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Finding Aid of the Jerome Robinson Theatrical Photographs collection
1203  
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Collection Details
 
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Jerome Robinson Theatrical Photographs Collection,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1930-1955
    Collection number: 1203
    Creator: Robinson, Jerome
    Extent: 27 boxes (13.5 linear ft.) 2 cartons (2 linear ft.) 2 oversize boxes
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Abstract: Jerome Robinson (1910-1976) was the official photographer for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in New York (1930-31), published a book titled, The complete plays of Gilbert and Sullivan (1938), joined the staff of Theater arts and Stage magazines, and did theater features for Life magazine. He moved to Hollywood, California (1943) and worked as the official photographer for the Pasadena Playhouse (1943-58). He was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1950 and declared an unfriendly witness because he refused to testify. He never worked in a motion picture studio again, although his career in the theater continued until 1958. The collection consists of approximately 10,000 photographs and 20,000 negatives taken by Robinson of theatrical performances and performers in New York, Pasadena, and Los Angeles.
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Jerome Robinson Theatrical Photographs collection (Collection 1203). Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Mrs. Jerome Robinson, 1977.

    Biography

    Robinson was born in New York City on February 25, 1910; an uncle gave him a camera as a birthday gift, and he won first prize in the Radio City Music Hall opening photographic contest; official photographer, D'Oyly Carte Opera Company performing Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in New York, 1930-31; Robinson published a book titled, The complete plays of Gilbert and Sullivan (1938); later joined the staff of Theater arts and Stage magazines and even did theater features for Life magazine; decided to move to Hollywood, California, in 1943; official photographer, Pasadena Playhouse, 1943-58; began working in major film studios in 1944; called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1950 and declared an unfriendly witness because he refused to testify; he never worked in a motion picture studio again, although his career in the theater continued until 1958; did free-lance work for the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Association, the Biltmore Theatre, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Circle Theatre, the Ivar, and many others; died July 9, 1976.

    Biographical Narrative

    Jerome Robinson was born in New York City on February 25, 1910, son of Barney and Nettie Robinson. He had one sister, now Beatrice (Mrs. Wilbur) Schreiber, and many aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers of his mother. He attended public schools in New York, and though he read continuously, he never liked school mainly because he was not getting the art training he wanted. At 16 he quit school and found a job as a painters' “devil” in a fabric design company. He did, however, continue art studies at both Art Center and Cooper Union at night. By age 19 he was himself a designer of floral prints and “happi-coats.”
    The year before an uncle had given him a camera for a birthday gift, and he entered many contests and won many prizes, among them first prize in the Radio City Music Hall opening photographic contest. Through winning this contest he first met the Schuberts and began photographing in the theatre.
    At this time, almost simultaneously with his discovering “fast” film, he was invited to work in the laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the man who invented the film and also the first Strobe unit. This job lasted only a few months, but from it grew his whole photographic career.
    He was the first to do available light or actual performance photography in the theatre -- that is, without flash-lights or any other addition to the normal stage lighting. He worked entirely free-lance, but photographed and sold prints of the bulk of what appeared on Broadway for the next ten years.
    In 1930-31 the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company came to New York from England and presented twenty-some Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. They became known as the American Company for Gilbert and Sullivan. For almost two years Jerome Robinson was their official photographer. From this association came a book: The Complete Plays of Gilbert and Sullivan.....including 32 photographs.....by Jerome Robinson, published in 1938 (some five years after) by the Garden City Publishing Company.
    Also from this association came an introduction to Antoinette Perry who was so impressed with his pictures that she re-introduced him to the Schuberts. Though he photographed all of their plays he refused any limited business association with them because he was by then on the staff of Theatre Arts magazine and Stage Magazine and later did many theatre features for Life Magazine where his frequent partner doing the writing was Alexander King.
    From 1941 to 1950 he was married to Mildred Okuneff, sister to one of his aunts by marriage, but this marriage ended in divorce in California.
    By 1942 and the war, since he was ineligible for military service because of the asthma he had had since early childhood, he went to work for Bethlehem Shipyard in New York. After only a month or so, he took an examination and won a scholarship to a crash program in Naval Architecture at Johns Hopkins University. He worked in shipbuilding for almost a year in New London, Connecticut, when a severe asthmatic attack ended his job there and sent him back to recuperate in New York.
    During the next year he was involved with the United States Government in developing a super-fast film for use in aerial photography.
    He tried to return to theatrical photography in 1943, but found that many others were doing his kind of photography by then, so the decision was made to move permanently to Hollywood.
    In Hollywood he became official photographer for many of the little theatres while he was trying to have his work seen at the motion picture studios. He also almost immediately through Oliver and Maude Prickett and Gilmore Brown became official photographer for the Pasadena Playhouse (1943 - 1958). He began working in the major film studios in 1944 doing all the still photography for many pictures including The Green Years and The Yearling.
    In 1950, because he knew many of “The 10” and others associated with them, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Los Angeles, refused (like Lillian Hellman and others) to testify about anyone but himself, and was declared an “unfriendly witness.” He never worked in any motion picture studio again, though his career in the theatre went on until 1958. He did free-lance work for the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Association, the Biltmore Theatre, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Circle Theatre, the Ivar and many others.
    In 1955, because he had sailed boats since he was 12 years old and had the Johns Hopkins war-time training, he decided to take the Yacht and Ship-Brokers examination for license (which he passed the first time) and open an office in Newport Beach. There in 1957, he met and married Zelda Cartman Seal and became step-father to her three sons. He retired the first time in 1966 when he suffered his first heart attack but later did drafting design for Todd Shipyard in Long Beach for two years and for Decca navigational equipment for another two years..
    In 1972, their sons grown, educated and independent, he and his wife moved from Newport Beach to Palos Verdes where, on July 9, 1976, he suffered a fatal heart attack at age 66, exactly like his father.
    Zelda Robinson

    Scope and Content

    Collection consists of approximately 10,000 photographs and 20,000 negatives taken by Jerome Robinson of theatrical performances and performers in New York, Pasadena, and Los Angeles.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the repository's online public access catalog.

    Subjects

    Robinson, Jerome--Archives.
    Photographers--United States--Archival resources.
    Stage photography--New York (State)--New York--Archival resources.
    Stage photography--California, Southern--Archival resources.

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Negatives.
    Photographs.