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Today marks the 58th anniversary of the American debut of the legendary cascading fountain system known as “Dancing Waters,” which Leon Leonidoff discovered in a nightclub in Berlin, Germany, and brought to New York for the RCMH stage show,“Many Waters.” On screen was MGM’s B&W melodrama, “The Bad and the Beautiful,” directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Walter Pidgeon, and Dick Powell. “Dancing Waters” proved such a hit at RCMH that it was re-booked for that year’s Easter Show, and also returned to RCMH periodically over the years. The system eventually ended its transient career with an installation at Disneyland.
The current issue of the weekly Queens Tribune reports:
Some photos turn up early in this recent Forgotten New York article, but I don’t know if there’s anything that we haven’t seen before: View link
On this day in 1944, the Capitol Theatre was celebrating its fourth record-breaking week of MGM’s B&W patriotic fantasy, “A Guy Named Joe,” which teamed Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne and helped to raise featured player Van Johnson to major stardom. The Capitol’s stage show was also noteworthy, a cavalcade of rising MGM contractees headed by Kathryn Grayson, ‘Rags’ Ragland, Nancy Walker, and June Allyson, plus Richard Himber & His Orchestra and comedian Lou Holtz. “A Guy Named Joe” was later remade (disastrously) by Stephen Spielberg as “Always,” with Audrey Hepburn as a Heavenly spirit that was played in the original by Lionel Barrymore. The 1989 release turned out to be Hepburn’s last screen appearance. She died from colon cancer in January, 1993, at age 63.
Today (1/11) also marks the 78th anniversary of the re-launching of RCMH as a movie-stage showcase after its disastrous opening with “live” presentations only. The first film booking was Columbia’s B&W “The Bitter Tea of General Yen,” with Barbara Stanwyck and Nils Asther. I wonder what size the screen measured then?
On this day in 1940, Howard Hawks' B&W comedy “His Girl Friday” opened its world premiere engagement at RCMH. Based on the famous stage play “The Front Page,” the Columbia release audaciously changed one of the two main roles of newspaper employees into a woman, played by Rosalind Russell, cast opposite Cary Grant. Leon Leonidoff’s stage revue, “Town Topics,” offered a sightseeing tour of NYC old and new, including The Bowery, the Little Chruch Around the Corner, the Aquarium, and Grand Central Terminal. The prophetic “Crisis in the Pacific,” the latest episode in the “March of Time” series, rounded out the program.
From December 1951 into April 1952, Laurence Olivier and wife Vivien Leigh acted the title roles in “The Cleopatra Plays” on stage at the Ziegfeld Theatre. Supported by a company of British actors, the couple gave 66 performances of William Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra,” and 67 performances of George Bernard Shaw’s “Caesar and Cleopatra.” Ms. Leigh had previously starred opposite Claude Rains in a Technicolor film version of Shaw’s play.
Tomorrow (January 10th) will mark the 59th anniversary of the opening of the world premiere engagement of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show On Earth” at RCMH. Due to the circus spectacle’s running time of two hours and 33 minutes, Leonidoff’s stage revue, “Star-Spangled,” ran about 25 minutes, but still managed to use most of the resident company of performers. “GSOE” did smash business, but had to be pulled after 11 weeks to make way for the annual Easter Show with “Singin' in the Rain” on screen.
On this day in 1949, Brandt’s Mayfair opened its doors at 8:30am for the start of its NYC premiere engagement of Republic’s “Wake of the Red Witch.” Production of the B&W sea epic sparked a real-life romance between co-stars John Wayne and Gail Russell, which continued on-and-off until the mentally unbalanced and hard-drinking actress died from liver disease in 1961 at age 36.
A short history, with a color photo of the Savoy in its final “adult” phase, can be found here: View link
Tomorrow (January 7th) will mark the 57th anniversary of the opening of RCMH’s first CinemaScope presentation, MGM’s “Knights of the Round Table,” shown on what was advertised as the “World’s Largest Screen.” Leonidoff’s stage revue, “New Horizon,” included a spectacular rendering of George Gershwin’s beloved “Rhapsody in Blue” by the 50 members of the resident Corps de Ballet. The epic adventure with Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, and Mel Ferrer was also MGM’s first CinemaScope release.
January 7th will mark the 85th anniversary of the grand opening of Ascher’s New Terminal Theatre Supreme, described as “The Pride of Albany Park.” Continuous performances started at 1:00pm, with the exclusive Chicago premiere engagement of Fox’s “The Gilded Butterfly” and a stage show with The Four Original Brown Brothers, Bartram & Saxton, Marian’s Dancers, Harry Kogan & His Spicy Syncopators, and “Larson” playing the grand organ. Newspaper advertising claimed “4,000 comfortable seats,” and that “The Gilded Butterfly” would not be shown elsewhere in Chicago for at least six weeks.
No, Justin, you’re wrong. It’s Century 21, not Forever 21:
A recent view of the Kent Theatre as bargain store can found at the start of this new article about the Morrisania section of the Bronx:
On this New Year’s Day in 1941, RCMH provided six screenings of MGM’s “The Philadelphia Story,” the first starting at 9:05 in the morning and the last at 10:26pm. The stage show, “Pan-Americana,” gave five performances, the first at 10:57am and the last at 9:35pm.
Sorry, but my first sentence of today gave the name incorrectly and omitted “Street” (or “St.”). The number by itself implies that it was the 72nd Loew’s theatre, which I’m sure would be untrue…Would be great if the introductory photo could be changed to one that actually shows Loew’s 72nd Street in its prime, instead of the architectural zero that replaced it.
Sadly, tonight marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of Loew’s 72nd Theatre, one of the most magnificent atmospherics ever built, which survived for not even 29 years. The final program, part of a Loew’s circuit run, was “The World of Suzie Wong” and short subjects, which moved the next day to the RKO 58th Street. Loew’s now had no theatres on the East Side between the Orpheum on 86th Street and the Commodore and Delancey below 14th Street.
This debuted as the Trans-Lux 85th St. Cinema Cafe on October 12th, 1960, when it shared the NYC premiere engagement of Stanley Kramer-UA’s prestigious “Inherit the Wind” with the midtown Astor Theatre. “Cafe” used the French spelling, with an accent mark over the final letter, which I don’t know how to type in here.
The 1968 photo still shows the marquee and entrance used by Loew’s. But the Loew’s name has been removed.
Fifty years ago, on 12/30/60, the Starlite was advertised in the Chicago Tribune as “America’s Most Famous Drive-In Theatre,” but failed to specify why. For the New Year’s holiday weekend, it would be operating from dusk to dawn with four features, “North to Alaska,” “CinderFella,” “Carry On Sergeant,” and “I’m All Right, Jack,” plus 35 minutes of cartoons. The Starlite could stay open in winter thanks to “Really Warm Bernz-O-Matic In Car Heaters.”
Fifty years ago tomorrow, on 12/30/60, the B&K Tivoli started a one-week engagement of the stage revue “Smart Affairs of 1961,” with a cast of 50 topped by jazz-blues singer Nancy Wilson, the instrumental group The Three Sounds, comedian Slappy White, and limbo dancer Roz Croney. On screen was the sub-run John Wayne epic, “North to Alaska.” Doors opened daily at 1:00pm, with last stage show starting at 10:30pm.
During this holiday week in 1958, Loew’s State re-opened its stage with Alan Freed’s “Christmas Jubilee of Stars,” with 21 acts topped by “Cry” crooner Johnnie Ray. On screen was 20th-Fox’s “Villa!,” in CinemaScope and color starring Bran Keith and Cesar Romero, with Rodolfo Hoyos in the title role.
Only two days after Christmas, on 12/27/34, RCMH replaced its annual Christmas holiday show, which had included Shirley Temple in “Bright Eyes,” with an entirely different program. On screen was RKO’s “The Little Minister,” starring Katharine Hepburn, whose “Little Women” had been RCMH’s biggest hit so far. Leonidoff’s stage revue was entitled “Kaleidoscope.”
On this first day after Christmas in 1952, families heading to midtown Manhattan to see a movie combined with a stage show had five to choose from:
Paramount Theatre, Doris Day & Ray Bolger in the Technicolor “April in Paris,” with Sarah Vaughan, Illinois Jacquet & His Orchestra, and Stump & Stumpy on stage;
Capitol Theatre, Errol Flynn & Maureen O'Hara in the Technicolor “Against All Flags,” with Johnnie Ray, Ray Anthony & His Orchestra, Gary Morton, and Georgia Gibbs;
Roxy Theatre, Clifton Webb in the Technicolor “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and the first skating revue on the newly installed Ice Colorama Stage;
Radio City Music Hall, Esther Williams in the Technicolor “Million Dollar Mermaid.” with “The Nativity” and “Season’s Greetings” on stage;
RKO Palace, Boris Karloff in the B&W “The Black Castle,” and 8 Vaudevile Acts.
The Warner Theatre (ex-Strand) was temporarily closed for conversion to Cinerama.
Today (12/26) marks the 75th anniversary of the grand opening of the New Rialto Theatre, which would specialize in “Pictures chosen to give you the ultimate in thrill entertainment.” The premiere attraction was legendary animal trapper Frank Buck in “Fang and Claw”, a B&W feature documentary produced by the Van Buren Corporation for RKO Radio release. Doors opened daily at 9am, with last complete show at midnight.