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MGM Costume Sketch

This sketch by Dan Sayre Groesbeck depicts one of the 1,200 classical theatrical costumes in MGM's 1936 film of Romeo and Juliet. Pictured in the role of Juliet's nurse is Edna May Oliver, an experienced character actress who had previously played such stalwart figures as Aunt Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield and Aunt March in Little Women. Oliver was so effective as Nurse that some reviewers felt she stole the picture.


Groesbeck, too, was a film-industry veteran. From his first job for Cecil B. DeMille in 1923, he produced thousands of drawings and sketches to suggest the look of costumes, sets, and other details for historical films, although he rarely received a direct credit. This sketch was donated to the Folger in 1969 by Colonel Charles E. Hammond.


MGM's ambitious Romeo and Juliet was a commercial failure, as its cost of more than $2 million proved impossible to recoup at the box office. Critics tended to find it slow-paced and overly reverential. Still, the film received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress (for Norma Shearer as Juliet), Best Art Direction, and Best Supporting Actor (for Basil Rathbone as Tybalt).


Dan Sayre Groesbeck. Edna May Oliver as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Watercolor, ca. 1936.

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