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The Max Reinhardt Archives

Identifier: 5749


The Max Reinhardt Library and Archives at Binghamton University is one of several notable collections worldwide of books and manuscripts dealing with the work of the Austro-German theatre director Max Reinhardt (1873-1943). It contains approximately 15,000 books from Reinhardt’s personal library and over 10,000 manuscripts, items of correspondence, photographs, programs, critical reviews, directorial promptbooks, writings, and related supporting materials totaling approximately 100 cubic feet.


  • Creation: 1880 - 1984
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1894-1973


Biographical information

Born Maximilian Goldmann, Reinhardt (initially a stage name) began his career as a young actor in Vienna and Salzburg. In 1894 he was invited to Berlin by Otto Brahm, the renowned director of the Deutsches Theater, where the young actor quickly gained critical acclaim for his convincing portrayals of old men. Eager to escape the gloom and doom of the prevailing Naturalist style, Reinhardt in 1901 co-founded an avant-garde literary cabaret called Sound and Smoke (Schall und Rauch). This cabaret theater perceptively satirized the fashions of current theatrical theory and practice and came to function as an experimental laboratory for the future director. Soon renamed the Kleines Theater, this house showcased leading contemporary productions, among them Gorky’s "Lower Depths," Wilde’s "Salome," and Hofmannsthal’s "Electra." Reinhardt’s reputation as a director was firmly established by 1905 with his epoch-making production of William Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," a play that remained a perennial favorite throughout his long and distinguished career.

In the same year Reinhardt was chosen to succeed Brahm as head of the Deutsches Theater, which Reinhardt soon built into Germany’s most celebrated stage. He also opened an adjacent theater, the Kammerspiele, for intimate chamber productions such as the domestic dramas of George Bernard Shaw. Utilizing the multi-faceted talents of his theater ensemble, he started an acting school that for decades trained promising young students to become Germany’s leading actors and actresses in the practice of modern stagecraft. In addition to his resident theaters, all private ventures, Reinhardt also maintained a touring company that spread his fame from St. Petersburg to London and New York. Within little more than a decade, this Viennese-Jewish immigrant had come to occupy a preeminent position in Wilhelmian Berlin’s cultural Renaissance after 1900. During the war years (1914-18) the Reinhardt stages maintained a feverish pace of theatrical activity, including an ambitious Shakespeare cycle and several guest tours in neutral countries. The opening of architect Hans Poelzig’s modernist Grosses Schauspielhaus in 1919 (to replace the Circus Schumann) allowed free rein to Reinhardt’s instinct for the monumental, particularly in Shakespearean and Classical Greek productions.

The social upheaval that resulted from Germany’s lost war deprived Reinhardt of his prewar stature, funding stream, and much of his former audience. He soon left Berlin for Salzburg, where director Reinhardt, together with composer Richard Strauss and writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal, jointly founded the Salzburg Festival in 1920. From his recently acquired chateau Leopoldskron, on whose restoration he lavished inordinate time and resources, Reinhardt reestablished ties with the Austrian baroque and folk theater traditions by presenting the morality play Everyman on the steps of Salzburg Cathedral, Hofmannsthal/Calderon’s Das Salzburger Grosse Welttheater inside the splendid baroque Kollegienkirche, and (later) Goethe’s Faust in the old summer riding academy that had been transformed by architect Clemens Holzmeister into a medieval village. Reinhardt’s American debut came in 1924—the European war in 1914 had precluded an earlier appearance—with Karl Vollmoeller’s ever-popular "The Miracle," a medieval pantomime whose great success led three years later to a triumphant guest tour featuring a medley of new and old European and German theater classics. “The Professor,” as he was generally called, also refurbished his reputation at home with memorable performances of Goldoni’s "A Servant of Two Masters" in the lavishly restored Theater in der Josefstadt in Vienna and the newly built art deco Komoedie playhouse in Berlin.

Forced by the Nazi government to relinquish his German theaters in 1933, Reinhardt traveled first to England, then to America the following year to stage "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" at the Hollywood Bowl and direct a film version with unlimited budget for Warner Brothers Studios. Leopoldskron and his remaining properties in Austria were seized after the Anschluss in 1938. Immigrating to the United States, Max and second wife, actress Helene Thimig—he had obtained a Nevada divorce from Else Heims in 1935—divided their time between the East and West Coasts. American theatrical activities included a Hollywood workshop for stage, screen and radio, an unsuccessful California Festival on the Salzburg model, several film projects (never carried out), and the beginnings of a promising repertory theater in New York, which fostered collaboration with up-and-coming playwrights like Thornton Wilder ("The Merchant of Yonkers," a forerunner to "Hello, Dolly!") and Irwin Shaw ("Sons and Soldiers"). Shortly after his seventieth birthday—he was working on a new production of the Meilhac/Halevy/Offenbach operetta "Helen Goes to Troy" at the time—Max Reinhardt died of a stroke in New York’s Gladstone Hotel. His passing was commemorated by a death mask as well as a memorial concert at Carnegie Hall directed by Bruno Walter. Reinhardt’s cremated remains are interred at a Jewish cemetery in nearby Hastings-on-Hudson.

Max Reinhardt’s prestige in theater history rests largely on his transformation of the modern theater director’s role from that of general manager to artistic coordinator and esthetic experimenter in control of the total production. His genius and importance is further illustrated by fruitful collaboration with leading actors (Bassermann, Bergner, Durieux, Eysoldt, Hoeflich, Krauss, Moissi, Schildkraut, the Thimigs, von Winterstein), playwrights (Gerhart Hauptmann, Pirandello, G.B. Shaw, Strindberg, Werfel, Wilde, Wilder), designers (Bel Geddes, Hengeler, Knina, Orlik, Roller, Stern, Strnad, Walser) and composers (Humperdinck, Korngold, Pfitzner, Richard Strauss, Kurt Weill) of his time. During a long productive international career, Reinhardt amply demonstrated his total commitment to artistic experimentation and the revelry of the creative imagination.


100.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Custodial History

The bulk of the Collection was acquired in the 1960s from son Gottfried Reinhardt, with a major later addition by widow Helene Thimig-Reinhardt, as well as subsequent incremental donations from family members and former theatre associates.

Materials Specific Details

This collection, which covers major but not all aspects of Reinhardt’s life and theater work, may be termed selective rather than comprehensive in nature, with particular strengths at three discrete stages in Reinhardt’s career: Imperial Berlin (1900-18), Salzburg Festival (1920s-30s), and work undertaken in the United States both before and after Reinhardt’s emigration there in 1937.

Processing Information:

The finding aids to the Max Reinhardt Collection continues to be a work in progress. At present, most major portions of the whole collection have been rehoused and are described in the print finding aid and in ArchivesSpace. Completed series include photographs, theatre programs, correspondence, writing by as well as about Max Reinhardt, critical literature on specific play productions, and business and legal documents have also been arranged and described. Reinhardt's promptbooks and many of the various play manuscripts sent to the Reinhardt theatres are retrievable online via the library's online catalogue, as are original costume and scene designs. Digital images of the promptbooks and photographs can be found online as well. A limited amount of ephemeral, scrapbook, audio-visual, and other ancillary materials remains to be processed as time and funding permit.

Guide to the The Max Reinhardt Archives
Finding Aid Authors: Herbert Poetzl and Sheila Weimer (created bound print finding aid); Kerstin Petersen, Bethany Maloney, Jean Green.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The collection description/finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections Repository

Binghamton NY 13902 USA