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Leslyn in the 1920's 
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Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:40 pm
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Post Leslyn in the 1920's
The Internet Archive has copies of the University of California "Southern Campus" (the yearbook for UCLA) for the years during which Leslyn was a student (1923-1926) available for download. Highlights:
1923: Leslyn was in the Manuscript club (with a picture on p. 233) and in Le Cercle Francais.
1924: She participated in the "Spring Festival" playing the part of Pan, was in the Manuscript Club, and in Delta Tau Mu (a dramatic and music society)
1925: On the staff of "The Grizzly" (campus newspaper), wrote for and played in the "Press Club Vodevil of 1925", was in the Kaps and Balls dramatic club (picture page 357), again in Delta Tau Mu (pic p. 373), and the Manuscript Club.
1926: Acted in "L'Aiglon", was again in the Press Club Vode (played in, and asst director), Delta Tau Mu (pic p. 326), Kaps and Balls (pic p. 328), Manuscript Club, and her senior picture and profile were on p. 53 (in which it says she participated in productions of Agamemnon (1), Oedipus (2), Antigone (3), and Alcestis (4), in addition to L'Aiglon; and that she was on the staff of the Grizzly all four years).

In Robert James’ article, “Regarding Leslyn,” he mentions that Ralph Bunch attended UCLA at the same time, but there is no indication that they ran in the same circles. A few of Leslyn’s classmates did go on to some degree of fame, however.

Agnes de Mille acted in several of the plays mentioned above. She was the niece of Cecil B. de Mille, and went on to have a moderately successful Broadway career: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=14584

Myra Kinch appeared in the 1924 Spring Festival alongside Leslyn. She went on to have a career in dance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myra_Kinch

Bruce Russell was an artist on “The Grizzly” at the same time Leslyn wrote for it. After UCLA, he became a staff artist for the LA Times and won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1946:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/03/30/a-month-of-pulitzer-prize-winning-cartoons-day-30/ and http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/r/russell_b.htm

James’ article says “Leslyn claimed to have taken part in putting on a production in 1923 of _Laugh, Clown, Laugh_ with Lionel Barrymore, but there is no proof of this . . .”. What little I have found about this makes me think she was possibly confused on dates, or exaggerating. Barrymore opened in "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" on Broadway at the Belasco Theater on 11/28/1923, and it played through March 1924 (having undergone “tryout” performances in Rochester on 10/15, and Chicago 10/29 -11/24, and probably a couple of other places and dates). It then played in Washington DC for a week. Barrymore spent the summer of 1924 in Europe, and returned for a run in Boston in the fall of 1924 with the play. At any rate, as near as I can tell, neither Barrymore nor the play “Laugh Clown Laugh” were on stage in Los Angeles in 1923.

The first evidence of a production of ”Laugh, Clown, Laugh” in LA that I can find was in an Jul 1925 LA Times article about “the Potboilers”, a “little theater” group that planned the first presentation of the play outside of the Belasco chain (but I can find no evidence that the production actually occurred).

Barrymore was at the Playhouse (not the Pasadena Playhouse, where Leslyn performed) in Mar 1926 in “The Copperhead”. He did do a run of “Laugh Clown Laugh” at the Belasco in LA, starting 11/28/1927. The LA Times article about the play that ran on 11/27 was illustrated by Bruce Russell, mentioned above.

It’s possible that Leslyn worked in a backstage role or as an extra in the 1927 run of LCL in LA, or elsewhere on its swing through the west coast (including Reno, San Francisco, LA, Santa Barbara), and confused the dates with the 1923 premiere. Or maybe the 1925 Potboiler production was in fact produced (but not mentioned in the LA Times), and she was in it (this seems more her speed – the 1927 run was a touring Broadway company, and it doesn’t really seem like Leslyn had the “chops” to participate in an acting capacity with such a group). Or perhaps, somehow through her association with the Pasadena Playhouse that year, she managed to meet Barrymore at a backstage party or some other event.

At anyrate, I can't find any indication that she ever was on stage with Barrymore, and that if she did know him, it wasn't because of a 1923 production of the play.


Last edited by BillMullins on Tue Aug 04, 2009 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Aug 03, 2009 2:57 pm
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Heinlein Biographer

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:33 pm
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Post Re: Leslyn in the 1920's
BillMullins wrote:
The Internet Archive has copies of the University of California "Southern Campus" (the yearbook for UCLA) for the years during which Leslyn was a student (1923-1926) available for download. Highlights:
1923: Leslyn was in the Manuscript club (with a picture on p. 233) and in Le Cercle Francais.
1924: She participated in the "Spring Festival" playing the part of Pan, was in the Manuscript Club, and in Delta Tau Mu (an dramatic and music society)
1925: On the staff of "The Grizzly" (campus newspaper), wrote for and played in the "Press Club Vodevil of 1925", was in the Kaps and Balls dramatic club (picture page 357), again in Delta Tau Mu (pic p. 373), and the Manuscript Club.
1926: Acted in "L'Aiglon", was again in the Press Club Vode (played in, and asst director), Delta Tau Mu (pic p. 326), Kaps and Balls (pic p. 328), Manuscript Club, and her senior picture and profile were on p. 53 (in which it says she participated in productions of Agamemnon (1), Oedipus (2), Antigone (3), and Alcestis (4), in addition to L'Aiglon; and that she was on the staff of the Grizzly all four years).

In Robert James’ article, “Regarding Leslyn,” he mentions that Ralph Bunch attended UCLA at the same time, but there is no indication that they ran in the same circles. A few of Leslyn’s classmates did go on to some degree of fame, however.

Agnes de Mille acted in several of the plays mentioned above. She was the niece of Cecil B. de Mille, and went on to have a moderately successful Broadway career: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=14584

Myra Kinch appeared in the 1924 Spring Festival alongside Leslyn. She went on to have a career in dance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myra_Kinch

Bruce Russell was an artist on “The Grizzly” at the same time Leslyn wrote for it. After UCLA, he became a staff artist for the LA Times and won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1946:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/03/30/a-month-of-pulitzer-prize-winning-cartoons-day-30/ and http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/r/russell_b.htm

James’ article says “Leslyn claimed to have taken part in putting on a production in 1923 of _Laugh, Clown, Laugh_ with Lionel Barrymore, but there is no proof of this . . .”. What little I have found about this makes me think she was possibly confused on dates, or exaggerating. Barrymore opened in "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" on Broadway at the Belasco Theater on 11/28/1923, and it played through March 1924 (having undergone “tryout” performances in Rochester on 10/15, and Chicago 10/29 -11/24, and probably a couple of other places and dates). It then played in Washington DC for a week. Barrymore spent the summer of 1924 in Europe, and returned for a run in Boston in the fall of 1924 with the play. At any rate, as near as I can tell, neither Barrymore nor the play “Laugh Clown Laugh” were on stage in Los Angeles in 1923.

The first evidence of a production of ”Laugh, Clown, Laugh” in LA that I can find was in an Jul 1925 LA Times article about “the Potboilers”, a “little theater” group that planned the first presentation of the play outside of the Belasco chain (but I can find no evidence that the production actually occurred).

Barrymore was at the Playhouse (not the Pasadena Playhouse, where Leslyn performed) in Mar 1926 in “The Copperhead”. He did do a run of “Laugh Clown Laugh” at the Belasco in LA, starting 11/28/1927. The LA Times article about the play that ran on 11/27 was illustrated by Bruce Russell, mentioned above.

It’s possible that Leslyn worked in a backstage role or as an extra in the 1927 run of LCL in LA, or elsewhere on its swing through the west coast (including Reno, San Francisco, LA, Santa Barbara), and confused the dates with the 1923 premiere. Or maybe the 1925 production was in fact produced (but not mentioned in the LA Times), and she was in it (this seems more her speed – the 1927 run was a touring Broadway company, and it doesn’t really seem like Leslyn had the “chops” to participate in an acting capacity with such a group). Or perhaps, somehow through her association with the Pasadena Playhouse that year, she managed to meet Barrymore at a backstage party or some other event.

At anyrate, I can't find any indication that she ever was on stage with Barrymore, and that if she did know him, it wasn't because of a 1923 production of the play.


Really excellent research, Bill. This should be preserved in the Journal. I'm hoping to get an issue out when the ms of the biography goes to copyediting.


Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:59 pm
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Post Re: Leslyn in the 1920's
I've been wondering to what extent the Journal would continue, given the problems with the Society (doesn't/didn't it subsidize the Journal?), your own time constraints with the biography and the VE, and Gifford's stated goals for the Nexus that seem to include a role that the Journal has formerly enjoyed.

I'd love to continue the research above with a visit to the UCLA library. Surely the archives of the Grizzly exist somewhere on campus for those years. It'd be neat to find an article or twenty with Leslyn's byline, and read the coverage of the plays she was in. I assume Robert James was not able to do so when he wrote "Regarding Leslyn". Perhaps someday they'll be digitized and I can search them from Huntsville -- many college newspapers are doing so.


Mon Aug 03, 2009 9:44 pm
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Post Re: Leslyn in the 1920's
BillMullins wrote:
I've been wondering to what extent the Journal would continue, given the problems with the Society (doesn't/didn't it subsidize the Journal?), your own time constraints with the biography and the VE, and Gifford's stated goals for the Nexus that seem to include a role that the Journal has formerly enjoyed.

Er, I'll let Bill answer your first supposition.

As for your last, I may be the designated talking head around here, but this is not my sole show. (There are enough useless one-man shows around.) I speak for the Steering Committee and, when it's not too pompous to claim the right, for the whole community. (Perhaps you didn't quite mean it that way, but I like to clear up the point when I get the chance.)

As for subsuming any role the Journal has held, far from it. There is no plan for any aspect of the Nexus that does not leave the formal publications arena to the Journal. (I mean, why reinvent the wheel?) We have skated around the idea of the Journal perhaps being formally named the, er, journal of the Nexus, which, if it happened, would be the first change in THJ's status as a wholly independent publication, ever.

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Mon Aug 03, 2009 10:14 pm
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Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:05 am
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Post Re: Leslyn in the 1920's
Excellent work, Bill!

And as for the Grizzly, I was unaware of its existence until now. All I know is that the official records of the school were all put on computer, then the originals were locked into deep storage.

I would assume you are correct about the library (one of them, anyways), having archived copies of that!

And as for the HS and the HJ, there is zero financial connection that I am aware of....


Tue Aug 04, 2009 8:50 am
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Post Re: Leslyn in the 1920's
RobertJames wrote:
And as for the Grizzly, I was unaware of its existence until now. All I know is that the official records of the school were all put on computer, then the originals were locked into deep storage.

I would assume you are correct about the library (one of them, anyways), having archived copies of that!


In the early nineties, my job took me to LA every couple of months or so, and I could have made time to look this up. Now, not so much. Maybe an enterprising LA fan could do the legwork and post the results here.

Robert, in your article, you mentioned a couple of caches of letters that remained untouched -- have these opened up any? I've determined that her correspondence with Besty Curtis was destroyed (apparently at RAH's request, and it seems that Leslyn's relationship with Curtis didn't even start until after she and RAH were divorced, and was independent of her marriage to Heinlein. Very heavy-handed of RAH to draw a curtain around letters under those circumstances.) I've got copies of the letters from the archives of Sphere (a late fifties fanzine) -- not really much there, but I did get some more of her poetry, which I'll send along for you to forward to Colin Hubbard in my Copious Spare Time.


Tue Aug 04, 2009 1:46 pm
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Post Re: Leslyn in the 1920's
Sphere was one of the ones I couldn't access, despite repeated attempts -- the Hubbards have some more poetry too. My divorce hit in the middle of all that research, and I'm afraid I haven't gotten back to it...

I live in LA....I'll try and contact UCLA and see what they have on file for the Grizzly :)


Tue Aug 04, 2009 6:06 pm
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Post Re: Leslyn in the 1920's
RobertJames wrote:
Sphere was one of the ones I couldn't access, despite repeated attempts
After I found the record in WorldCat, I tried via email and phone to no avail. Then we took a vacation in Santa Rosa earlier this month. It's a couple hours east of Pensacola, so I drove over, unannounced. They couldn't have been nicer -- quickly pulled the file, made copies of everything I requested. There is a publication embargo, though, based on the bequest of the original owner and copyright issues.


Tue Aug 04, 2009 7:00 pm
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Post Re: Leslyn in the 1920's
Actually, it's not up to them -- the words are the property of Leslyn's heirs, who have, in the past, granted blanket permission to use her words.


Tue Aug 04, 2009 7:41 pm
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Post Re: Leslyn in the 1920's
Yeah, but the archivist doesn't have an iron-clad, lawsuit-proof waiver in writing from the heirs (and wouldn't know for sure who the legal heirs are in any case -- is it Colin? Ian? someone else? a joint combination of the above? Someone on Jules' side of the family? Did she die intestate?), so they embargo it. Pretty standard procedure at many archives, I believe. "Orphaned" works are a good reason to reform copyright laws.


Tue Aug 04, 2009 10:25 pm
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