Vicki Baum, whose original name was Hedwig Baum was born in Vienna to a Jewish family on January 24, 1888, the only child of Herman and Matilda Baum. At the age of eight, Baum began studying at the Vienna Conservatory of Music, where she spent her time mastering the harp. Throughout her childhood, Baum had a passion for writing short stories and won certain school prizes, but her father discouraged her from a writing career. In 1906, she began her studies at the Hochschule fr Musik and began playing professionally in different orchestras such as the Vienna Konzert Verein. At the age of eighteen, Baum married journalist Max Prels. Through her husband's career as a journalist, Baum had the opportunity to showcase some of her literary work to publishers. For the first time in Baum's life, she experienced the lifestyle of a writer and in 1909 she published her first short story.
In 1910, Baum divorced and subsequently moved to Germany where she taught the harp at the musical high school of Darmstadt. With the onset of World War I, Baum temporarily worked as a nurse while gradually pursuing her literary passion. In 1914, Baum published her first novel Fruhe Schatten (Early Shadows). In 1916 Baum married conductor Richard Lert and they had two children. In the years following her second marriage, Baum gave up her music career to travel with her husband to various European towns where she was introduced to different cultures. In 1926, Baum was hired at Ullstein, one of the biggest German publishers at the time. Baum was editing magazine articles during the day and was writing her own novels at night. In 1928 she published Stud. Chem. Helene Willfuer (Helene) and in 1929 Menschem im Hotel (Grand Hotel), novels which explore the struggles of human motives and life altering events. Grand Hotel became Baum's most notable piece of literature and was turned into a play by Max Reinhardt that was performed throughout Europe and the United States.
In 1931, Baum went to the United States to see stage versions of her play and while visiting she realized that the United States was a safer and more hospitable place for a Jewish writer. Soon thereafter, Baum and her family permanently moved to California and she continued writing her novels, plays, and scripts for various studios, including Paramount and MGM. Eventually, MGM bought the film rights to Grand Hotel and Edmund Goulding directed the critically acclaimed film version of her novel, the Best Picture Oscar winner from 1932. During the 1930's and 1940's, Baum was one of the most popular migr authors. In 1938, Baum became naturalized as a citizen of the United States of America. With her success as a novelist and as a representative of a Jewish exile from Germany, her other publications such as, Ship and Shore (1941), Hotel Berlin (1943), Headless Angel (1948), The Mustard Seed (1953), Written on Water (1956), and Theme for Ballet (1958) were widely read. Baum represented the classic Jewish migr who escaped her controlled life and succeeded in following her true dreams. In 1960, Vicki Baum passed away from leukemia at the age of 72.
The collection, which consists of approximately 820 items, contains correspondence and manuscripts. The correspondence concerns Vicki Baum's works published by Doubleday, Doran and Co. (N.Y.): Grand Hotel, Secret Sentence, Helene, Men Never Know, The Ship and the Shore, Marion Alive, Weeping Wood, Danger from Deer, Headless Angel. Included in the correspondence are 166 letters by Vicki Baum, 249 letter to Vicki Baum and 397 third party letters. The manuscripts consist of notes and synopses of the following works: Marion Alive, Men Never Know, A Tale of Bali, and The Weeping Wood.
The collection is organized topically and then arranged chronologically. There are no series.
The Estate of Vicki Baum donated her papers to the University at Albany.1972
Processed by: Sandra Hunt Hawrylchak in 1978/2005.
Collection record created by: Jodi Boyle
Zohar Kastner further arranged and described the collection., 2005
Creation of EAD finding aid., 2015
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Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Vicki Baum Papers, 1929-1959. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Baum Papers).
|1||1||Grand Hotel correspondence||1931 April 30 - 1932 August 15|
Grant Hotel published January 30, 1931. Correspondents include: Geoffrey Bles, George H. Doran, Nelson Doubleday, Malcolm Johnson, Mary A. Leonard, Daniel Longwell.
|1||2||Secret Sentence correspondence||1931 May 25 - 1932 July 12|
Secret Sentence published July 6, 1932. Correspondents include: Geoffrey Bles, Raymond Everitt, Lillian Glaser, Malcolm Johnson, Mary Leonard.
|1||3||Helene correspondence||1931 April 29 - 1934 August 16|
Helene published April 12, 1933. Correspondents include: Geoffrey Bles, Nelson Doubleday, Raymaond Everitt, Michael Joseph, Mary A. Leonard, Daniel Longwell.
|1||4||Men Never Know synopsis||Undated|
|1||5||Men Never Know correspondence||1934 March 28 - 1942 June 13|
Men Never Know published March 8, 1935. Correspondents include:. Basil Creighton, Nelson Doubleday, Lillian Glaser, Malcolm Johnson.
|1||6||The Ship and the Shore correspondence||1940 March 26 - 1941 September 4|
The Ship and the Shore published March 21, 1941. Correspondents include: Malcolm Johnson.
|1||7||The Weeping Wood notes and synopsis||Undated|
|1||8||The Weeping Wood correspondence||1943 March 16 - 1945 December 14|
The Weeping Wood Correspondents include: Lee Barker, L. G. Booth, Donald B. Elder, Curtice Hitchcock, Michael Joseph, Meredith Sparks.
|1||9||Marion Alive correspondence||1941 September 24 - 1946 April 1|
Correspondents include: Malcolm Johnson, F. H., Landshoff, Ann Watkins.
|1||10||Marion Alive corrections||Undated|
|1||11||Headless Angel correspondence||1944 July 9 - 1949 June 1|
Correspondents include: Nelson Doubleday, Donald B. Elder, Ken McCormick.
|1||12||Danger from Deer correspondence||March 16, 1948 - Dec. 16, 1951|
Correspondents include: Donald B. Elder, Ken McCormick.
|1||13||[Tale of Bali]. Das Ende der Geburt. Synopsis||Undated|
|1||14||Correspondence with Max Herzberg||1932-1945, 1958-1959|
|1||15||Miscellaneous correspondence||Oct. 1, 1929 - April 24, 1953|
Correspondents include: Geoffrey Bles, Nelson Doubleday, Donald B. Elder., Lillian Glaser, Malcolm Johnson, Mary A. Leonard, Daniel Longwell, Ken McCormick, Winifred Nerney.
|1||16||Obituaries, Vicki Baum||Undated|