The papers of Olive Reeves-Smith consist of correspondence, clippings, personal papers, programs, scrapbooks, sheet music, and photographs. Also included are the papers of Harry Reeves-Smith and those of her actorhusband Fuller Mellish, Jr.
Biographical/historical: Olive Reeves-Smith(1894-1972) was born in Great Britain and received her musical theater training in England. She entered the acting profession over the objections of her parents and adopted the early stage name of "Olive Branch" after her debut in The Flood in Bristol, England. Her mother, Ella Strathmore, was on the stage before she married; her godfather was the English comedian James Blakeley. Her father, Harry Reeves-Smith, was a prominent actor who sustained careers on both sides of the Atlantic and was known as a talented matinee idol in his time. After her theatrical beginnings in England, she had a long and full career in America, primarily on the stage, and made her residence in New York City and its environs. She was best known as a character actress. While she played many minor roles, she played opposite George M. Cohan as the lead in his Pigeons and People, had prominent parts in Richard of Bordeaux with Dennis King and The Constant Nymph, and became known as the original Bloomer Girl in the musical of that name. She was in the original cast of My Fair Lady and played more than 2213 performances in the dual roles of Mrs. Hopkins, the raucous cockney, and Lady Boxington in the Ascot scene. Later in her career, she made radio and television appearances in We, The People, Studio I, The Kraft TV Theater, Armstrong Circle Theater, and Death Valley Days. She had two sisters, Alma and Elsie neither of whom pursued theatrical careers, and was married twice to actors, Denman Maley and Harold Irving Fuller (aka Fuller Mellish, Jr.). Her second husband was the scion of a distinguished British stage family. His father, Fuller Mellish, Sr., was a well-known Shakespearean actor in England and America. The famous English star Rose LeClerq was his grandmother.
Her circle of friends and colleagues included Julie Andrews, Ralph Bellamy, Mary Boland, Leo G. Carroll, George M. Cohan, Noel Coward (who was a distant relation), George Cukor, Charlotte Greenwood, Moss Hart, Sally Ann Howes, Rex Harrison, Celeste Holm, George S. Kaufman, Ethel Barrymore and her daughter Ethel Colt, Cole Porter, Rosalind Russell, Hassard Short, and May Whitty. Olive Reeves-Smith died at the age of 77 on July 20, 1972 in the Lynwood Nursing Home in New York City. She had no children.
Content: The Olive Reeves-Smith Papers span the years 1879 to 1964 and consist of personal papers, writings, correspondence, contracts, photographs, programs, clippings, scrapbooks, and sheet music. Her professional life is represented by the clippings, programs, photographs, and contracts. While the correspondence contains a few business letters, most of it is of a personal nature. Her writings consist primarily of poems, and the sheet music give evidence of her musical writings, both songs and lyrics.
The papers also document the careers of her own actor family and that of her second husband. There are numerous clippings on her mother's thespian efforts, as well as those of her sister-in-law Vera Fuller Mellish. All the materials on her second husband, Harold Irving Fuller (whose stage name was Fuller Mellish, Jr.), are collected into one series. A scrapbook of clippings on his career arrived in loose pages. The materials on Fuller Mellish, Jr. which span the years 1905 to 1936 also include numerous photographs from his stage and film career and a small number of personal papers. The materials on her father, Harry Reeves-Smith, include two printed volumes, Peg O' My Heart by J. Hartley Manners (1913), Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines by Clyde Fitch (1902), and some photographs. These volumes are extra-illustrated with photographs, letters, telegrams, clippings, and even a playbill pasted onto various leaves.