Donald Saddler was a choreographer, director, and dancer in the disciplines of film, stage, ballet, and opera. The Donald Saddler papers contain materials from 1920 to 2010 that document Saddler's professional life, including correspondence, daybooks, organizational and production files, photographs, scores and scripts.
Biographical/historical: Donald Saddler was a choreographer, director, and dancer in the disciplines of film, stage, ballet, and opera. He was born in 1918 in Van Nuys, California and took up dancing in order to recover his strength after a bout of scarlet fever. He spent his high school vacations dancing in the chorus of MGM musicals such as the 1937 production, Rosalie.
Saddler was an original member of Ballet Theatre, and danced with the company from 1940-1943 before heading to Alaska for service in World War II. When he returned to New York in 1945, he decided to forego ballet in favor of Broadway musicals, appearing in High Button Shoes (1947) and two 1950 revues, Dance Me a Song and Bless You All, before obtaining his first appointment as a choreographer for Wonderful Town in 1953, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Choreography. Saddler continued to create ballets throughout his career, working with the American Ballet Theatre and the Harkness Ballet, for whom he served as artistic director from 1964-1970.
Other theatrical choreography includes My Fair Lady, Teddy and Alice, Milk and Honey, The Robber Bridegroom, No, No Nanette and Hellzapoppin. His choreography for the New York Shakespeare Festival includes Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night's Dream and A Doll's House.
Saddler choreographed operas all over the country, and worked extensively with the Washington Opera. He choreographed The Dream of Valentino and directed Die Fledermaus, Abduction from the Seraglio, and Wiener Blut. His film work included three films with Doris Day, as well as work on televised programs such as The Bell Telephone Hour.
Saddler received the 1984 Dance Magazine Award and the Astaire Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2001 at the age of 83, Saddler was featured in the Broadway revival of Follies, performing with fellow dance veteran Marge Champion. The two subsequently took up rehearsal space together, and their partnership was featured in the documentary Keep Dancing, released in 2010. In 2011 Saddler received the 1st Annual Duke Ellington "Beyond Category" award. That same year, he retired to the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, NJ, where he died on November 1, 2014.
Content: The Donald Saddler papers contain materials from 1920 to 2010 that document his professional and personal life, including correspondence, daybooks, organizational and production files, photographs, scores and scripts. There is also a small amount of material relating to Saddler's representation company, Dance Talent, Inc. His passion for theater choreography and his commitment to the artistic community and developing new works is evident throughout his correspondence, which is both personal and professional. Related correspondence can be found in the organizational and production files as well. There are professional and candid photographs, working scripts and a small selection of scores from various compositions on which Saddler worked.