Phyllis Schuyler Thaxter Collection, 1890-1987

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Volume: 3 linear feet

Organization/Arrangement: Organized as a single series.

Biographical Note:
Marie Phyllis Schuyler Thaxter of Portland was a classically trained actor who performed on Broadway and in regional theaters in Maine from the 1920s-1940s. A highlight of her career was her 1923 role as “Elvira” in Booth Tarkington’s then new play, “Magnolia.” The comedy opened in Atlantic City at the Apollo Theatre and then ran on Broadway at the Liberty.

Thaxter had married Maine Supreme Court Justice Sidney St. Felix Thaxter in 1913, and in the early thirties she shifted her acting focus to the greater Portland area and became involved in the promotion of regional theater as well, serving as president of the Portland Players, whose South Portland theater now bears her name.

In addition to her stage career Thaxter was also a journalist, writing two columns for the Guy Gannett newspapers (Portland Press Herald) and contributing to the entertainment section of the New York Times. Her Press Herald column “Through the Stage Door with Phyllis Schuyler Thaxter” gave readers glimpses behind the scenes of the theatrical world and the latest news from the stages of New York, Boston and Maine.

Thaxter also interviewed Hollywood’s greatest film stars for her other Press Herald column, “Adventures in Cinemaland.” In early 1937, the newspaper invited readers to vote for their favorite movie stars and, once the votes were tallied, Thaxter was dispatched via jet plane to the Hollywood lot of Paramount Pictures for a whirlwind interviewing tour. From the studios Thaxter sent columns of numbered "adventures," each sharing an interview with a particular film star or describing her observations of the movie making process.

Thaxter's daughter, Phyllis Schuyler Thaxter, became a successful film actor (working with a number of the stars whom Thaxter had interviewed,) and is especially remembered for her role as the mother of Christopher Reeve’s “Superman.”  Thaxter’s granddaughter, Skye Aubrey, is a successful television actor.

Description: This collection consists of several manuscripts written by the author, a few pieces of correspondence, and some playbills and professional photos of Thaxter from her stage career, which spanned the 1920s-1940s. There is also a large collection of playbills from the 1930s-1960s, many related to her theater column “Through the Stage Door With Phyllis Schuyler Thaxter," as well as a number of clippings of the column. Her seven scrapbooks also contain a wealth of professional photographs of Thaxter with movie stars such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, John Ford, Shirley Temple, Myrna Loy, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and others, taken in 1937 on her Press Herald-sponsored interviewing trip to Hollywood, as well as clippings of her interviews with them for her column "Adventures in Cinemaland.”  

The earliest album is dated 1913 and includes snapshots taken in 1936 of her travels in Europe, including shots of Russia, Denmark, and Germany under the reign of the Nazi regime. There are also three signed etchings, possibly purchased during her stay in the West.

Access Restrictions: None

Please cite as: Phyllis Schuyler Thaxter Collection, Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England, Portland, Maine

Container List:

001.  Handwritten manuscripts, undated
002.  Handwritten manuscript on "The Charm of Good Manners", undated
003.  Typescripts, undated
004.  Typescripts, undated
005.  Shoppe Talke (2 issues), May 1924
006.  Three letters to PS Thaxter, 1935-42
007.  Travel photographs - Germany, 1936
008.  Travel photographs - Russia, mostly Moscow, 1936, undated
009.  Souvenir photographs from Russia, 1936
010.  Travel photographs - Stockholm, 1936
011.  Travel photographs - Copenhagen, 1936
012.  Portraits of P.S.T., undated
013.  1930s film and stage publicity photographs including Thaxter
014.  1930s film and stage publicity photographs including Thaxter
015-18.  1930s film and stage publicity photographs,
019.  Hollis St. Theatre - week of December 10, 1906
020.  Gem Theatre, Peaks Island, 1900
021.  Portland Dramatic Guild, 1933
022.  Theater programs and travel guides, 1930s
023.  Portland Players playbills, 1934-46
024.  The Play of the Moment - 1948, 1949
025.  Post-1966 clippings, Portland Players
026.  Playbill - Deertrees Theater, Harrison, ME, undated
027.  Playbills from Maine and other regional theaters, 1954-66
028.  Playbills from Maine and other regional theaters, 1954-66
029.  Scrapbook of 1890s playbills - Boston theaters 1/2
030.  Scrapbook of 1890s playbills - Boston theaters 2/2
031-34.  Playbills from New York theaters, 1930s
035.  Moscow Theater Festival Program, 1936
036.  Program: First National Convention of the Legitimate Theatre, May 1937
037-038.  Playbills from New York Theaters, 1950s,
039-044.  Playbills from New York Theaters, 1960s,
045-046.  Playbills and souvenir programs from New York theaters,
047.  "Descendants of Pieter Tjercks" genealogy, 1601-1998
048.  Photograph--Boston & Maine train car, 1912
049.  Scrapbook--theater clippings and correspondence, 1913-1920s
050.  Scrapbook--theater clippings, 1935
051.  Scrapbook--theater clippings and photographs, 1936
052.  University of Maine Orono Mosque—Helen of Troy, 1939
053.  Souvenir book--James K. Hackett, 1901
054.  Inscribed photograph--Billie Burke, undated
055.  Engravings--California desert and wagon trail, undated
056.  Scrapbook--theater clippings and photographs, 1936-1937
057.  Scrapbook--theater clippings and photographs, 1937
058.  Scrapbook--theater clippings and photographs, 1937-1938
059.  Scrapbook--theater clippings and photographs, 1938-1939