Scope and arrangement
The Robert Benney Collection includes photographs, clippings, posters, playbills, and ephemera relating to his career as an illustrator of the stars of stage and screen.
The bulk of the material spans 1926 to 1947. The photographs and clippings are mostly portraits of actors and actresses in the costumes they wore for New York City theater productions. However, the collection does include photos and clippings depicting entire production scenes, musicians, radio personalities, comedians and dancers. The collection also has a small amount of photos and clippings representing the films of that time period. Additionally, the collection includes items from the 1978 exhibition of Benney's theatrical sketches at the Library and Museum of the Performing Arts, the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center.
The Robert Benney research materials are arranged in six series:
Research Files include the photographs that Benney used to help him sketch theater productions, and stage actors and actresses. The files contain roughly 1500 black and white photographs. Most of the photographs are 8"x 10", but some are over-sized. The files keep to Benney's original organization. They are arranged alphabetically by production title. Within the alphabetically structure, some files were created specifically for choreographers, directors, magicians, musicians, playwrights and producers. These files exist under their corresponding letter. Under most letters, Benney had created miscellaneous folders containing various photographs of actors and actresses with last names corresponding with that letter section. This organizational structure was kept for the collection. Notable stars seen in the research files include Al Jolson, Alfred Lunt, Barbara Stanwyck, Bela Lugosi, Brian Ahern, Dorothy Gish, Eartha Kit, Eddie Cantor, Ethel Barrymore, Eugene O'Neill, Eva Le Gallienne, Gloria Swanson, Helen Hayes, Jimmy Durante, John Barrymore, Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, Lynn Fontanne, Margalo Gilmore, Paul Robeson, Sergei Rachmaninoff. Notable productions represented in the research files include: Arsenic and Old Lace, Mary of Scotland, Tobacco Road, Grand Hotel, Vaudeville, Dracula. There is also information regarding radio stations WNBC, WEAF, WJZ.
- 1926-19471 box
These flyers, playbills and programs gave Benney some background information on a few of the productions.
- 1926-19473 boxes
Clippings include Benney's drawings of theater productions and stage, screen and radio performers found in magazine and newspapers of that time. They are organized alphabetically by production title. Within the alphabetical structure, Benney and his assistants had created some files specifically for choreographers, directors, magicians, musicians, playwrights and producers. This arrangement was kept and these files exist under their corresponding letter.
- 1926-19471 box
Scrapbooks of clippings created by Benney and his assistants. Two of the scrapbooks were blue and one brown. Clippings were removed and rehoused due to the poor condition of the scrapbooks. The clippings are arranged according to how they were found in each scrapbook.
- 1926-19782 boxes
Career and Exhibitions include posters, invitations, a guest book and clippings. The posters, invitations and guest book pertain to the exhibition of Benney's theater drawings at The Library and Museum of the Performing Arts, the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center displayed at the Amsterdam Gallery between May 3, 1978 and June 19, 1978. The clippings refer to some highlights in his career, some of the exhibitions of his works being mentioned in these articles.
- 1 box
Two movie posters for the Warner Brothers' production of The Life of Emile Zola contain Robert Benney's sketch of Paul Muni. The posters are identical expect one is a reverse image.