Sunday, August 21, 2016

What does 119 year old dust smell like, you ask?

Victory. It smells like victory,  my friends. That's where I've been.

I spent last Friday and Saturday,  9-5 pretty much, in the Harry Ransom Center in Austin doing research on Lionel Barrymore.  Saturday, I only took one bathroom break and skipped lunch to power through an enormous quantity of material in the theater bio collection, the Selznick collection, and Gloria Swanson's archive. I don't think she threw away anything,  ever!

Following archive directions,  I wore gloves to handle the bajillion photos and handled paper carefully with my own hands. So, yes, I held a 1897 playbill/ad for Cumberland 61, one of LB's first large roles in which he toured, and an 1898 Arizona playbill.

I was truly overwhelmed,  so much so I almost forgot to check out the Gutenberg bible and First Photograph display there! I also found out I totally missed EA Poe's desk, which was sitting in the room in which we were researching. That's how intent I was.

I handled, read, sniffed even (slightly), gently touched a signed letter handwritten by Lionel Barrymore on his own stationery.

I did the same with a letter John Barrymore had written in the first years of the 20th century on Waldorf Astoria, NY, stationery.

I read dozens of pages Gloria Swanson's info, letters, notes, and looked at every single Sadie Thompson still they had (and by god I think they had them all). I read notecards, fan stalker letters to her, and found notes in her own hand referring to Lionel Barrymore's pain and medication needs while working on ST.

I saw hundreds of photos that may not have been viewed since they were put into the archive. I read dozens of pages in Portuguese,  Spanish, and English to garner as much info on Sadie Thompson as I could.

And I took quite literally 1000+ digital photos, many, many of letters, articles,  photos, notes....


I adored every second in the reading room. There's no way to describe the feeling of digging up long forgotten information,  seeing genuine, precious artifacts, reading and's true nerd excitement!  I could live in that one archive,  and not just to read on Barrymores!

But you know what I'll be going back there soon to do!

The pic above is from a national magazine.

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