Mary Ellen Bute Papers
Scope and Contents
The papers span the entirety of Bute's career, though the bulk of them document her later film productions. Since she was unable to complete or release some of these (e.g. "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking") the papers are a unique resource on Bute's work to realize her vision of the films. The papers also provide personal and professional context to Bute's career through her correspondence and personal papers.
The papers also document Bute's research, writing and lectures on the topics of film making and animation and her work to support female film makers through forums such as the Women's Independent Film Exchange.
Material from Bute's early abstract films is mostly related to their distribution and promotion. Papers from later live action films include correspondence, scripts and research material in addition to material related to funding, distribution and promotion. Papers from "Skin of Our Teeth" include correspondence with and notes from Thornton Wilder about the adaptation of his play.
In addition to papers related to Bute's film productions, the collection includes papers from Ted Nemeth Studios. These papers document Nemeth's commercial productions for corporations such as Schlitz, his film "Mobilcolor" (about Charles Dockum, the creator of Mobilcolor projectors) and his work to distribute Bute's films.
The collection also contains personal papers that include family correspondence, photographs and financial and medical records.
- 1907 - 1985
Conditions Governing Access
Boxes 26 and 35 (audiocassettes): Restricted fragile. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Box 35: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
14.85 Linear Feet (36 boxes, including 1 Oversize box)
Language of Materials
Mary Ellen Bute, 1906-1983
Bute was born in Houston, Texas in 1906. She studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadephia and lighting design at Yale University. Her early influences included Leon Theremin and Gerald Warburg and she collaborated with Theremin to produce a paper titled "Light as an art material and its possible synchronization with sound" (1932). Most of Bute's films were produced by Ted Nemeth Studios or Expanding Cinema Studios and her collaborators included Norman McLaren and Melville Webber. Later in life Bute was a founding member of the Women's Independent Film Exchange.
Bute's films include: "Synchromy" (1932 or 1933), "Rhythm in Light" (1934), "Synchromy No. 2" (1935), "Dada" (1936), "Parabola" (1937), "Escape" (1937), "Spook Sport" (1939), "Tarantella" (1940), "Polka Graph" (1947), "Color Rhapsody" (1948), "Imagination" (1948), "New Sensations in Sound" (1949), "Pastorale" (1950), "Abstronic" (1952), "Mood Contrasts" (1953), "The Boy Who Saw Through" (1956, producer), "Passages from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake" (1965-1967), and "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" (1977-1980, unfinished). Bute's projects also include two adaptations of plays: "Lazarus Laughed" by Eugene O'Neill and "Skin of Our Teeth" by Thornton Wilder (both unfinished).
In 1940 Bute married camera operator and painter Theodore (Ted) Nemeth and they collaborated on many of her projects. Ted Nemeth Studios focused on commercial films and Nemeth also handled the distribution of Bute's films. Bute and Nemeth had two sons: Theodore Jr. and James.
Social security cards of Theodore J. Nemeth, James House Bute Nemeth, Margo A. Lion, and Mary [Ellen Bute] Nemeth were discarded.
Portions of the collection were formerly Uncat.MS Vault.865 and Uncat.MS Vault.651.
Folder 402 in Box 27 is unused. The original audiocassette is in Box 35, folder 532.
- Adaptations (derivative objects)
- Animation (Cinematography)
- Bute, Mary Ellen
- Dockum, Charles
- Independent filmmakers
- Joyce, James, 1882-1941
- Motion picture producers and directors
- Motion pictures
- Nemeth, Ted, 1911-1986
- Sound recordings
- Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892
- Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975
- Women motion picture producers and directors
- Guide to the Mary Ellen Bute Papers
- by Lisa Conathan
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
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