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Curiously, Marcus Loew is buried in Kings County in the family mausoleum in Maimonides Cemetery. He died, however, in 1927, and never had any participation in the building of Loew’s Kings. Here’s a photo link: View link
“Meet Danny Wilson” was produced in 1951, but released in 1952. It got reviewed in the trade press in the last week of January, 1952, and was listed on the U-I national release chart for February. The NYC opening was apparently delayed to benefit from Sinatra performing in the stage show as well.
This was built as the Hughes Theatre by Isador Benenson, a real estate investor whose death, at age 68, was reported in The New York Times on 2/21/1946. According to the obituary, Benenson and sons Charles and William were also responsible for the Benenson, Freeman, and Winter Garden cinemas in the Bronx, and the Austin in Kew Gardens, Queens. The Winter Garden was apparently the earliest and closed in the 1920s. The address, according to Michael Miller’s list of Bronx theatres, was 1874 Washington Avenue. Miller gave no seating capacity.
On this day only in 1948, the RKO Hamilton and the RKO Regent in Harlem shared eye-bulging comedian Mantan Moreland as headliner of the vaudeville bill added to that night’s film program. After performing at the Hamilton, Moreland was whisked by taxi to the Regent. He could also be seen on screen that night at both theatres as chauffeur Birmingham Brown in Monogram’s “The Chinese Ring,” his first “Charlie Chan” mystery with Roland Winters as replacement for the deceased Sidney Toler. Co-feature was “Smart Politics,” with Gene Krupa and His Orchestra and Freddie Stewart & The Teen Agers.
Movie advertisements in the Boston Globe can be seen via ProQuest, which is available on the computer systems at many public libraries.
Seventy-nine years ago tonight, MGM’s “Grand Hotel,” which broke tradition by casting five of the studio’s biggest stars in one film, opened its world premiere engagement at the Astor Theatre on a reserved-seat roadshow policy. Starring Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore, and with the esteemed Lewis Stone and Jean Hersholt heading the supporting cast, the B&W adaptation of Vicki Baum’s best-selling novel went on to win the “Best Picture” Academy Award for 1931-32. Tickets at the Astor were scaled from 50 cents to a top of $2, and bookable eight weeks in advance.
I can’t say for sure, but I think that the Shubert website might have confused United Artists and Universal International. United Artists leased the Broadway Theatre for a time, with such films as “Monsieur Verdoux” and “The Outlaw.” I don’t recall any UA films at the Winter Garden except the British import, “Blithe Spirit,” in 1945.
Ninety-seven years ago tonight, the Mark Strand Theatre had its grand opening with an invitational gala for VIPs and the press, masterminded by management consultant Samuel Rothapfel. Public performances started the next day. Presented on the screen was the Selig Company’s William Farnum starrer, “The Spoilers,” which ran for an unprecedented nine reels (about 15 minutes each) and was shown without a break, thanks to a booth equipped with four projectors. Filling out the program were “live” performances by singers and dancers and an assortment of film shorts and newsreels. Heard and seen throughout the entire evening was the 50-piece Strand Concert Orchestra, which played on stage, just below the raised platform that held the screen. Ticket prices were 10-15-25 cents.
Sixty-four years ago tonight, Charles Chaplin’s “Monsieur Verdoux” opened its world premiere engagement at the Broadway Theatre. The opening night performance was by invitation only, with continuous performances at “popular prices” starting the next day. Tickets could also be purchased in advance for the Broadway’s 250-seat mezzanine section for $1.80 during the day and $2.50 at night. The B&W United Artists release was a radical departure for Chaplin, who discarded his traditional baggypants character to portray a contemporary Bluebeard who marries and murders for money. Critics and public were generally hostile to the “black comedy,” which became Chaplin’s first financial failure.
Sorry! “Meet Danny Wilson” with Sinatra on stage opened at the Paramount the day before RCMH’s Easter show with “Singin' in the Rain,” so I assumed the Paramount’s was also a holiday booking. Perhaps it was intended to be, but disappointing buxiness caused Paramount to replace with “Bend of the River” and new stage show. Both films were U-I releases.
Sixty-four years ago today, Universal-International’s “Buck Privates Come Home,” a B&W comedy with Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Winter Garden Theatre, which was under lease by U-I in insure Broadway showcasing of product that might not get booked by the prestige palaces. By this time, Abbott & Costello’s popularity had dropped considerably since the war’s end. “Come Home” was a belated sequel to their first hit film, “Buck Privates,” which had proved a boxoffice surprise when it opened in NYC at the usually second-run Loew’s State in 1941 with support from a vaudeville bill that had the beloved Belle Baker as headliner.
Seventy-five years ago today, the Paramount Theatre opened its 1936 Easter Holiday Show with Paramount’s “Desire,” a B&W romantic comedy that reunited Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich for the first time since the sizzling “Morocco.” Headlining the stage revue was Ethel Merman, billed as “The First Lady of Rhythm.” Little Jack Little & His Orchestra were also on-board, plus Jane Cooper, a dancer who’d made a considerable impact in the latest “George White’s Scandals.” From 9:30am opening until 1:00pm, all seats at the Paramount were priced at 25 cents.
Seventy-seven years ago tonight, MGM’s “Viva Villa!,” a huge outdoor epic with Wallace Beery in the title role, opened its world premiere engagement at the Criterion Theatre on a reserved-seat roadshow policy. Two performances were given daily, with a third added on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. Tickets were scaled from 50 cents to a top of $2. The B&W David O. Selznick production was being promoted as MGM’s mightiest since the record-breaking (and silent) “The Big Parade.”
Sixty-eight years ago today, WB’s “Edge of Darkness,” starring Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, and Walter Huston under Lewis Milestone’s direction, opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Strand Theatre. The B&W melodrama about resistance to the Nazi occupation of Norway had two great “legit” actresses, Judith Anderson and Ruth Gordon, in featured roles. A lighter mood prevailed in the Strand’s stage show, which was topped by Jan Savitt & His Orchestra and the incomparable Ethel Waters. Also on the bill were the dancing Berry Brothers and Bob Dupont (aka “The Duke of Dexterity”).
Fifty-nine years ago today, the Paramount opened its 1952 Easter Holiday Show with Universal International’s “Bend of the River” on screen in its NYC premiere engagement. The Technicolor frontier epic starred James Stewart, Julia Adams, Arthur Kennedy, and Rock Hudson, under Anthony Mann’s direction. Headlining the Paramount’s stage show was deep-voiced crooner Billy Eckstine, with singer Fran Warren, Bobby Sargent, June & Martin Barrett, and Will Bradley & His Orchestra also on the bill.
Sixty-two years ago last night (4/7), the RKO Bushwick presented on stage, for one performance only at 8:30pm, “Chamber of Horrors,” with Dracula in person. This was a free bonus to the new screen program that had opened that day of two WB releases, the Technicolor musical “One Sunday Afternoon,” starring Dennis Morgan, Dorothy Malone, and Janis Paige, and the B&W melodrama “Whiplash,” with Dane Clark, Alexis Smith, and Zachary Scott.
For the Easter holiday week in April, 1944, the City Theatre switched policy by presenting a 2-in-1 Stage and Screen Show honoring our wartime Soviet ally. The Russian stage revue featured Constantin Poliansky and his WOR-Radio Balalaika Orchestra, cabaret singer Marusa Sava, dancer Vladimir Lazareff, and others, under the direction of Mischa Balanoff. On screen was the B&W Russian feature, “Lenin in October,” shown with English sub-titles. Performances were continuous and at popular prices.
The acoustics might have improved, but the white walls and ceiling were a disaster. The reflection of light from the screen made you feel like you were sitting outdoors. It became a cinema to avoid for those who preferred to watch movies in the dark.
Seventy-five years ago tonight, MGM’s “The Great Ziegfeld,” a spectacular B&W musical biography with William Powell in the title role, opened its world premiere engagement at the Astor Theatre as a reserved-seat roadshow. Screenings were twice daily, with an extra midnight performance on Saturdays. Tickets were scaled from 50 cents to a top of $2. Here’s a link to a photo of the Astor’s exterior signage for the engagement, which ran for months and was followed by a conventional popular-priced booking at the Capitol Theatre: View link
Fifty-seven years ago today, 20th-Fox’s “Prince Valiant,” a CinemaScope and Technicolor epic based on the famous newspaper comic strip, opened its NYC premiere engagement as the Roxy’s Easter holiday attraction. Robert Wagner, wearing a pageboy wig that reminded of Jane Wyman, played the title role, co-starred with James Mason, Janet Leigh, Debra Paget, Sterling Hayden, and Victor McLaglen. Ads prominently displayed the honorary “Oscar” that had recently been presented to the CinemaScope process. The Roxy had gone to a “films only” policy with CinemaScope, so the only support to “Prince Valiant” was a CinemaScope short subject featuring the Roger Wagner Chorale and a Terrytoon entitled “Arctic Rivals.”…Down the street, RCMH was also offering CinemaScope with MGM’s “Rose Marie,” plus a two-part Easter spectacle on the stage.
Sixty-two years ago today, the Capitol Theatre opened its 1949 Easter holiday show with the NYC premiere engagement of Universal International’s “City Across the River.” With Stephen McNally topping the cast, the B&W melodrama had no major stars, but its expose of Brooklyn street gangs was in the same realistic style as UI’s “Naked City,” which had broken boxoffice records at the Capitol the previous year. Heading the Capitol’s stage show were Art Mooney & His Orchestra, whose single recordings of “Four-Leaf Clover” and “Baby Face” had been recent best-sellers. Also on the bill were singer-pianist Rose Murphy, aka “The Chee Chee Girl,” and, as a special added attraction, the revered vaudeville, stage, and radio star James Barton.
Sixty-two years ago today, Loew’s Valencia opened a week’s engagement of MGM’s B&W “Command Decision,” starring Clark Gable, Van Johnson, and Walter Pidgeon, and the Monogram B&W programmer, “Henry the Rainmaker,” both exclusive first-run for Queens. The same conditions had prevailed the previous week with Paramount’s Technicolor “Whispering Smith,” with Alan Ladd, and Paramount’s B&W “My Own True Love,” which had now moved on to an exclusive-for-Queens week at Loew’s Triboro in Astoria.
Here’s a link to a photo of the 42nd Street marquee of Rialto II, with billing as “New York’s Newest Movie Theatre”: View link
In March, 1948, Loew’s Victoria presented the world premiere engagement of “The Fight Never Ends,” a B&W melodrama starring boxing champion Joe Louis and Ruby Dee, simultaneously with three other Loew’s theatres in African-American neighborhoods. At Loew’s Victoria and Loew’s 116th Street in Manhattan, the independently-produced film was supported by Columbia’s Ginger Rogers-Cornel Wilde starrer, “It Had To Be You.” At Loew’s Burland in the Bronx, MGM’s Technicolor musical, “Good News,” was the second feature. Bottom of the bill at Loew’s Brevoort in Brooklyn was 20th-Fox’s “Daisy Kenyon,” starring Joan Crawford.
Here’s a link to a photo taken in front of Loew’s Valencia during the Al Jolson tour: View link