Apr 12, 2018 - Sale 2473

Sale 2473 - Lot 92

Price Realized: $ 2,750
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 4,000 - $ 6,000
(FILM.) Archive of blacklisted actress Gale Sondergaard and her director husband Herbert Biberman, one of the "Hollywood Ten." Many hundreds of items in 7 boxes (3 linear feet) plus one suit jacket; condition generally strong. Vp, 1919-85

Additional Details

Gale Sondergaard (1899-1985), a Minnesota native, began her acting career in the theater and made her film debut in 1936, winning the first-ever Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her husband was the screenwriter and director Herbert Biberman (1900-1971). Both were involved in left-leaning causes in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1947, Biberman was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) for alleged Communist Party sympathies. He was one of ten screenwriters who refused to testify, and like other members of the Hollywood Ten was blacklisted and sentenced to six months in prison in 1950. Sondergaard was called to testify in 1951 and was blacklisted after invoking the Fifth Amendment. She was not permitted to work in Hollywood again until 1969. Also featured in the collection is Gale's sister Hester Sondergaard (1903-1994), also an accomplished actress who joined them on the Hollywood blacklist.
This wide-ranging collection is particularly rich in material on the family's struggles against HUAC and the blacklist. It includes 12 letters Gale wrote to Hester circa 1950-53. Shortly before the hearings she wrote "Legally we still have the Fifth Amendment. . . . Certainly no Progressive who understands what this is all about will fail to avail himself of this right." On 14 April 1950, as Herbert awaited sentencing, she wrote of her children: "I can't quite see those two young'uns hewing to the line without a Dad--and maybe a Ma too. However, at this point the important thing is to try to build a work for me to earn a living." Photographs of her HUAC testimony are accompanied by the actual suit jacket she was wearing and copies of her testimony. Dozens of related books and pamphlets are enhanced by a typescript of her defiant 6 April 1951 speech at the Embassy Auditorium.
In 1965, Gale Sondergaard moved back into the acting profession with a one-woman off-Broadway show titled "Woman." Included here are her partial script in a ring binder, accompanied by a photograph of her reading from the binder on stage. Shortly after the first performance, she wrote excitedly to her sister: "So here's a REVIEW!!! My first in how many many years!!" A group of 12 condolence letters on the 1971 death of her husband includes actress Joan Crawford; the Hollywood Ten are represented by Adrian Scott and Alvah Bessie. Also included is the typescript of her unpublished autobiography, "It Sounds Like Me," written in the late 1970s.
Among Herbert Biberman's papers are screenplays for four of his later works; an early draft of his 1965 memoir "Salt of the Earth: The Story of a Film" (here titled "Director's Notes"); and 15 volumes of his daily planners and address books from 1956 to 1970. In 1954 he directed the social realist film Salt of the Earth despite the blacklist; included is a publication of the script marked up for a reading by his sister-in-law Hester Sondergaard. Also included are Hester's annotated running list of blacklist victims, and her mimeographed script for a Democratic National Committee radio program broadcast on the eve of Election Day, 6 November 1944. It features Judy Garland, James Cagney, Jimmy Durante, Humphrey Bogart, and others offering their testimonials for Roosevelt; it is annotated heavily in pencil. The collection also includes hundreds of publicity and press photographs, most of them 8 x 10 glossies from Gale Sondergaard's film career, and some from Herbert Biberman's career--one is autographed by Ossie Davis as the star of Biberman's 1969 film The Slave. A more detailed inventory is available upon request. Provenance: the consignor was a cousin of Herbert Biberman who worked for Gale Sondergaard as her personal assistant from 1974 until her death in 1985, serving as typist for her autobiography. The items in the collection were acquired directly from the Sondergaard sisters by gift or purchase.