Scope and arrangement
The Roman Bohnen papers are primarily made up of family, personal, and professional correspondence and scrapbooks of clippings, reviews, programs, and photographs. The collection documents Bohnen's career including early theatrical experiences, his life as a New York actor and member of the Group Theatre, his motion picture years, and the establishment of The Actors' Lab. The correspondence between him and his brother Arthur is rich in personal information about family relationships. A small but touching amount of ephemera exists as well as Bohnen's notes for meetings, productions, and articles and an original copy of Incubator. The papers span the years 1919-1976 with the emphasis on 1922-1949. Arthur Bohnen's account of his brother's life is included.
The Roman Bohnen papers are arranged in six series:
- 1921-19762 boxes
The bulk of the material in this series is between Bohnen and his brother Arthur. They remained close throughout their lives. Their letters, arranged chronologically, are filled with warmth, regard, and humor and chronicle family events, the peripatetic life of an actor, and Bohnen's creative thinking. Other family correspondence includes letters to and from his parents and his sister and one folder of letters from Hildur to various family members.
Three folders are devoted to the aftermath of Bohnen's death and putting his affairs in order. The information regarding the custody hearing for his daughter includes two letters from Ruth Nelson. Copies of letters Arthur wrote to a few of Bud's colleagues hoping for information for a biography he was preparing are also included.
- 1918-194912 folders
This series is arranged alphabetically and includes letters from friends, colleagues, and distant family. Among well-known correspondents are: Walter Fried (2), Whitford Kane (3), Elia Kazan (1), Sanford Meisner (1), Arthur Miller (1), Lewis Milestone(1), Ruth Nelson (1), and Harry Truman (1). A few folders are arranged by production and may include notes, correspondence, opening night telegrams, or contracts. Most of the letters in this series exist only in photocopy as the originals were badly damaged.
- 1931-19415 folders
This series includes an original typescript of Incubator with a note from Bohnen to his brother attached to the title page and two rough pencil sketches of set floor plans; a folder of notes and other items pertaining to the Group Theatre; a notebook which appears to be thoughts on an Actors' Lab production of Paradise Lost and another which may be notes for the Group production of The Gentle People; Bohnen's poems and skits and a piece from his play Gala Moment. Actors' Lab notes include rough drafts of articles by Bohnen and a press statement about the Tenney hearings.
- 19761 folder
Arthur Bohnen began a biography of Roman in 1976 and included photocopies of pertinent letters, poems, and articles. This biographical account is a complete source of events and dates.
- 1 folder
Among the items in this series are a note to Clifford Odets from Marina Bohnen (he was her godfather), family Christmas poems, Goodman Theatre First-Night Club receipts, programs from high school and college productions, and unidentified notes.
- 1919-19495 boxes
There are five scrapbooks in this series. The first one was entirely made up of photographs and was disassembled for preservation purposes. The movie stills were taken out of the collection and added to the Theatre Collection Photo Files (see attached sheet). The remaining scrapbooks are intact and document, through clippings and programs, Bohnen's entire career from high school productions to his years in Hollywood.