George Sklar and Miriam Blecher papers
Scope and Contents
The collection contains correspondence, writings, photographs, printed material, personal papers, and other papers by or relating to George Sklar and Miriam Blecher. Among the correspondents are theater associates of Sklar such as Vera Caspary, Albert Maltz, and Paul Peters, and Blecher's modern dance colleagues, including Lily Mehlman and Estelle Oringer, as well as members of the Sklar and Blecher families. A number of letters reference the House Un-American Activities Committee and the blacklisting of Sklar and other writers. Materials documenting his career as a playwright include drafts, reviews, and theater ephemera for Merry-Go-Round, Life and Death of an American, And People All Around, Brown Pelican, and other plays, some of which were produced by the Union Theatre and Federal Theatre Project. Also present are performance photographs from Sklar and Peters's Stevedore, featuring images of African American actors Canada Lee, Georgette Harvey, and Leigh Whipper, and another of their works, the satirical revue Parade. In addition, the collection contains novels and short stories by Sklar. Papers documenting Blecher's work as a dance instructor include lesson plans, class notes, correspondence, promotional cards and fliers for her dance studio, and one cassette tape related to four-year-old students. Personal papers of George Sklar include documents from an FBI investigative file on Sklar and Blecher and papers related to a Writers Guild pension for blacklisted authors, address books, financial, legal, and medical records, clippings, and books from his library.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Box 20 (cassette tape): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Conditions Governing Use
The George Sklar and Miriam Blecher Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased from Between the Covers on the Sinclair Lewis Fund, 2019.
Organized into five series: I. Correspondence, 1914-1989. II. Writings, 1932-1986, undated. III. Photographs, circa 1926-1935. IV. Miriam Blecher Papers, 1924-1980. V. Personal Papers, 1898-2001.
14.53 Linear Feet (20 boxes)
Language of Materials
The collection contains correspondence, writings, photographs, printed material, personal papers, and other papers by or relating to George Sklar and Miriam Blecher.
George Sklar (1908-1988)
George Sklar (Yale 1929) was an American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist known for his involvement with social protest theater during the Great Depression. In 1933, he cofounded the Theatre Union, a collective of leftist writers and activists that produced plays for a working-class audience. He also served on the board of the Federal Theatre Project, a New Deal initiative that staged many of his plays, including Life and Death of an American (1939). Sklar’s first play, Merry-Go-Round (1932), written with Albert Maltz while they studied at Yale, was adapted into the film Afraid to Talk. Sklar and Maltz also collaborated on the anti-war drama Peace on Earth (1933), the first play produced by the newly established Theatre Union. Several of his works depicted racism and race relations, including Stevedore (1934), written with Paul Peters, and And People All Around (1967). Sklar and Peters again collaborated on Parade, a satirical revue, in 1935; his other plays include a Broadway adaptation of the 1944 film Laura (1947), written with Vera Caspary, and Brown Pelican (1974), which explored environmentalism.
In the 1940s, Sklar moved to Los Angeles to write screenplays for Hollywood films such as First Comes Courage (1943). He was blacklisted from the industry after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1949. He also wrote novels such as The Two Worlds of Johnny Truro (1947), The Promising Young Men (1952), and The Identity of Dr. Frazier (1961).
Born Gidolio Sklar in Meriden, Connecticut, Sklar received a B.A. from Yale University in 1929 and graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 1931, where he studied under George Pierce Baker. Sklar married Miriam Blecher in 1935, with whom he had three children: Judith Rasminsky, and Daniel and Zachary Sklar.
Miriam Blecher (1912-1979)
Miriam Blecher was an American dancer and choreographer who was prominent in the New York modern dance movement during the Great Depression. In 1932, she cofounded the Workers Dance League, a left-wing umbrella organization that grew out of her involvement in the Communist Party, with other Jewish dancers such as Edith Segal, Anna Sokolow, and Nadia Chilkovsky. That same year, Blecher also established the New Dance Group, a collective of politically-active modern dancers from Hanya Holm’s studio. Blecher choreographed the anti-Nazi piece Van der Lubbe’s Head (1934) while working at the New Dance Group, and she later served as the organization’s director for three years.
Blecher was born in New York City to Jewish immigrants from Austria-Hungary. She graduated from Hunter College and studied dance at the Henry Street Settlement House under Martha Graham and Louis Horst. After moving to Los Angeles with her husband, Blecher taught children’s dance classes and held dance therapy workshops.
Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
This collection received a basic level of processing, including rehousing and minimal organization.
Information included in the Description of Papers note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during initial processing. Information in brackets is also supplied by staff.
This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
The collection was formerly titled the George and Miriam Sklar papers.
- African American actors
- African Americans -- 20th Century -- Portraits
- African Americans -- Drama
- Audiovisual materials
- Authors -- United States -- 20th century
- Authors, American -- 20th Century -- Archives
- Blacklisting of authors -- United States
- Blecher, Miriam, 1912-1979
- Choreographers -- United States -- 20th century
- Communism and motion pictures -- United States
- Dance schools -- United States -- 20th century
- Dancers -- United States -- 20th Century
- Dramatists -- United States -- 20th Century
- Dramatists, American -- 20th Century -- Archives
- Federal Theatre Project (New York, N.Y.)
- Harvey, Georgette
- Lee, Canada
- Maltz, Albert, 1908-1985
- Mehlman, Lily
- Modern dance
- Oringer, Estelle, circa 1913-2010
- Peters, Paul (Playwright)
- Radical theater -- United States -- 20th century
- Sklar, George, 1908-1988
- Theater -- Production and direction -- New York (State) -- New York
- Theater programs
- Theatre Union Inc.
- United States. Congress. House. Committee on Un-American Activities
- Whipper, Leigh R. (Leigh Rollin), 1877-1975
- Guide to the George Sklar and Miriam Blecher Papers
- by Brooke McManus
- February 2022
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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