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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.
Will there be any discussion about the future of the Brooklyn Paramount (if it has one)? Will it be restored to use as a theatre or performing arts center, or converted to offices or classrooms?
On this day in 1948, RCMH opened its annual Easter package, with Geroge Stevens' B&W “I Remember Mama,” starring Irene Dunne, on screen. The two-part stage revue opened with the religious “Glory of Easter,” followed by “Silver Lining,” a tribute to “the matchless magic of Spring in town and country.”
Eighty-four years ago tonight, the Roxy Theatre had its grand opening with the Gloria Swanson starrer, “The Love of Sunya,” on screen, and a spectacular stage show designed by the theatre’s founder and namesake. Tragically, the Roxy survived for only 33 years (most with a stage/film policy), and has been missing from the New York scene for just over half a century. What a loss!
Sixty-two years ago today, MGM’s Technicolor version of “Little Women,” with June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret O'Brien, and Janet Leigh topping the cast, opened its world premiere engagement at RCMH, supported by Russell Markert’s “Curtain Time” stage revue. RKO’s earlier B&W version of “Little Women,” with Katharine Hepburn, had also opened (with stage show) at RCMH in 1933.
The Arnazes purchased only the RKO studio lot, not the RKO Corporation or RKO Theatres (which by that time had been “split” from the parent). The studio, on Gower Street in central Hollywood adjacent to Paramount’s, was re-named Desilu. The studio was later combined with Paramount’s when Paramount purchased the entire Desilu empire to strengthen its position in TV production.
Seventy-eight years ago tonight, WB’s spectacular B&W musical, “42nd Street,” described as “A New Deal in Entertainment,” had its gala world premiere at the Strand Theatre. Many of the film’s stars and other WB contractees had been brought to New York from Hollywood by train on the “42nd Street Special” to appear on stage before the screening. Regular continuous performances of “42nd Street” alone started the next day, with midnight shows daily to handle the expected crowds.
On this night in 1965, Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland made a brief stage appearance at Loew’s Capitol as part of their area-wide promotional tour for “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” which was currently playing at the Capitol simultaneously with Loew’s Orpheum on East 86th Street. With radio’s Fred Robbins as emcee, Davis and de Havilland also visited the Orpheum that night, and Bronx and Westchester theatres in the afternoon. Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island theatres were covered earlier in the week.
That missing lobby fountain was quite large. I can’t imagine it in a dentist’s office.
“Halls of Montezuma” also introduced Roxy audiences to newcomer Robert Wagner, who would become a fsmiliar face there due to his contract with 20th Century-Fox, its principal screen supplier. At least a dozen of Wagner’s 20th-Fox films opened at the Roxy, most notably “With a Song in My Heart,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Titanic,” “Beneath the 12 Mile Reef,” “Prince Valiant,” and “Broken Lance.”
The Roxy Theatre came full circle with “Halls of Montezuma.” In 1942, 20th-Fox’s Technicolored “To the Shores of Tripoli” also opened there. The two titles are forever linked in the lyrics to the official hymn of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Sixty-nine years ago today, Ernst Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be” opened its NYC premiere engagement at the Rivoli Theatre. Carole Lombard, who co-starred with Jack Benny in the B&W comedy, had been killed in a plane crash less than two months before, but the Rivoli’s ads were headlined “Something gay is on the way!…filled to the brim with uproarious situations and sly humor.” Lombard was described as “more glamorous, gayer, more exciting than ever. Her last is her best.”
Brad, thanks for sharing that rarity, which shows a Fox connection on the side of the marquee. I believe that the Park Plaza was built by the theatre division of Universal Pictures, which sold it to William Fox before opening. Skouras took over the Fox theatres in the Bronx after Fox’s bankruptcy.
The Brooklyn Paramount’s two roof signs can be seen in reverse on the right side of this view of DeKalb Avenue looking towards Flatbush Avenue Extension:
On this day in 1959, Walt Disney’s Technicolor western epic, “Tonka,” which was considered too weak for a midtown Broadway booking, made its NYC debut at the RKO Albee. Sal Mineo, billed as “New York’s own,” played the title role in the “flaming story of courage and excitement,” which boasted a supporting cast of 1,000’s including Jerome Courtland, Philip Carey, and Rafael Campos. Filling out the program was the B&W suspenser, “Step Down To Terror,” with Colleen Miller and Charles Drake.