The Catholic University of America

The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection

An inventory of the Walter and Jean Kerr Collection at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives


Contact Information:

Mailing Address: The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. 20064

Telephone: 202-319-5065

Email: lib-archives@cua.edu

URL: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/

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Descriptive Summary

Repository: The American Catholic Research Center and University Archives
Creator: Walter Kerr, 1913-1996 and Jean Kerr, 1922-2003
Title: The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection
Dates: 1942-2017
Extent: 4 linear feet; 3 boxes
Abstract: The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection compiles the accomplishments of the Kerrs and displays their passion for the theatre arts. The records include photos, awards, and ephemera concerning the work of Walter and Jean Kerr at The Catholic University of America and beyond.
Collection Number: 413
Language: English

Biographical Note

Walter Kerr, born in 1913 in Evanston, Illinois earned a B.A. and M.A. in Speech from Northwestern University. Following his education, Kerr became a professor of speech and drama at The Catholic University of America in 1939. He would go on to lecture at universities such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins in playwriting and directing. Kerr's criticism career started in 1949 with writing for the lay Catholic weekly publication, Commonweal. In 1951, after eleven years of teaching, directing, writing, and adapting plays for Catholic University's theatre, Kerr left academia. Kerr went on to become the theatre critic for the New York Herald Tribune until 1966 when the Herald ceased publication. In the same year, Kerr joined the New York Times as the Sunday theatre critic. In 1978 he received a Pulitzer Prize for his work. Following over thirty years of criticism, he retired in 1983. Kerr was honored in 1990, when Manhattan's restored Ritz Theatre was renamed the Walter Kerr Theatre.

Jean Kerr, a native to Scranton, Pennsylvania was born in 1922. In her hometown, she received a B.A. from Marywood College (now Marywood University) and a M.A. from The Catholic University of America. Kerr met her future husband and then-professor at Catholic University, Walter Kerr, while working as stage manager for a college production of "Romeo and Juliet." Kerr made a name for herself due to her wit and "unerring eye for life's everyday absurdities." Her first success beyond the theatre came with the 1957 publication of her best-selling "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" which was turned into a movie in 1960. From 1965 to 1967 it was brought to television. Jean Kerr's 1961 Broadway production of "Mary, Mary" packed the theatre during its run but received mixed reviews. It became "one of the longest-running productions of the decade. Its 1963 screen adaptation, was directed by Mervyn LeRoy with Debbie Reynolds and Barry Nelson. Meanwhile, the original show was still on Broadway, with more than 1,500 performances in all."

While independently successful, together Walter and Jean Kerr had a fruitful artistic and familial partnership. Their first collaboration in 1942, the musical comedy "Count Me In," opened at Catholic University and was produced in New York in 1942. Their Catholic University musical, "Sing Out, Sweet Land," was brought to Broadway in 1944. 1946 saw their Broadway debut as a team with "Song of Bernadette." At the age of 83 in 1996, Walter Kerr passed away in Dobbs Ferry, New York. In 2003, Jean Kerr passed away in White Plains, New York at the age of 80.

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Scope and Contents

The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection provides a multi-media representation of the careers, achievements, and interests of Walter and Jean Kerr. Included are audiovisual materials and publications. The collection delivers and overview of the careers of Walter and Jean Kerr. This includes items related to their relationship with The Catholic University of America and the stage. The collection consists of three series. Series one is compiled of the various awards and ephemera attained by the Kerr's from 1960-1989. Series two consists of audiovisual material - reel to reel tapes of both a professional and personal nature, vinyl records, and four photographs. The dates extend from about 1960 to 1973. Series three is arranged around publications, newspaper clippings, photocopies, and a framed letter from Adlai E. Stevenson to Jean Kerr in response to her letter of condolence for his loss to Dwight D. Eisenhower during the 1956 presidential election.

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Arrangement

The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection consists of three series:




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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

None

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Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

These documents came to The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives in 2017. Gil Kerr, son of Walter and Jean Kerr, donated this collection.

Processing Information

 

Processing and EAD markup completed in Fall 2017 by Morgan McKeon.

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Related Material

Rev. Gilbert Vincent Ferrer Hartke Collection

The Tower Archive Online

University Record Collections, Department of Drama

Walter and Jean Kerr Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society Archives

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Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.


Persons:
Kerr, Jean
Kerr, Walter
Stevenson, Adlai

Organizations:
The Catholic University of America

Places:
New York, New York
Washington, D.C.

Subjects:
Drama
Dramatic Criticism
Theatre


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Bibliography

Santo Pietro, Mary Jo. Father Hartke: His Life and Legacy to the American Theatre. Washington: The Catholic University Press, 2002.

Berkvist, Robert. 'Jean Kerr, Playwright and Author, Dies at 80.' The New York Times, Januray 7, 2003.

Viagas, Robert and Louis Botto. 'Pulizer-Winning Critic Walter Kerr Dies at 83.' Playbill. October 10, 1996.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

                       
Series 1: Awards and Ephemera, 1961-1989, Box 1
Includes various awards presented to Walter Kerr and Jean Kerr.
  Folder
  1 Ephemera, John F. Kennedy Inaugural Commemorative Medal, 1961
  Folder
  2 Awards, LOTOS Club, Award of Merit presented to Walter Kerr, April 6, 1961
  Folder
  3 Awards, George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism presented to Walter Kerr, 1962-63
  Folder
  4 Awards, Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame, jointly awarded to Walter and Jean Kerr with accompanying display case, 1971
  Folder
  5 Awards, Theatre Club Medal awarded to Jean Kerr for Finishing Touches, 1973
  Folder
  6 Awards, The National Institute of Social Sciences Gold Medal Award for distinguished service to humanity, presented to Jean Kerr, December 6, 1973
  Folder
  7 Awards, TOR Award for special inspiration, presented to Walter Kerr, 1976
  Folder
  8 Awards, Theatre Hall of Fame Scroll of Honor in recognition of outstanding contributions to the American theater, presented to Walter Kerr, 1983
  Folder
  9 Framed Award, Inscription from New York Area Alumni Drama Department The Catholic University of America - Presented in memory of Josephine McGarry Callan to Walter Kerr in recognition of his contribution to theatre, May 7, 1984
  Folder
  10 Awards, Deadline Club membership in the Deadline Club Hall of Fame to Walter Kerr, in recognition of distinguished contributions to American journalism, November 28, 1989
  Folder
  11 Awards, The Players, Walter Kerr, June 24, 1990
                       
Series 2: Audiovisual Materials: Reel to Reel Tapes, Vinyl Records, Photographs, c. 1960-1973, Box 2
  Folder
  1 Reel to Reel Tapes, Poor Richard Olney Theatre, Act I-II-III Speed 3 ¾, 1965
  Folder
  2 Reel to Reel Tapes, Old Home Records, n.d.
  Folder
  3 Reel to Reel Tapes, Sing Out Sweet Land, n.d.
  Folder
  4 Reel to Reel Tapes, Goldilocks - Gaynes, n.d.
  Folder
  5 Reel to Reel Tapes, Harrison/Wood - Speed 7 1/2 - Mon Dec 15, n.d.
  Folder
  6 Reel to Reel Tapes, Jan 26, 1972
  Folder
  7 Reel to Reel Tapes, Joan Ford in Collaboration with Jean Kerr, n.d.
  Folder
  8 Reel to Reel Tapes, Goldilocks Album 1, n.d.
  Folder
  9 Vinyl Records, Selections from the Theatre Guild Musical Play Sing Out, Sweet Land: - six record set featuring members of the original New York Production, n.d.
  Folder
  10 Vinyl Records, Record Album with Six Miscellaneous Musical records, n.d.
  Folder
  11 Framed Photo, Walter and Jean Kerr backstage with two actors, n.d.
  Folder
  12 Framed Photo, Walter Kerr, Helen Hayes, Bennett and Phyllis Cerf at Black Tie event, n.d.
  Folder
  13 Photograph, Framed photograph of Jean Kerr and Adlai Stevenson at Black Tie event, n.d.
  Folder
  14 Photograph, Green Room photos with Walter Kerr, as Director, speaking to cast of a play. One of the cast members is a young Jackie Coogan, n.d.
                       
Series 3: : Publications: Books, Correspondences, and Newspaper Clippings, 1942-2017, Box 3
  Folder
  1 Book, Moliere's "The Miser," Arranged and Adapted by Walter F. Kerr, 1942
  Folder
  2 Book, Aristophanes' "The Birds," An Acting Edition prepared by Walter Kerr, Catholic University Press, 1952
  Folder
  3 Book, Stardust: A Comedy in Three Acts by Walter Kerr, originally "presented under the title 'Art and Prejudice' at the Catholic University theatre; personal bound copy, 1946
  Folder
  4 Book, Franz Werfel's "The Song of Bernadette," A Play in Three Acts. Dramatized from the novel by Walter and Jean Kerr, 1947
  Folder
  5 Book, Sing Out, Sweet Land: A Musical Biography of American Song by Walter Kerr; personal bound copy; copyright 1944 by Walter Kerr "as an unpublished dramatic composition" and again in 1949 by Walter Kerr, 1949
  Folder
  6 Book, "Criticism and Censorship," An expanded version of the Gabriel Richard Lecture Kerr gave at Trinity College, 1954
  Folder
  7 Framed Letter, Adlai Stevenson to Jean Kerr, dated December 18, 1956
  Folder
  8 Newspaper Clipping, Time Magazine, 1978
  Folder
  9 Newspaper Clipping, The New York Times, 1980
  Folder
  10 Newspaper Clipping, The New York Times, 1982
  Folder
  11 Photocopy, The New York Times, 2003
  Folder
  12 Photocopy, ABC News, 2003
  Folder
  13 Photocopy, CUA Magazine, Spring 2003
  Folder
  14 Photocopy, n.d.
  Folder
  15 Document, Email correspondence with Gil Kerr, 2017

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Administrative Information

Related Material

Index Terms

Bibliography

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Awards and Ephemera, 1961-1989, Box 1

Series 2: Audiovisual Materials: Reel to Reel Tapes, Vinyl Records, Photographs, c. 1960-1973, Box 2

Series 3: : Publications: Books, Correspondences, and Newspaper Clippings, 1942-2017, Box 3

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