In September of 2013, the Penn Libraries received from Doris Gundert Balant a gift of 47 home movies from the family of Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985). This past fall the films were reformatted to digital video, helping to prolong the life of the originals, while simultaneously providing broad access to their content. Now the films have been cataloged and described and are available for viewing on the Penn Libraries Kaltura MediaSpace video portal.
The Eugene Ormandy family home movies were shot between 1932 and 1947 by conductor Eugene Ormandy on his own hand-held camera and by others when Ormandy appears in the films. During the time period represented in the films, Eugene Ormandy served as the conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (1931-1936) and as associate conductor (1936-1938) and music director (1938-1980) of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The content of the films includes scenes of Ormandy conducting the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. Also included are arrivals and departures at train stations along with musicians from his two resident orchestras. Otherwise, the content of the films is primarily scenes of leisure. The locales include his home in Minneapolis, European cities such as London, Vienna, and Stockholm, and several vacations in the Austrian alps, as well as vacations in Florida, Bermuda, and New Hampshire. There are also several scenes aboard passenger ships on his way to or from Europe. The people included in his films are primarily his first wife, Stephanie “Steffy” Goldner, as well as her mother, sisters and brother, her sisters’ spouses and children, and friends of the family, many of them musicians. These include such figures as Jascha Heifetz, Vladimir Horowitz, and Mischa Levitzki, as well as Philadelphia orchestra musicians William Kinkaid, Adrian Siegel, and Marcel Tabuteau.
Of note, the films include the only known video of Ormandy conducting the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra; views of the German city of Nuremberg before its bombing in WWII; and scenes of construction of the 1933-1934 “Century of Progress” Exposition in Chicago, IL. It is also notable that during this time period, and represented by these films, Eugene Ormandy took great efforts to bring wife Steffy’s Jewish relatives to the United States and safely out of reach of the Nazis.
All but one of the films were shot by Eugene Ormandy himself. Steffy’s brother Herman took the footage of the last film after receiving the camera, films and a projector following the Ormandys’ divorce in 1947. In 1982, after Herman Goldner died, the camera, films and projector came to Ormandy’s niece Doris Gundert Balant. The films remained in a closet in her home in Maine for 30 years until they were donated to the University of Pennsylvania. Their transfer to digital video was completed by George Blood Video, Philadelphia, PA.
The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at Penn Libraries also holds the Eugene Ormandy papers and the Stephanie Goldner collection on Eugene Ormandy. A detailed finding aid for the Eugene Ormandy family home movies collection is available on the University of Pennsylvania Finding Aids site, which links to the streaming video of the movies on MediaSpace. For more information on this collection, please contact Richard Griscom (firstname.lastname@example.org), Acting Director, Collection Development, Global Studies and Scholarly Communications.