Scope and arrangement
The Frederick Brisson Papers include correspondence, memos, production files, financial records, project files, office files, personal papers, scripts, clippings, photographs, and ephemera relating to the life and career of Frederick Brisson.
The papers document the later part of Frederick Brisson's career as a theatrical and film producer. The bulk of the papers relate to Brisson's work after 1965, although small files exist for some of his earlier productions. His papers include information on his research and subsequent choice of properties, and the work involved in finding investors. The production files account for more than half of the collection. They reflect Brisson's involvement in the financial and creative aspects of production and include correspondence with actors, playwrights, and investors. In addition to the correspondence, Brisson's notes provide details of informal discussions and meetings, and include ideas that Brisson and his staff generated during the course of preparing a production for the stage. Project files also form a significant part of the collection. They contain scripts correspondence, reports from various readers and Brisson's notes.
Personal papers include information relating to Brisson's immigration and naturalization in the 1930's and his military service during World War II. Rosalind Russell's papers include some correspondence, miscellaneous items and a typescript of her autobiography Life is a Banquet, which was published posthumously.
The Frederick Brisson papers are arranged in eight series:
- 1954-198330 boxes
Production files include both stage and film productions and contain scripts, correspondence, contracts, programs, casting information, investors' files, clippings, publicity and advertising files, financial records, and notes. Some light plots, stage set and costume design files may be found in Series VIII, Oversize Material. Mr. Brisson's early productions are not well documented, but include small files on The Pajama Game (1954), Damn Yankees (1955), The Gazebo (1958), The Pleasure of His Company (1958), and Five Finger Exercise (1959). These papers generally relate to financing of the productions and include letters to and lists of investors. The Gazebo and The Pleasure of His Company were co-produced by the Playwright's Company. Among the better documented productions are Coco, Dance a Little Closer, The Flip Side, Mixed Couples, and So Long, 174th Street. Of these, only Coco was successful.
Brisson's pursuit of Coco Chanel's story began in the 1950s, but it would be almost fifteen years before the production reached Broadway in 1969. The files (1955-1979) document the years of negotiations with Chanel and her representatives, the delays as Alan Jay Lerner completed other projects, and the changes in composers and writers and proposed cast through the years. The files include correspondence with Alan Jay Lerner and Katharine Hepburn, and copies of letters from Cecil Beaton. The series also includes files that will not be available to the public until 2051. These are predominantly financial records that list social security numbers. In addition several letters are closed because of their subject matter.
- 13 boxes
Project files contain scripts, correspondence, story reports, programs, notes, clippings, and miscellaneous papers relating to theatrical properties under consideration by Brisson. Project files document the scope of Brisson's work as he and his staff evaluated scripts and story ideas. The files are organized in the following sub-series: Projects A-Z; Story Reports, Miscellaneous, and Correspondence/Submitted Scripts.
- 1954-19842 boxes
Office files include correspondence, lists, printed matter and general information, arranged by subject, and not related to any one production. Some subject areas include press, publicity, investors, staff, League of New York Theatres and Producers, clippings, and literary agents.
Correspondence files include letters to and from Brisson, reflecting his every day affairs, and covering a broad range of topics. Correspondence is divided in two subseries: General Correspondence and Correspondence - Individuals.
- ca. 1934-198016 folders
Personal papers include files relating to Brisson's citizenship and naturalization, his military service, his parents (Carl and Cleo Brisson), personal documents, and a few miscellaneous items.
- 1948-198321 folders
Rosalind Russell's papers include correspondence, telegrams received at various openings, biographical information miscellany, clippings and a typescript copy of her autobiography: Life is a Banquet. Ephemera, which has been transferred to the T-cabinet in the Theatre collection, includes two awards, a printer's block for fliers for Auntie Mame, an unfinished gown. The correspondence includes letters from family members, and also a letter from Laurence Olivier and one from Van Johnson. Please note that letters addressed to both Miss Russell and Frederick Brisson are filed with Brisson's correspondence.
- ca. 1948-19833 boxes
Photographs include production photos, project photographs, photographs of Rosalind Russell, a few family photographs and miscellaneous photos. The earliest photographs are production stills for the film The Velvet Touch, starring Rosalind Russell. There is an extensive group of production photographs for Twigs, some shot by Martha Swope. Also included is a series of publicity photos shot at Chanel's atelier in Paris in preparation for Coco. These pictures include Frederick Brisson, Coco Chanel, Alan Jay Lerner, André Previn, and some members of Chanel's staff. A few early photographs of Chanel are also included. Dance A Little Closer, The Girl Rush, Jumpers, Mixed Couples, Mrs. Pollifax - Spy, The Pleasure of His Company, So Long, 174th Street, and Under the Yum Yum Tree are among the other productions represented in this series.
Project photos include production shots from the English musical Passion Flower Hotel, and the Danish show, Vidunderlige Kælling. For his work on a musical based on the life of Aimee Semple McPherson, Brisson collected over 150 negatives relating to her life and work. The source of these negatives is unknown. The photographs of Miss Russell include prints and negatives of publicity shots.
- 1 box
Oversized materials include set sketches and elevations, costume sketches, light plots, posters, theater seating charts and other miscellaneous production materials. The files include one original costume sketch by Stanley Simmons for So Long, 174th Street, and original drawings by Tom Morrow for the opening credits of Mrs. Pollifax-Spy.