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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.
Fifty-nine years ago today, 20th-Fox’s B&W “Deadline, U.S.A.,” writer-director Richard Brooks' gritty thriller about the newspaper world starring Humphrey Bogart, Ethel Barrymore, and Kim Hunter, opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Roxy Theatre. Hollywood singing-and-dancing star Gloria DeHaven topped the stage show, with support from the Norma Miller Dancers, juggler Veronica Martell, the comedy team of Noonan & Marshall, and the resident Gae Foster Roxyettes, H.L. Spitalny Singers, and Roxy Orchestra.
On this night only in 1952, Loew’s Melba presented eight acts of “Vodvil,” with the popular Pat. Rooney, Jr. as headliner. Also on the program were Paramount’s Technicolor “When Worlds Collide” and Paramount’s B&W “Submarine Command,” both in the third day of a week’s engagement.
Here’s a link to 1938 newsreel footage showing the resident Gae Foster Girls rehearsing outdoors on the Roxy Theatre’s roof: View link
Seventy years ago today, UA’s “Cheers For Miss Bishop,” a nostalgic B&W drama with Martha Scott as a spinster school teacher who dedicated her life to helping others, opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Music Hall. Russell Markert’s stage revue, “Yesterday,” harmonized with the movie’s period settings and had puppeteer Bil Baird & Company as the novelty act. Also on the program was Walt Disney’s latest RKO Technicolor cartoon, “Goofy’s Glider.”
Fifty-nine years ago today, Loew’s Woodside opened its final booking— a week’s engagement of MGM’s B&W “Lone Star,” starring Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, and MGM’s B&W “Calling Bulldog Drummond,” with Walter Pidgeon and Margaret Leighton. The Woodside’s closing would leave Loew’s with five theatres in Queens— the Valencia, Triboro, Hillside, Prospect, and Willard. Those last three were also due to be dropped, but would continue to operate under new managements. The Woodside had already been sold to St. Sebastian’s Church.
Thomas Lamb’s Hollywood Theatre, just across the street from the Capitol, still exists (in marvelous condition close to the original) as the Times Square Church. You can visit the interior free whenever services are held.
Sixty-eight years ago today, the Capitol resumed the deluxe stage/screen policy that had been dropped in 1935 for single features. The opening film was MGM’s B&W Naval thriller, “Stand By For Action,” starring Robert Taylor, Charles Laughton, and Brian Donlevy. Bob Crosby and his Danceable Dixieland Orchestra topped the stage bill, which also included Borrah Minevitch’s Original Harmonica Rascals with Johnny Puleo, dancers Mary Raye and Naldi, and radio’s “Hit Parade” singer Joan Edwards.