The past speaks– it tells us things we should know but often can’t understand because histories are hidden and only the dominant voices prevail.
Sometimes though, there is a dormant voice that waits to tell its story- almost a hundred years later– and this lived history is held within my great aunt Nita’s archive and the childhood conversations I had with her.
This first-person narrative of a 1930’s actress plucked from obscurity in London by director Cecil B. DeMille and cast into the Hollywood Paramount studio system with only her wits to guide her, and evidently a sense that she must document everything she did perhaps in order to carve a discourse into the Hollywood mythology.
This archive punctures what we know already by throwing a spear into it.
Rarely do we have the opportunity to access a comprehensive unseen archive that documents female industry experience before the lens and on the set, with hundreds of Paramount publicity photographs, negatives, a nitrate casting film, family photographs & negatives, diaries, a weekly magazine diary, notebooks, drawings, film set photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings, fashion magazine photographs, beauty advertisements, family letters, love letters, fan letters, telegrams, acting contracts, annotated scripts, theatre programmes and posters, cheque books, bank statements, telephone bills, hotel bills, menus, equity membership, passports, an oil painting, a jewellery collection, a button collection, silk palazzo pants & a satin pillow case filled with twenty pairs of arm-length leather fringed gloves.