11/18/07 — Jeffreys portrait to adorn Paramount lobby

View Archive

Jeffreys portrait to adorn Paramount lobby

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 18, 2007 2:07 AM

A familiar face will greet local residents and arts enthusiasts each time they enter Goldsboro's new Paramount Theater.

Wearing diamonds around her neck, the graceful blonde in the portrait hanging on the lobby wall will always have a wistful look on her beautiful face.

But when you see a younger Anne Jeffreys looking down at the crowd, you won't notice the hole over her left eye -- and the 60-year-old colors in the actress's portrait will look as vibrant as they did when James Montgomery Flagg put them to canvas.

A donation from the family of George Jeffreys and an announcement from Goldsboro businessman David Weil made it official -- the lobby of the Paramount will be named for Mrs. Jeffreys.

So, to commemorate the dedication, Weil has sent a 1948 oil portrait of her to the North Carolina Museum of Art to be restored.

The tribute will be fitting at downtown Goldsboro's newest performing arts theater.

Who better than Mrs. Jeffreys to grace the lobby, he said.

"How can it be anything but a good thing to recognize those native sons and daughters who have achieved fame and notoriety?" Weil asked. "I think in her case, Anne has always been so supportive of her roots -- proud of where she came from. I just think it is so appropriate."

Born Anne Carmichael in 1923 in Goldsboro, Mrs. Jeffreys went on to successful careers both on Broadway and in Hollywood.

And for Weil, the fact that she took with her a piece of her rural roots makes her special.

"When I was a boy, the horses and mules came into town. This was a rural area," Weil said. "Imagine someone like Anne Jeffreys -- brought up here, going to Virginia Street School. And then she goes away, studies voice and goes on to Broadway. She has a nice career on Broadway and goes on to Hollywood and television ... just a wonderful woman."

So it was with great pride that he sent off the portrait to conservator Perry Hurt in Raleigh.

The portrait sits in a large room, stood up between century-old paintings from Poland, Spain and the United States.

Hurt called it a "nice addition," a "light, fun" painting with flair.

"This artist paints very quickly," he said. "He doesn't belabor the point. He paints for the public."

But Hurt said Flagg did not necessarily create a work that would stand the test of hundreds of years.

And that is where he comes in.

"It is actually in relatively good condition," he said. "But in a general sense, we are adding to the longevity of the painting."

Changes in temperature and humidity around the work created blemishes he might try to hide.

"Every one of the cracks has raised edges," Hurt said. "That's what humidity changes and temperature changes will do."

And then there are the holes in the canvass patched up long ago he can see breaking back through -- and new ones.

"Here, you can see four holes that have been repaired," Hurt said, pointing to cutouts of white cloth across the back of the portrait. "Fortunately, in this case, they have had little impact on the painting."

But he will see to them anyway, for 15 hours or more, a task that he said will translate into "a good three weeks."

And even if Flagg's work does not quite challenge a Monet, Hurt said it is clear that once hung inside the Paramount, the portrait will have served its creator's purpose.

"It's a piece of theater just as her life is a piece of theater," Hurt said. "It really is a beautiful portrait."

And once completed, Mrs. Jeffreys will get the chance to see it herself, as Weil also announced that she will be the featured performer and "guest of honor" at the Feb. 15 Paramount dedication event and again Feb. 16 during public tours of the facility.

"It's going to be something, having her here for that dedication," Weil said. "There really is something quite fitting about it all."