Scope and arrangement
Primarily documenting the career of theater and television producer Alexander H. Cohen, the papers consist of correspondence, contracts, financial records, office files, photographs, slides, scrapbooks, programs, scripts, datebooks, publicity material, clippings, production materials, scores, writings, posters, floor plans, and costume designs. There are also a number of personal papers, as well as some materials by and about Cohen's wife and professional partner, Hildy Parks, a writer, producer, and actress. They are perhaps best known for producing the Tony Awards telecasts from 1967 to 1986 and for presenting the three Night of 100 Stars telecasts (1982, 1985, and 1990).
The papers are especially rich in contracts and financial papers for Cohen's theatrical and television ventures, both produced and unproduced, most especially from the 1950s through his final production, Waiting in the Wings by Noel Coward (1999). However, several of the scrapbooks and a number of photos document Cohen's earliest theater productions from the 1940s. Although Cohen's theatrical ventures in America form the bulk of the collection, his London productions are also represented in the papers.
Cohen's hands-on approach to producing is reflected in his correspondence with playwrights, actors, and investors, as well as in script and casting notes. His flair for marketing and promotion is evident throughout the papers, especially for productions such as Baker Street (1965) and Accomplice(1990), and in numerous joint ventures with corporate sponsors, such as American Express and Mumm Champagne. Papers relating to lawsuits in which Cohen was a party can also be found throughout the collection.
Theater productions comprise a large part of the collection, but Cohen's television projects, such as the Tony Awards and the three Night of 100 Stars specials, are also well documented. Other projects and events, such as Cohen's management of the O'Keefe Centre in Toronto, and several other theaters, can also be found in the collection.
The office files and other project files encompass Cohen's myriad activities, including his subsidiary companies such as Bentwood Television and Theatre Tours, as well as his work for the Actors' Fund of America. The collection provides a window on the work of one of the last of the 20th Century's individual producers.
The Alexander H. Cohen papers are arranged in seven series:
- ca. 1938 - 2001, Undated
This series consists mostly of financial and legal papers, but also includes correspondence, a number of scripts, programs, publicity and production materials, and ephemera for many of Cohen's more than 100 theater and television presentations. His earliest theater productions (from the 1940s) are documented in other series in the papers, such as Photographs and Scrapbooks. Television production files date from Cohen's first Tony Awards telecast in 1967 through Night of 100 Stars III in 1990. Additional related financial and legal papers can be found in the Loose Financial Records series and in the Subsidiaries files of the Office Files series.
- Sub-series 1: Theater, ca. 1938 - 1990
- Sub-series 2: Television, 1957 - 2000 and Undated
- 1880, 1936 - 2003, Undated
This series consists of correspondence, scripts, contracts, financial papers, and production materials principally for theater and television projects either unproduced, or not produced by Cohen. However, it also encompasses events both inside and outside of the entertainment realm, in which Cohen was involved, and companies and organizations with which he worked.
- 1962 - 2000
This series contains the records for Cohen's subsidiary companies, through which he did business, his individual and joint (with Hildy Parks) business accounts and files, and general office files, which contain correspondence and financial papers. There is also a small number of personal papers for Cohen and his family. Additional financial items for Cohen and the subsidiaries can be found in the Loose Financial Records series.
- 1955 - 2000
This series contains monthly bank statements, checks and check stubs, deposit slips, and several ledgers for theater and television productions, corporate, tax, manager, and office accounts. There are also weekly theater settlement envelopes containing receipts and some box office statements for stage productions. Of particular note are the Beyond the Fringe weekly settlements that include receipts for $5.00 for tea (and sometimes cookies) backstage.
- ca. 1920s - 1999, Undated
This series is comprised of photographs, negatives, contacts sheets, and slides mostly of personalities, but also for stage and television productions. There are also some personal photographs of Cohen and his family, as well as a few for other projects on which he worked. Additional photographs can be found in the Oversized and Scrapbooks series.
- 1941 - 1986
This series consists of scrapbooks primarily filled with clippings, but several scrapbooks also contain a few photos, programs, and publicity materials on Cohen himself, his family, and his productions. The scrapbooks provide the most complete documentation in the collection of Cohen's early career and life in the 1940s and early 1950s, including the Red Barn Theatre he ran in Locust Valley, Long Island in 1941. They are also almost the only documentation in the papers for Cohen's organization of the First American Congress of Theatre (1974) and his attempt to convene the U.S. Bicentennial World Theatre Festival in 1975. Clippings on Cohen's work in "bringing Broadway to Baltimore" at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore can also be found in the scrapbooks. The Tony Awards and Night of 100 Stars I and II are especially well documented. The Baker Street scrapbook contains a small vinyl recording, from Show magazine, of Richard Burton performing "A Married Man," a song from the musical. Of particular interest are the clippings in the Beyond the Fringe (New York) scrapbook documenting the February 9, 1963 visit to the John Golden Theatre by President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, where they received a standing ovation, delaying the curtain by eight-minutes.
- 1923 - 1998, Undated
This series contains souvenir programs, music scores, financial records, photographs, window cards, clipping enlargements, several costume designs, and awards given to Hildy Parks. The souvenir programs are from a number of Cohen's stage productions, such as Hamlet (1964), Hellzapoppin '67, and a program mockup for the Broadway-bound Hellzapoppin starring Jerry Lewis. The scores include conductor scores and instrumental parts for several of Cohen's theater and television productions, including A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine(1980), Hellzapoppin '67 (1967) La Tragedie de Carmen (1983), and Night of 100 Stars III (1990).
Financial papers include ledger books and sheets, and payroll sheets, both for productions and for Cohen's subsidiaries Bentwood Television, Inc., Playgoers Club, Inc., and Theatrical Subsidiaries, Inc. There are also stock certificates for the latter two companies. (Some financial material is restricted because it contains personal information.)
Photographs are both loose and in albums. Tony Awards albums contain photos of the awards show and rehearsals, as well as related events such as the nominations luncheon. The La Tragedie de Carmen albums also include performance and rehearsal photos. Of particular note are the group photos of stars onstage for both Night of 100 Stars (1982) and CBS: On the Air (1978). The window cards are mostly for Cohen's productions, including some London shows otherwise undocumented in the collection, such as His Hers & Theirs by Hugh and Margaret Williams (1969) and Overheard by Peter Ustinov (1981), but also include several for productions by others.
There also two costume designs by Alvin Colt, one from Waiting in the Wings(1999), the other from Night of 100 Stars (1982); both are inscribed to Hildy Parks. There are also two citations for Parks, including one from the Actors' Fund for writing and producing the first two Night of 100 Stars programs; the other is the Proclamation, by the Manhattan Borough President, of Hildy Parks Day, March 12, 1996.