Scope and arrangement
The Avery Willard Photographs consist primarily of prints, proofs, contact sheets, negatives, oversized prints, and slides, spanning Willard’s professional photography career. Most of the photos were taken from the late 1940s to the 1960s, and cover a range of subjects. Almost all of the images are in black and white, but a small number are in color. Negatives and contact sheets are more numerous than prints.
Studio portraits of both aspiring and famous actors and actresses constitute the bulk of the collection, although other performing arts personalities can also be found. Among the portraits are a number of nudes, mostly male. There are also numerous images of rehearsal and studio photos of theatrical productions, especially for Off-Broadway. Avery Willard’s commercial work is also represented, particularly his work for Emmons Jewelry and School of the Performing Arts.
Personal material contains some photos of family, many with friends, portraits of Willard, and a scrapbook of photos from the 1940s. Avery Willard’s numerous negatives of motion picture stills, as well as autographed celebrity photographs, are also included. A small representation of personal papers contains correspondence, writings by Willard, a few family papers, some miscellaneous papers, such as business cards, publicity materials, and ephemera.
The Avery Willard photographs are arranged in five series:
- Undated43 boxes
The largest in the collection, this series contains mostly black and white proofs, contact sheets, and negatives, with a small number of color prints, negatives, and slides, of studio portraits of actors, actresses, musicians, dancers, and other figures ranging from the unknown to the most famous. There are early photos of Bea Arthur, Charlton Heston, Lee Grant, Kim Hunter, Paul Lynde, and Patrick O’Neal, to name a few. In some instances, Willard did montage prints combining various photos of the subject, including one of WNEW disc jockeys Gene Rayburn and Dee Finch with Avery Willard’s cat, Bobby.
Among the notable personalities Willard photographed are: Harold Arlen, Richard Burton, Pablo Casals, Carol Channing, Montgomery Clift, Vernon Duke, Maurice Evans, Hermione Gingold, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Libby Holman, Zizi Jeanmaire, Louis Jourdan, Lotte Lenya, Jayne Mansfield, Gian Carlo Menotti, Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Roland Petit, Marie Powers, Anthony Quinn, Ted Shawn, Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, and Gwen Verdon.
Many of the portraits were taken for Emmons Jewelry in the 1960s. Personalities who posed for Emmons include celebrities of the period, such as Phil Ford and Mimi Hines, Jill Haworth, Sheree North, Enzo Stuarti, and Monique Van Vooren.
African-American performers can also be found, including Ruth Brown, Vinnette Carroll, Buck Clayton, Nat King Cole, Delta Rhythm Boys, Earle Hyman, Helen Humes, Cissy Houston, Rosetta Le Noire, Claudia McNeil, Butterfly McQueen, Helen Martin, Mabel Mercer, Josephine Premice, Pearl Primus, Bobby Short, Maxine Sullivan, Clarice Taylor, Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, and Teddy Wilson.
Writers photographed include Polly Adler, author of A House Is Not a Home, Michael Gazzo, Carson McCullers, Ogden Nash, William Saroyan, Paul Shyre, and others.
There are several weddings and parties in this series, such as the Rosemary Harris-Ellis Rabb wedding in 1959 and a 1962 birthday party for Susan Loesser, Frank Loesser’s daughter.
Also included in this series are negatives made by Avery Willard of publicity photos of many Hollywood film stars such as Alan Ladd, Myrna Loy, George O’Brien, Robert Stack, Rudolph Valentino, and Mae West. Additional portraits can be found in the Oversized Personalities series, as well as in some of the studio photos in the Productions series.
- 195116 boxes
This series contains mostly black and white contact sheets, negatives, prints (some montages), and slides for theatrical productions, mostly Off-Broadway, photographed by Willard.
Because most of the productions Avery Willard photographed were Off-Broadway, many productions featured up-and-coming stars, such as Robert Culp in He Who Gets Slappedby Leonid Andreyev, Actor’s Playhouse (1956), Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd in Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams, Gramercy Arts Theatre (1960), Colleen Dewhurst in an early Joseph Papp production of The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (1956), Olympia Dukakis in A Man’s a Manby Bertolt Brecht, Masque Theatre (1962), Joel Grey, Tammy Grimes, and Charlotte Rae in The Littlest Revue by Ben Bagley, Phoenix Theatre (1956), James Earl Jones and Colleen Dewhurst in The Eagle Has Two Heads by Jean Cocteau, Actor’s Playhouse (1956), James Earl Jones in Bohikee Creek by Robert Unger, Stage 73 (1966), and Barbra Streisand, Diana Sands, and Dom DeLuise in Another Evening with Harry Stoonesby Jeff Harris, Gramercy Arts Theatre (1961).
For the ANTA Matinee Series at the Theatre de Lys, from 1957 to 1964, Willard photographed about fifty productions, among them Come to the Palace of Sin by Michael Shurtleff with John Cullum, Gene Hackman, Marian Mercer, and Estelle Parsons, I Rise in Flames, Cried the Phoenixby Tennessee Williams (1959), Roxie Roker and Billy Dee Williams in Look at Any Man by Harding Lemay (1963), Maidens and Mistresses at Home in the Zooby Meade Roberts (1958), and The Moon Shines on Kylenamoe and Figuro in the Night by Sean O’Casey (1962).
There are also studio and publicity photographs of cast members for a number of Broadway productions, including Dial "M" for Murderby Frederick Knott (1953 and 1955), The Immoralist by Ruth and Augustus Goetz (1954), Mid-Summer by Vina Delmar (1953), and The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams (1951). Several Broadway show openings are also in the collection.
A number of productions of African-American plays and Yiddish theater productions are also documented, as are industrial shows, and out of town productions, such as the White Barn Theatre in Westport, Connecticut. Notes and lists regarding photo orders are also found in the folders. Dance and opera productions are arranged alphabetically at the end of the series. Additional Production studio photos may be found in the Oversized series.
- Undated4.25 boxes
This series documents the institutions, businesses, objects, pets, places, and events Avery Willard photographed, principally as commercial work. It contains contact sheets, negatives, some prints, and a few slides, almost exclusively in black and white.
- Sub-series 1: Organizations, 1955 - 1971
- Sub-series 2: School of Performing Arts, 1957 - 1971
- Sub-series 3: General, 1946 - 1984 and Undated
- Undated3.25 boxes
This series consists largely of contact sheets, negatives, proofs, and slides for photographs of Avery Willard, his parents and friends, his professional and personal interests, as well as photographs belonging to him. There are some personal papers, including correspondence, family papers, and ephemera.
- Sub-series 1: Photographs, 1924 - 1971 and Undated
- Sub-series 2: Papers, 1919 - 1993 and Undated
- Undated9 boxes (12 x 15)
The oversized materials consist of black and white prints of personalities, productions, subjects, and personal materials. There is also one magazine, Envoy (Winter 1962), that contains a piece on Manhattan displaying Avery Willard’s photographs.
- Sub-series 1: Personalities, 1947 - 1968 and Undated
- Sub-series 2: Productions, 1948 - 1965 and Undated
- Sub-series 3: Subjects, 1952 - ca. 1960 and Undated
- Sub-series 4: Personal Materials, 1940 - 1962 and Undated