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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
More than a century ago, on Sunday, April 5, 1908, the Columbia was advertised in The New York Times as “The Home of Melodrama,” with the stage play “Sweet Molly O,” starring Dolly Kemper, due to open the next day for a six-day run with matinee and evening performances. On Sundays only, the Columbia presented “Shepard’s Famous Moving Pictures” and “High Class Vaudeville.”
More than a century ago, on Sunday, April 5th, 1908, the Dewey Theatre was advertised in The New York Times with eight acts of vaudeville, topped by the Watermelon Trust and Ben Welch, and assorted moving pictures projected via “The Deweyscope.” The matinee started at 2:15pm, and the evening performance at 8:15pm. Tickets were priced at 25 and 50 cents. This was the last day of the engagement. Opening the next day for a week’s run, was a similar program, with the Kentucky Belles heading the vaudeville acts.
Sixty-four years ago today, WB’s “The Two Mrs. Carrolls,” a B&W melodrama starring Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, and Alexis Smith, opened its world premiere engagement at the Hollywood Theatre. The eagerly-awaited film was based on a hit play that ran for two years on Broadway. To handle the expected crowds, the Hollywood’s last screening that day started past midnight at 1:15am.
One of the stars of the Albany’s opening film was Ronald Colman (not Coleman).
Fifty-eight years ago today, Republic’s The Lady Wants Mink" opened its NYC premiere engagement as the Holiday Theatre’s Easter attraction. Filmed in Republic’s own TruColor process, the romantic comedy starred Ruth Hussey, Dennis O'Keefe, Eve Arden, and William Demarest. Advertising claims like “How a Mink Can Make a Monkey Out of a Man!” failed to attract crowds. After its Holiday Theatre run, the film landed on the Loew’s circuit as supporting feature to Paramount’s Technicolored “Shane.”
Fifty-nine years ago today, the Roxy opened its 1952 Easter Holiday Show with 20th-Fox’s Jane Froman biopic. the Technicolored “With A Song In My Heart,” on screen. Susan Hayward, with her singing voice dubbed by Froman, played the leading role, co-starred with Rory Calhoun, David Wayne, and Thelma Ritter. The Roxy’s stage show featured TV singer Bill Hayes, ballerina Nanci Crompton, ventriloquist Clifford Guest, and the singularly named Divena in an underwater ballet. The Gae Foster Roxyettes, dressed as Easter bunnies, did their famous routine of balancing on huge rubber balls…This year, the Roxy had strong musical competition from RCMH, which had MGM’s “Singin' in the Rain” for the screen portion of its Easter show.
A couple of recent photos of the spruced-up facade of the Boulevard Theatre can be seen at the very end of this new article about Westchester Avenue: View link
Seventy years ago today, MGM’s “The Bad Man,” with Wallace Beery as a fictional spin-off of the character he portrayed in “Viva Villa,” opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Capitol Theatre. The B&W western’s supporting cast was topped by Lionel Barrymore, Laraine Day, and a future President of the USA (borrowed from Warner Bros.). Still being managed by Major Edward Bowes but now in a “screen only” period, the Capitol supported “The Bad Man” with a compilation of all major newsreels, plus an MGM Technicolor cartoon and the latest episodes of MGM’s “Pete Smith Specialty” and “Crime Does Not Pay” series.
Could this be the Bon Ton Theatre? It definitely is NOT the Broadway Theatre, and it doesn’t seem to fit the descriptions of other Newburgh theatres listed at Cinema Treasures: View link
Sorry, “Blessed,” but I don’t know the booking for that date. But you might be able to find it in the Brooklyn Eagle issue of 12/7/41, which some public libraries have on microfilm. However, many small, sub-run theatres didn’t advertise in newspapers because it was unnecessary and/or too expensive. Most of their patronage came from people in the neighborhood.
Seventy years ago today, the Roxy Theatre made history with the opening of the world premiere engagement of UA’s “Pot O'Gold,” the first movie ever produced by the son of an incumbent President of the United States. James Roosevelt’s B&W romantic comedy starred James Stewart and Paulette Goddard, with a plot spun around the popular radio program of the same title. That show’s Horace Heidt and his band, the Musical Knights, also appeared in the movie. The Roxy’s stage bill was topped by harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler, with support from Al Bernie, Ann DuPont, Weldon Barr, the Gae Foster Girls, the 12 Esquires, and the Roxy Orchestra.