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On this night only in 1947, the RKO Franklin presented vaudeville in addition to its current screen program of 20th-Fox’s “Boomerang” and Republic’s “Rendezvous with Annie.” Topping the Franklin’s stage bill was the great comedian Mantan Moreland, best known for his portrayal of chauffeur Birmingham Brown in Monogram’s “Charlie Chan” series.
The Mayfair was built by pioneer exhibitor Walter Reade. Prior to opening, he leased it to RKO Theatres to insure quality bookings. RKO eventually had to drop out when it took over the management of the two new theatres in Rockefeller Center and also had to switch the Palace, which was just down the block from the Mayfair, from vaudeville to movies. Walter Reade took over the management of the Mayfair until 1935, when he leased it to Loew’s as a replacement for Loew’s New York. which was to be demolished along with the rest of the original Olympia complex. Loew’s New York had long been very successful as a subsequent-run house with two program changes per week, and Loew’s switched that policy to the Mayfair. During more than ten years as Loew’s Mayfair, that sub-run policy never varied. First-run bookings resumed when the Brandt circuit took over the Mayfair. During all that time, the theatre was owned by Walter Reade (and/or his estate; I’m not sure when he died). His son and namesake, Walter Reade, Jr., was responisble for taking back the management and re-naming the theatre the DeMille for positioning as a roadshow venue.
Sorry, Justin! Chalk it up to a typing error. I do know how to spell the word. Did you know that they’re called daisies because their scent can put you in a daze? Nelson Rockefeller would never permit them backstage at RCMH when his Rockettes were performing.
Seventy-eight years ago today, Fritz Lang’s “M,” even then considered a masterwork of world cinema, opened its American premiere engagement at the Mayfair Theatre. Starring Peter Lorre as a psychotic child killer, the stark B&W drama was shown with its original German dialogue and English sub-titles. No longer affiliated with RKO Theatres, the Mayfair was now being booked and managed by its owner, Walter Reade, with a policy of “The Cinema of All Nations.”
Justin, I was only kidding. None of your claims about Nelson Rockefeller and RCMH are true…No 3-D features ever played at RCMH. In 1953, MGM’s “Kiss Me Kate” was considered, but shown “flat” instead due to technical problems related to projection and the distribution of glasses.
Justin, you constantly amaze me with your knowledge. I never knew that Nelson Rockefeller ran Radio City Music Hall, that the Rockettes were his, and that he was responsible for their becoming New York icons. Thanks for sharing.
Fifty years ago today, Paramount’s eagerly-awaited “One-Eyed Jacks,” which starred Marlon Brando and also marked his debut as a director, opened its NYC premiere engagement at Loew’s Capitol. Photographed in VistaVision and Technicolor, the epic western was presented at the Capitol as a semi-road show. Performances were continuous, and regular prices prevailed, but tickets could be purchased in advance for up to seven days. Advance tickets guaranteed a seat, but not a specific location. The advance tickets could be purchased not only at the Capitol, but also at all Loew’s circuit theatres in the Greater New York area. Tickets for current performances were sold only at the Capitol.
Today marks the 51st anniversary of one of the most tragic events in movie palace history— the closure of the Roxy Theatre, which was quickly demolished that summer and replaced by an office building. The final movie was 20th-Fox’s British-made “The Wind Cannot Read.” Stage shows had been eliminated earlier in the year. No organized efforts were made to save the Roxy, which shuttered forever less than three weeks after the 33rd anniversary of its 1927 opening.
Fifty-nine years ago today, MGM’s “Singin' in the Rain” opened its world premiere engagement at RCMH as part of the 1952 Easter Holiday Show. Starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds, the Technicolor musical is now considered a classic of the genre. On the Music Hall’s stage, the “Glory of Easter” pageant was followed by “Spring Song,” which concluded with a spectacular fashion show displayng the latest creations of famous designers.
Jean Harlow played a full week at Loew’s Metropolitan as part of the vaudeville bill. She also did a full week before or after that at Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx, but I doubt if she created pandemonium at either theatre. She was still a star on the rise, and had just signed a long-term contract at MGM, which sent her on the road to increase her popularity.
On this day in 1943, the Oriental Theatre opened an exclusive one-week engagement of Billy Rose’s traveling road show, “Diamond Horeshoe Revue,” featuring showgirls and performers from the producer’s famous New York City nightclub. Staged by John Murray Anderson, the revue claimed 12 spectacular scenes and a cast of 50, including some of “America’s Most Beautiful Girls” and veteran entertainers like Charles King, Tess (“Aunt Jemima”) Gardella, and Walter Wahl. On screen, the Oriental offered the Chicago premiere of Republic’s B&W spy thriller, “The Purple V,” with John Archer and Mary McLeod.
Fifty-nine years ago today, the Paramount Theatre opened its 1952 Easter holiday show, with Frank Sinatra hip-hopping between screen and stage. The film was Universal-International’s “Meet Danny Wilson,” a B&W melodrama with Sinatra as an aspiring singer trying to break free from mobsters who own his contract. Sinatra also topped the Paramount’s stage show, with support from comedian Frank Fontaine, singer June Hutton, and Buddy Rich & His Orchestra. Sinatra’s career had been in the doldrums for several years, but recovery was on the horizon.
Fifty-eight years ago today, RCMH opened its 1953 Easter Holiday Show with WB’s “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” on screen. The nostalgic Technicolor musical starred Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, with David Butler as director. On stage, the sacred pageant “Glory of Easter” was followed by “Rainbow,” which featured the Rockettes as Easter bonbons and the return of “Dancing Waters” for a spectacular number by the Corps de Ballet. RCMH had strong Easter competition that year from its giant neighbor, the Roxy, which had opened the previous day with Ethel Merman in 20th-Fox’s Technicolor version of the Broadway smash, “Call Me Madam,” plus an ice-skating revue honoring the music of Irving Berlin.
Queens Borough Preident Helen Marshall has given her blessings to the RKO Keith’s Flushing re-development plan: View link
Fifty-eight years ago today, the Roxy opened its 1953 Easter Show with a double serving of the great songwriter Irving Berlin. On screen in its world premiere engagement was 20th-Fox’s Technicolor version of Berlin’s “Call Me Madam,” with Ethel Merman in the role she created in the smash hit Broadway musical. On its Ice-Colorama Radiant Ice Rink, the Roxy presented “Melody Time,” a tribute by the resident Skating Blades & Belles to Irving Berlin’s many evergreens, including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Always,” “Easter Parade,” “Blue Skies,” “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody,” “White Christmas,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
This must have been one of Marcus Loew’s earliest theatres. I found an ad for Loew’s Orpheum in the Boston Daily Globe of April 28th, 1911, which is four years prior to the 1915 closure for re-building reported in some of the postings above. The attraction at Loew’s Orpheum on 4/28/1911, which is nearly a century ago, was “All Star Vaudeville,” with continuous performances from 9:00am to 11:00pm (persumably starting time for the last show). Tickets were 10 cents and 15 cents in the mornings, and 10-15-25 cents for the rest of the day and night.
Seventy-two years ago today, John Ford’s B&W “Stagecoach,” a now classic western that elevated John Wayne to major stardom, opened its Boston premiere engagement at the paired Loew’s State and Orpheum. Columbia’s B&W thriller, “Whispering Enemies,” with Jack Holt and Dolores Costello, was the supporting feature…On that same day, M&P’s paired Paramount and Fenway opened with WB’s “Blackwell’s Island” and 20th-Fox’s “The Arizona Wildcat,” while M&P’s individually booked Metropolitan unveiled Paramount’s “Midnight,” supported by the same studio’s “King of Chinatown.”
On this day in 1944, MGM’s “The Heavenly Body,” a B&W comedy that lived up to its title by starring voluptuous Hedy Lamarr opposite William Powell, opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Capitol Theatre. Topping the Capitol’s stage show was the beloved “Schnozzola,” Jimmy Durante, returning for the first time since the theatre resumed its “live” presentations. Also on the bill were young Hollywood star Bonita Granville, dancers Mary Raye and Naldi, and Sonny Dunham & His Orchestra.
Sixty-seven years ago today, MGM’s “Whistling in Brooklyn,” a B&W comedy with Red Skelton and the entire Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, opened its NYC premiere engagement at Loew’s Metropolitan, day-and-date with Loew’s State in midtown Manhattan. Loew’s Met provided a second “A” feature in support—UA’s B&W “Jack London,” with Michael O'Shea and Susan Hayward. Loew’s State added its customary vaudeville bill, this one topped by Will Osborne & His Hollywood Band, who came direct from a smash engagement only five blocks away at the Capitol Theatre.
Seventy-six years ago today, MGM’s “Naughty Marietta,” the B&W musical that launched the legendary teaming of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Capitol Theatre, simultaneous with Loew’s Metropolitan in downtown Brooklyn. Helene Denizon, billed as “America’s Own Pavlowa,” topped the Capitol’s stage show, which also featured Florence & Alvarez, Bonner & Newman, and 22 Danny Dare Girls. The stage presentation at Loew’s Met included Freddie Martin & His Orchestra, Frances Arms, and the 3 Fonzals.
Seventy years ago today, Paramount’s B&W musical “Las Vegas Nights,” which was a showcase for “That Sentimental Gentleman” Tommy Dorsey and his swing orchestra, opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Paramount Theatre. The film included a rendition of “Dolores” by a skinny crooner known as Frank Sinatra, but his name wasn’t metioned in the advertising, which did credit actors Bert Wheeler, Constance Moore, Phil Regan, Betty Brewer, Lillian Cornell, and even comedian Red Donahue and his mule “Uno.” The Paramount’s stage show was topped by singer Allan Jones, comedians Wally Brown & Annette Ames, Ina Ray Huton & Her Orchestra, the Lane Brothers, and, the “Extra Added Attraction” of the Andrews Sisters. Within a year, Sinatra would start performing on the Paramount’s stage and quickly become forever linked to the theatre’s history.
Tomorrow (3/19) will mark the 52nd anniversary of the opening of the NYC premiere engagement of Walt Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog,” a B&W comedy starring Fred MacMurray and Jean Hagen, at the Odeon Theatre on Broadway and the Trans-Lux 52nd Street on the East Side. The Easter holiday booking also found Walt Disney represented on Broadway with the ongoing engagement of his Technicolor animated feature “Sleeping Beauty” at the Criterion Thearre, where it was being shown in Technirama 70 with stereophonic sound.
On this day in 1959, the Roxy opened what proved to be its final Easter holiday package, with Howard Hawks' Technicolor western, “Rio Bravo,” on screen. John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson starred in the Warner Brothers release, with Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, and John Russell featured. On its truncated stage, the Roxy presented “Spring Fever,” starring Dorothy Keller, with support from Earl Hall, the Roxy Singers & Dancers Moderne, and the Roxy Orchestra under conductor Robert Boucher. That year, the Roxy’s competition from Radio City Music Hall consisted of MGM’s “Green Mansions,” with Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins, and a two-part stage revue including the sacred “Glory of Easter” and the secular “Spring Parade.”
Sorry! The year of the ad was 1933, not 1932. The movie was originally released in Germany in 1929 as “Frau im Mond” (“Woman in the Moon”).
On this day in 1932, the Acme Theatre had a small ad in The New York Times for its current engagement of Fritz Lang’s German-made “By Rocket to the Moon,” described as even more fantastic and futuristic than the director’s “Metropolis.” All seats were 15 cents from 9:00am opening until 1:00pm on weekdays. Midnight performances were held on Saturdays.