from where the procession proceeded to University field.

FoxHunt2x.jpgFrom 1:30 the procession is seen marching around the baseball field, prior to the traditional game against Yale. The cameraman zoomed in on classes with particularly interesting costumes. These include what is thought to be the Class of 1918 with feather hats (1:39), and an unknown class (possibly the Class of 1912) acting out a fox hunt (1:59, right). The film ends with footage of presumably the Class of 1928′s last Senior Singing on the steps of Nassau Hall (2:19), with the seniors traditionally dressed in white.

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Triangle’s “All in Favor”, 1948-1949

It is always difficult to watch silent films of early Triangle shows, which are as famous for their music and witty lyrics as for the all male kicklines (read our previous blog for an introduction). Even without sound, however, the films of All In Favor are still a visual treat. Footage of the performance, a dazzling display of virtuosity and color, is alternated with dressing rooms scenes, displaying the fun of stockings, wigs, and long flowing skirts.

All in Favor, is, in Triangle’s own words, a “fast-moving musical comedy satire on American politics, its methods and madness,” set in a little town in Indiana in the 1920s, where a mayor is running for reelection with the help of  his “non-too-honest” campaign manager. His opponent is the reform candidate widow Dawes, whose daughter dates a Princeton student  (a summary of the story, taken from the press release, can be found in the Daily Princetonian). The script was written by Triangle president Francis S. Hartley ’50 (pictured at 0:16), vice-president Thomas H. Middleton ’48, secretary Kennedy Williams ’48 and Edward H. Tuck ’49.

HenryFonda_JamesNeely.jpgThe first of the two films, which includes excerpts from Act I, opens with preparations prior to the show, including dressing room scenes and orchestra practice (0:18-2:10). Although some of the footage on the stage includes singing and acting, the two films merely capture the 16-man Triangle chorus, performing specialty dances and production numbers created by choreographer Morgan Lewis. In Act I this includes the Can-Can shown at 4:42. The photo at the right, which was found in the Triangle Club Records, shows film star Henry Fonda, adjusting the garter of chorus leader James C. Neely ’48. Although Fonda attended one of Triangle’s rehearsals, he is not included in the films featured here.

The film ends with the minstrel show at the mayor’s campaign rally (7:38), a particular novelty that received a lot of attention.

The second film, which captures Act II of the performance, opens with a member of the chorus (a “chorine”) pulling on stockings, which is followed by a prisoner escape (0:27) and chorines dancing the Charleston (1:24). A traditional ballet, preceded by another dress-up scene, is shown at 3:40. When the curtain falls, the casts sings the Princeton alma mater “Old Nassau” (7:17).

Existing photographs of the performance did not allow us to identify individual actors and chorus members. If anyone is able to add names to the faces on these films, please comment on this blog!

These 16mm films are part of the Triangle Club Records at the Princeton University Archives (box 177).  Mudd Library is thankful for the support that the Triangle Alumni Board provided for digitizing these films and unlocking their contents.