Looking for the Origins of the “Red Carpet” Tradition

posted by jvhughes on April 11, 2005 at 5:02 am

I’m a newspaper reporter from New Jersey and I’m trying to find the origins of the “red carpet” tradition at movie premieres.

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated! Emailing me directly would be the quickest way for me – I’ve only got a few more days before I have to file my story.

Thanks!

Jennifer V. Hughes
jvhughes @isp.com

Comments (9)

JimRankin
JimRankin on April 11, 2005 at 8:40 am

The tradition of RED CARPETS started a great many years ago in Europe, but I don’t know in which kingdom. I believe it was in the film “The Prince and the Showgirl” that the Prince remarks when asked why the carpets are always red: “I think it is to conceal the blood” [of assisnation attempts].

Manwithnoname
Manwithnoname on April 11, 2005 at 3:04 pm

“Sometimes carpets provided the actual architecture; for example, when they were used in the construction of portable tent compounds for military campaigns or royal visits. The layout of the Mughal palace was re-created in these tent compounds. Rows of qanats, free-standing textile screens, replaced red sandstone walls, and flower-covered carpets reproduced the gardens of the inner courtyards. The red color served to identify the emperor’s tent, and luxurious textiles not only provided the comforts of home but also symbolically reminded envoys and visitors of the power and the wealth of their rulers.”

“Jahangir, Mughal emperor from 1605 to 1627, once paid a visit to his brother-in-law on New Year’s Day. To celebrate the event, his brother-in-law carpeted the road between his house and the palace with gold brocades and rich velvets, so that the royal entourage would not have to touch the ground. Today we say "Roll out the red carpet” or “the red-carpet treatment” to indicate the conferring of honor and prestige."

Manwithnoname
Manwithnoname on April 11, 2005 at 3:07 pm

Jennifer, my above post was the result of a google search and it took all of 5 minutes. Are you really a newspaper reporter?

jvhughes
jvhughes on April 12, 2005 at 6:17 am

Manwithnoname:

Thanks for your post. Of course I also found that information immediately. I was looking for the origin of using the red carpet at movie premieres.

Manwithnoname
Manwithnoname on April 12, 2005 at 6:20 am

The tradition didn’t start at movie premieres. I’m sure you will find the tradition to be as old as the movies themselves.

Manwithnoname
Manwithnoname on April 12, 2005 at 6:28 am

By the way, I retract my earlier question. You are indeed a reporter in New Jersey. The Record/Herald News?

jvhughes
jvhughes on April 12, 2005 at 2:14 pm

I was a courthouse/legal affairs reporter for The Record for seven years. After the birth of my child I became a freelancer who works for The Record, as well as The (Newark) Star-Ledger.

Benjamin
Benjamin on April 19, 2005 at 8:24 am

Who was the first theater manager to actually bring over the idea of the red carpet to movie premieres? While it’s an interesting question, I wonder if the idea was such a “no brainer” when it was first done (because of the common use of red carpets elsewhere) that nobody paid enough attention to note the occassion? (Similarly, I wonder what bank / bank manager was the first to start the “one line” concept?)

However, my guess is that the first theater manager to use a red carpet was probably a “showman” like Samuel “Roxy” Rothapfel. Or, at least, he would probably be the first to get credit (in newspapers, etc.) for doing something like that.

In terms of a research tools, I’m wondering if Ben Hall mentions the introduction of red carpets anywhere in his classic book on movie palaces, “The Best Remaining Seats”?

Also, as a reporter, you may already know about this, but I just found out about it a few weeks ago: if you go to a university research library, they have access to something called “Proquest” which allows you to both search a newspaper database using keywords (like red carpet) and view the newspaper article itself almost immediately on a PC screen. The database has access to and searches through the New York Times from its inception until about 2001. I believe the Los Angeles Times is also covered under a similar date range.

Good luck!

jvhughes
jvhughes on April 19, 2005 at 11:32 am

Benjamin;

Thanks – I have access to another newspaper search called Lexis, which did not help much.

THe story actually ran this weekend – mostly a “nobody knows how it started” thing.

Thanks to everyone for your assistance!

Best,

Jen Hughes

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