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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.
On this day in 1965, RCMH changed its traditional opening day of Thursday to Saturday with WB’s “Dear Heart,” a B&W romance with Glenn Ford, Geraldine Page, and Angela Lansbury. Marc Platt’s stage revue, “Free and Fancy,” included a tribute to George M. Cohan and a guest appearance by Anden’s Poodles. The Saturday opening followed five days of closure for a $250,000 rejuvenation of the interior, the first on such a scale since RCMH opened in 1932. The last program before the work began, which had MGM’s “36 Hours” on screen, closed on February 28th. Thursday openings would resume with the next booking, which would be the annual Easter Show, with MGM’s “Operation Crossbow” on screen.
This week’s QUEENS TRIBUNE devotes its front cover and a full-page illustrated article to the “RKO’s Future.” The following link goes directly to the article itself: View link
On this day in 1943, Bob Hope made his screen debut at RCMH with the opening of Samuel Goldwyn’s B&W “They Got Me Covered,” which co-starred Dorothy Lamour and featured Otto Preminger as a nasty Nazi spy. David Butler directed the RKO release, the first of two films that Bob Hope made for Goldwyn on a loan-out from Paramount. Leonidoff’s stage revue, “Buenos Amigos,” saluted the Latin American nations, and included a spectacular new rendering of Ravel’s “Bolero” with an expanded Corps de Ballet of 86 members.
Sixty-three years ago today, the Capitol Theatre opened what was claimed to be “The Biggest Combination Show” in its history. On screen was Mark Hellinger’s “The Naked City,” an eagerly-awaited Universal-International B&W crime thriller that had been filmed entirely on location in NYC. Topping the stage bill was Glenn Miller alumnus Tex Beneke with his own orchestra and singers. Performing as an “Extra!” was the rising comedy team of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis. Ted Meyn was the Capitol’s resident organist at the time. The first show started at 9:00am, with the last feature screening at 1:15am.
In rememberance of Jane Russell, it should be noted that her first movie to be shown in New York City was Hunt Stromberg/UA’s “Young Widow,” a B&W melodrama co-starring Louis Hayward that opened at Brandt’s Globe Theatre on July 27th, 1946. Russell’s notorious debut film, “The Outlaw,” made in 1941-42, was long delayed by censorship problems, and didn’t reach New York until September 11th, 1947, at the Broadway Theatre. Amazingly, both theatres still exist as “legit” playhouses, while Jane Russell will live on in her films and recordings.
Sixty-seven years ago today, Samuel Goldwyn’s “Up In Arms,” with fast-rising comedian Danny Kaye in his feature film debut, opened its world premiere engagement at RCMH. The RKO Technicolor release included what became one of Kaye’s signature numbers, “The Lobby Song,” in which he spoofs movie credits and plots while standing on line in a packed cinema lobby. Russell Markert’s stage production, “Magazine Revue,” was a series of spectacular scenes keyed to covers of Life, Time, Saturday Evening Post, Liberty, and other popular periodicals of the time.
In remembrance of Jane Russell, it should be noted that 61 years ago today, she and Bob Hope opened a stage engagement here which was described as “The Greatest Entertainment In The Paramount’s History.” Les Brown & His Orchestra and Condos & Brandow were also on the bill. In view of the magnitude of the two “live” headliners, the screen attraction was Paramount’s B&W actioner, “Captain China,” with John Payne, Gail Russell, and Jeffrey Lynn. Doors opened at 8:00am to handle the anticipated crowds.
Russell and Hope had previously been seen on the Paramount Theatre’s screen in 1948 in “The Paleface” and would return in “Son of Paleface” in 1952.
From the mid-1930s into at least the 1950s, Loew’s usually booked the Orpheum and the State with the same movies due to the State’s uptown location. In December, 1939, “Gone With the Wind” played its Boston premiere engagement at both houses. The Orpheum gave continuous performances of “GWTW” during the day, with reserved seats at night. The State gave only two reserved-seat showings daily.
New England Theatres also usually had a day-and-date policy in Boston for the Paramount and Fenway Theatres. For example, August 31, 1950, was opening day at Loew’s State & Orpheum for “Summer Stock” with short subjects, while the Paramount & Fenway unveiled “Fancy Pants” and “A Modern Marriage.”
Sorry to disappoint, John, but I visited the site this afternoon, and the frontage looks nearly the way it did when Dr. Jays left. The only difference that I noticed since my post above of 6/30/10 is that the sidewalk entrance now has Mac Hudson Group of Long Island City listed as doing the renovation job. According to NYC permits posted, the work is all Alterations Type 2 and 3, which classify as “minor.” Two permits have already passed their expiration dates, but another is valid until May 31st. I suspect that once refurbished, the site will return to retail as soon as a tenant can be found.
On this night in 1942. Loew’s Hillside tried to boost attendance by holding a talent contest for amateurs on stage, in support of its current double bill of Paramount B&W features, “Birth of the Blues,” starring Bing Crosby and Mary Martin, and “Night of Jan. 16th,” with Robert Preston and Ellen Drew. The screen combo had its Jamaica premiere engagement two weeks earlier at Loew’s Valencia, which was now showing UA’s “Sundown,” with Gene Tierney, and MGM’s “Kathleen,” starring Shirley Temple.
Here’s a photo of the shuttered Loew’s Woodside before the church started making changes which included the removal of the marquee and entrance portion of the building: View link
Brad, that’s a toughie. As in some of your other photos, this might not show the main entrance to the theatre. It seems unusually narrow, and might be a secondary entrance on a side street. That might explain why the vertical sign says “Vaudeville” (which I think it does). There could have been another verical sign with the theatre name above the main entrance. Amongst all your photos, might you also have a list of Barto & Mann bookings for that period? Failing that, you might be able to find the booking reported in Variety or Billboard around the time of the release of the movie on the marquee.
Nassau and Suffolk Counties were originally part of Queens? I never heard that before. Perhaps you mean in pre-Colonial times, before Long Island was “settled.” Brooklyn is also on Long Island, though many people don’t realize that.
A phrase in the opening sentence of the introduction, “the one that virtually inspired them all,” doesn’t make sense to me. Does it mean that the NYC Palace started a trend for using that name for theatres, which I don’t think is true. If you go back in history, “Palace” was always a frequent name for theatres, especially the larger and grander ones, in English-speaking countries. You will also find its theatrical equivalent in other languages, such as “Palais” and “Palast.” Yhis particular Palace became the flagship of vaudeville for America, if not the world. It was the dream of every vaudevillian to perform at the Palace. Those that did had reached the pinnacle of success, and the headliners especially were treated like royalty.
“Techman,” I think it was the other way around. Springer took over the management of some of the lesser Century theatres that weren’t doing well, such as the Patio in Brooklyn and the Town and 43rd Street in Queens. Under Springer, those ex-Century theatres didn’t last very long.
The post office tried to discourage that in Queens, but has apparently failed to succeed.