Scope and arrangement
The Ferenc Molnár papers contain material ranging from 1927 to 1952. The collection consists of scripts (in various forms of revision), business correspondence, a Molnár short story and novel, a sampling of Molnár’s non-fiction articles, extensive notes and drafts of his autobiography, reviews and notices of his theatrical productions, as well as programs and publicity photographs of Molnár. Highlights include a short article by Billy Rose on meeting Molnár in Budapest before the second World War, and photographs of Molnár by Carl Van Vechten and Irving Penn, as well as production photos of Molnár working on Liliom with Ingrid Bergman. Collection strengths include the various drafts of scripts and early synopses, which shed light on Molnár’s editing process; and, many uncollected early feuilletons which Molnár produced for European papers and which give an idea of the early 20th century cultural climate there. Missing from the collection is personal correspondence aside from that of a business nature, and a greater sampling of novels, short stories, and theater programs.
The Ferenc Molnár papers are arranged in five series:
- 1943-19527 folders
The correspondence series is relatively small in that it includes material from just four of Molnár’s acquaintances. The correspondence is of a business nature. Included are letters to and from Molnár’s agents, namely Franz Horch, Molnár’s New York representative who also arranged overseas contracts and negotiated legalities surrounding royalties on Molnár’s works. Other agents who Molnár worked with at one time or another include Ervin Rendes, a friend from Budapest; M. Kantorowitz, a Swiss theater promoter; and Edmund Pauker, a Broadway theater promoter in New York. There are no personal letters in this collection.
- 1931-19474 folders
This series includes material devoted to Molnár’s life and work that appeared in publications separate from written accounts and reviews of his theater productions. Included is a profile that appeared in the Bulletin of the American Women’s Club of Paris, and a chapter devoted to Molnár in a book of drama criticism titled Hungarian Playwrights in New York. Notable is an in-depth, three-part piece published in The New Yorker during June 1946, dedicated entirely to Molnár. Also included are two biographical sketches apparently produced as material for publicity and/or press-listings. For the donatation to NYPL of his material that he bequeathed to his secretary, Wanda Bartha (whom he outlived), Molnár created a special scrapbook. The scrapbook included death notices of, and front matter dedication to Bartha, among other clippings.
- 1927-195014 boxes (5.9 linear feet)
The majority of the collection is comprised of working drafts and translations of scripts from 1927 to 1950. There are many early drafts of scripts and the extent to which Molnár reworked scenes and wrote variations on dialogue and stage directions is evidenced in the multiple copies of certain titles. In addition to the working scripts there are a handful of synopses, further evidence of the stages of growth the plays underwent. Since Molnár manually wrote out an equal amount of this material to what he typed, “manuscript” refers specifically to handwritten pieces as opposed to the ones he typed, which are referred to as “typescript”. “Carbons” refer to the simultaneous copy made from the written or typed original. “Clean” refers to the amount of revision, “clean” or “mostly clean” meaning less revisions. Many of the plays also exist in two or more languages: English, German, or Hungarian. It was not unusual for Molnár to originate a play in one language and to have it translated into another while continuing to revise it in both.
- 1928-19494 folders
Before emigrating to the US Molnár wrote feuilletons for Hungarian newspapers. These unique and uncollected pieces prove to be an important barometer of the cultural climate on the Continent before, during and after WW I. Several of these articles from German, Hungarian and English papers are found here. This series also includes a short story “The Blue-Eyed Lady in the Show Window” which appeared in The Commonweal magazine and was eventually published as a children’s book. Notes on the drafts show that Molnár envisioned the story in such a way as to also appear as a short film though it was never produced. Though Molnár wrote several novels in addition to his many plays, there exists only one, Eine Herbstriese, as a working draft in this collection. Towards the end of his life he began work on his autobiography, which is a combination of stories and reminiscences, from his own life and those of his close friends, relayed not in a chronological linearity but in episodic anecdotes. This series holds many drafts of these episodes. The “autobiography” Companion in Exile, however turns out to be much more a devotional remembrance and autumnal paean to his secretary Wanda Bartha, cleverly filtering experiences through others, and installing himself as observer as opposed to main star.
- 1927-194712 folders
The material included here is divided into three sub-series: Clippings, Photography, and Production Materials. These series contain the outstanding remains of the collection which are related to the works and their productions but usually tell about them from another angle, or position.