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Gish Film Theater Collection - MS 741

Gish Film Theater Collection:
Jean Arthur Papers

 Record Group Four: Jean Arthur Papers

The Jean Arthur Papers include scrapbooks, correspondence, news clippings, photographs, publications, tape recordings, and family papers. The bulk of the papers date from the 1930s to 1991.

Jean Arthur was born Gladys Greene in New York in 1900. On leaving school at 15, she became a photographer's and artist's model until, through the assistance of Norma Shearer, she did a film test and began working for 20th Century Fox. She appeared in mediocre westerns, thrillers and adventure silent films. She successfully made the transition into the talkies with her cracked and husky voice. Her movies and parts, though, continued to be mediocre, so in 1932 she left Hollywood for the New York stage. Returning to Hollywood, she finally received a lead in the comedy thriller, The Whole Town's Talking, (1935) with Edward G. Robinson that showed her true acting potential. This was followed by The Plainsman (1936). Her contract with Columbia Pictures allowed her approval over script and direction which usually ended up in interminable quarrels. Nevertheless, she went on to star in three classic Frank Capra movies, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936),You Can't Take It With You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). She also starred in such other classics as Easy Living (1937), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), The Talk of the Town (1942), and The More the Merrier (1943). On the day her contract with Columbia was over, she was overjoyed and turned away from acting. She studied philosophy, anthropology, and sociology. In 1945 she appeared in the stage version of Born Yesterday but did not complete the tour. Paramount Pictures returned her to Hollywood in 1948 to star in the movie A Foreign Affair.

In 1950, Arthur played Peter Pan on Broadway and won critical acclaim for her performances. She completed her last movie, Shane, in 1953. She starred in her own television show in 1966 which did not last beyond the season. Her last role was in the play The First Sunday in October (1975) with Henry Fonda, although she quickly gave up the role. She continued to receive film offers during the 1970s but was never tempted to work in films or stage again. Her film career, however, had spanned three decades and produced over seventy films. She taught drama at Vassar and at the North Carolina School of the Arts, but her last years were spent as a recluse in her home in Carmel, California. She died June 19, 1991. She had been married twice, to Julian Anker, a photographer, in 1928, and to Frank Ross, a producer, in 1932. Both marriages ended in divorce and there were no children.

Her Papers consist of two separate collections; one donated by Ralph Wolfe and the other by John Oller who wrote her biography Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew (1997). The first collection is comprised of correspondence, photographs, articles, promotional materials, newsclippings and scrapbooks. The correspondence includes some personal letters and correspondence from Bowling Green State University regarding her honorary degree, which was awarded to her in 1988. The articles include two about Jean Arthur and her career in Film Comment and Journal of Popular Film and Television. The promotional material includes programs about Jean Arthur's films shown at the Gish Film Theater and a poster about her film, The Talk of the Town. The newsclippings are about her films, her role as Peter Pan, and her death. The photographs are mostly publicity prints of Jean Arthur posed and in some of her roles. The scrapbooks contain photographs, programs and newsclippings from such movies as Talk of the Town, and A Lady Takes A Chance. Her Broadway role as Peter Pan is also the subject of some of the scrapbooks. One scrapbook documents her childhood, her father's paintings, and her home at Carmel by the Sea.

The second collection is that donated by John Oller which includes material he collected while researching and writing his biography of Jean Arthur. The collection consists of newspaper articles, photographs, correspondence and some family history, as well as audio cassettes of radio theater productions starring Arthur. Please note that if this collection is used in any research, it should be cited as the John Oller-Jean Arthur Collection.

Record Group Four: Jean Arthur Papers--Inventory

Jean Arthur Papers: Box 1


  1. Correspondence to Jean Arthur, 1952, 1985-1987, n.d.
  2. Correspondence, Ellen Mastroianni and Ralph Wolfe, 1986-1996; 2 Christmas cards from J. Arthur
  3. Articles: Picturegoer/Film Weekly, March 22, 1941
    Journal of Popular Film and Television, Spring 1989
    Film Comment, March/April 1996
    TV and Radio Movie Guide, 1967
  4. Programs-Jean Arthur programs at Gish Film Theater, 1987, 1991, 1997
  5. Newsclippings-biographical and career information 1970s-1980s, n.d.
  6. Newsclippings-Peter Pan, c. 1950
  7. Newsclippings-obituaries and notices of death, 1991
  8. Newsclippings-Gish Film Theater events regarding Jean Arthur, 1987-1997; Jerome Library exhibit photograph, ca. 1991
  9. Theater Promotion Card: The Talk of the Town 1942
  10. Photographs (18) including publicity shots, as Peter Pan, in The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, in Too Many Husbands, c. 1930s-1950s
  11. Jean Arthur family scrapbook

Jean Arthur Papers (John Oller Collection): Box 2


  1. Family History File-includes birth, marriage and death certificates for Jean and family members, Jean's will, and court cases (all copies) 1898-1991
  2. Correspondence-includes copies of letters written by or to Jean to or from other family members, 1930-1957
  3. Photographs-Family members, 1900-1930s
  4. Photographs-Jean as child and as adult, 1910s-1980
  5. Photographs-Publicity photos of Jean, late 1920s-1940s
  6. Photographs-Movie and publicity photos of Jean, 1920s-1940s
  7. Book-Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew signed by author, John Oller 1997
  8. Audio cassette-Lux Radio Theatre, Feb. 1, 1937
  9. Audio cassette-The Plainsman, May 31, 1937
  10. Audio cassette-Lux Radio Theatre, May 29, 1939
  11. Audio cassette-Texaco Star Theatre, June 7, 1942
  12. Audio cassette-Peter Pan, c. 1950

Jean Arthur Papers: Oversize


  1. Leather covered with initials J.A.
    • A Lady Takes A Chance-photographs, 1943
    • A Lady Takes A Chance-photographs, 1943
    • Talk of the Town-photographs, 1942
  2. Brown Scrapbook-Photographs of Jean as Peter Pan, newsclippings and programs, 1950-1951
  3. Large black scrapbook-Photographs from movies and Peter Pan, newsclippings, letter, 1930s-1970s
  4. Small black scrapbook-Photographs from movies, some authographed, photographs of her house at Carmel by the Sea, newsclippings, 1940s-1970s
  5. Framed Photograph of Jean Arthur-signed to Bowling Green from Jean, 1987
  6. Lobby Card-Arizona
  7. Promotional Literature-"Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"-includes dialogue from movie, pictures, description of the characters, 1939
  8. Promotional Literature-"The Plainsman", 1946

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