Astor Theatre

1531 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Showing 101 - 125 of 239 comments

LuisV
LuisV on June 7, 2008 at 2:08 pm

It still pains me to read about the destruction of 5 theaters for the construction of the Marriott Marquis back in 1982. I am a staunch theater preservationist, but more importantly I am an even stronger believer is a safe, vibrant, clean and growing city that can offer a wonderful urban environment in which to live in and visit.

Sadly, the New York of the 70’s and 80’s was one of steep decline, out of control crime, massive arson, infrastructure that was falling apart and subways covered wall to wall in graffiti that you were lucky to see since many cars also had no operable lighting. There was a massive outflow of the city’s middle class and corresponding increase in the city’s poor.

42nd Street and Times Square was ground zero for this cesspool and the theater district was dying a slow, agonizing death. Something had to be done. The destruction of those theaters brought a new, huge convention hotel to the center of Times Square that bought new life to this moribound area. It encouraged other hotels and office buildings to follow. The complete closure and renovation of all of the theaters on 42nd Street continued the path. Thanks to that process we now have a restored New Amsterdam (arguably the most beautiful of New York’s theaters) in addition to The New Victory, The Hilton and American Airlines theaters. This, on a street that back in the 70’s and 80s was considered the single most dangerous block in the country!

Today, Times Square is criticized by some as having “lost its character” and resembling Las Vegas. To those people, I say “Go to downtown Detorit where you can have all of the character you want”

I for one, love living in a city where you can ride the subway comfortably at midnight, stroll down almost any street in complete safety, shop at the many department stores that remain downtown (unlike virtually any other city), and attend the theater in a district that has been astoundingly reborn, revitalized and for the most part renovated since the early 90’s.

I do not equate “character” with drug addicts, prostitutes, brothels, trash, graffiti and whatever else Times Square had in the 70’s and 80’s.

We’ve saved Times Square and New York! While we’ve lost many theaters we in New York still have an embarassment of riches. Now, we need to concentrate our efforts to protect and restore the theaters we still have left.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 29, 2008 at 4:26 am

Not one, but two 4-star reviews for the same picture on the same page, 12/20/1939. Has this ever happened before or since?

View link

roybarry
roybarry on May 28, 2008 at 4:30 am

Ed,

You are absolutely correct! I believe there was another film that used the word “pregnant” and created a stir among the religious groups.

Can you believe how much we have changed! Remarkable!

edblank
edblank on May 27, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Leroy, If I may correct the record without offending, I think the word the bluenoses found most objectionable in “The Moon Is Blue” was “virgin” (in a nonreligious context).
Also, there was an infamous exchange that I think went:
She: “Do you mind if I take off my shoes and stockings?"
He: "You can take off anything you like."
Fifty-five years ago, that raised eyebrows.

jflundy
jflundy on May 25, 2008 at 10:04 am

Photo February 1929 “Broadway Melody” at Astor:
View link

dodgerg
dodgerg on May 23, 2008 at 1:49 pm

It wasn’t just your youth Leroy. They were special times that are gone now with those beautiful buildings.

roybarry
roybarry on May 23, 2008 at 1:36 pm

It’s funny that you mentioned “Stalag 17” and the “Moon is Blue”. In July of 1953 I became one of those unique ushers at the Astor Theatre and its sister hheatre the Victoria. “Stalag 17” was playing and right after I began working there in came t"The Moon is Blue" where they dared say the word “pregnant”. We were considered one of the smaller theatres that had heart. At that time the Roxy, the Capitol, the Strand were all going strong. Of all the theatres there was something different about the Astor and Victoria. Our uniforms were unique, bright and vivid!

There was a positive energy in the 50’s that we don’t have anymore.
The 1545 Broadway entrance was behind the box office of the Victoria. I remember Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Paul Newman, Shelley Winters, Elia Kazan, Lee Strasberg, Burt Lancaster and many others going into the 1545 building. Kermit Bloomgarten had his office in the 1545 Building as well as Stasberg. For a kid at 15 it was something beyond magic.

Maybe it was my youth, but I cherish the expeiences I had and feel extremely lucky to have been there!

dodgerg
dodgerg on May 22, 2008 at 10:31 pm

If I remember correctly The Moon Is Blue caused quite a stir — it all seems so silly now.

edblank
edblank on May 22, 2008 at 10:06 pm

Thanks, Dodger. Your memories of the Astor are invaluable. Since rediscovering this website a couple of weeks ago I’ve been reading it compulsively, usually well into the night. I’ve been checking the blogs for every theater in every city I’ve ever visited. Best page-turner I’ve ever read.
If I can ever tear myself away from the many dozens of Manhattan theater blogs, I want to make contributions to nearly 100 Pittsburgh area theaters listed. Most of those blogs are very spare; some have no entries at all.
The downside of the Manhattan blogs is that can take hours to wade through. The one for Radio City Music Hall must be the “War and Peace” of movie blogs.
I’m grateful we have this gift – this forum in which to exchange tidbits.
Aside: One of the neatest coincidences when the Astor and the Victoria were grinding profitably was when each had a new big hit starring Bill Holden. He was side by side starring in “Stalag 17” at the Astor and “The Moon Is Blue” at the Victoria. — Ed Blank

dodgerg
dodgerg on May 22, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Well said, Ed Blank. Well said.

edblank
edblank on May 22, 2008 at 9:44 pm

What a weird buzz I got wandering into the Astor’s former shell after it had become that flea market. The place was abuzz but junky. You can’t get that buzz, I think, unless the shell of the old structure is the same and you can remember clearly how it had been when it was a moviehouse (the ticket-taker was just about here, the screen was against that wall over there, etc.).
Our memories are valueless to just about anyone who didn’t experience these grand old movie emporiums firsthand, but Cinema Treasures is a treasure trove of shared recollections by people who can revivify and amplify one’s own fading memories. Thank you, one and all. — Ed Blank

dodgerg
dodgerg on May 19, 2008 at 10:27 am

wow. Thanks Warren. Great pictures. Especially that Gone with the Wind one. I saved both. You’re a treasure trove of info. Good work.
rg

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on April 1, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Here is a July 1941 ad from the NYT:
http://tinyurl.com/3drh5u

dodgerg
dodgerg on March 28, 2008 at 9:02 am

Hi again Leroy. As I mentioned previously, I worked at the Astor as an usher for a short time in May, 1955 — East of Eden. I would also love to see that photo. Thanks.

roybarry
roybarry on March 28, 2008 at 5:28 am

View link

Picture of my brother and myself as ushers at the Astor & Victoria theaters from 1953-56

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 27, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Here is a November 1931 ad from the NYT:
http://tinyurl.com/22rhlq

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 26, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Here is a November 1946 ad from the NYT:
http://tinyurl.com/24bxsz

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 22, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Here is an August 1929 photo from the Ben Hall book, “Best Remaining Seats”:
http://tinyurl.com/375plz

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 22, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Here is an October 1955 ad from the NYT:
http://tinyurl.com/3c94xj

roybarry
roybarry on January 21, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Okay! Let’s all go out for a beer! I’ll have Sasparilla…gave it up 9 months ago. The best thing I ever did!

Roy

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 21, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Good grief! Thanks Ed.

For the record, I was just trying to narrow the scope for the date on the photo. My memory plays tricks on me all the time and I don’t think I am crazy either, but I can contribute by looking some stuff up easily at my end.

I wasn’t born yet when Leroy was a doorman at the Astor & Victoria and I would not think of belittling his valuable first-hand accounts in any way.

I never make mean spirited comments as I am just not wired that way.

roybarry
roybarry on January 21, 2008 at 10:48 am

That’s it! They couldn’t use the title of the book. There was a big to do about Holden doing this part. I thought it was a good film!

roybarry
roybarry on January 21, 2008 at 9:48 am

Hey! Why don’t we write a play…maybe we can make a movie of this? I should have not re-acted the way I did. Let bygones be bygones! However memories get distorted it’s still a great experience to reminisce those days. During the 4 years I worked at the Astor and Victoria theaters (Friday 4-10, Saturday 9:45 to 5, Sunday 11:45 to 5, full-time summer months) they would show sneak previews shown especially at the Astor theater.

I remember vividly the previews (not premieres) of East of Eden, On the Waterfront, The Big Knife, The Star is Born, Meet Me In Las Vegas, Main Street to Broadway and many more. The big moguls of the Movie Companies, reviewers …etc, would attend. Customers would get the privilegeg of seeing two films for the price of one. The Criterion and Loew’s State would also do the same. It was always be shown on a Monday or Tuesday with the the attendees filling out the questionaires given when they entered.

There was a film with Willaim Holden made based on the novel “The Magnificent Bastards”, but the film had a different name. Many of Hollywood’s big names at that time came to see this film at preview. “The McConnell Story” starring Alan Ladd and June Allyson also had the same experience. That film also had a big studded premiere. Had an embarrassing experience working that World Premiere. I was the doorman opening the limo doors when they pulled up in front of the Astor. It was alway mayhem with the photographers and the press. Sometimes the limos would come in en masse making the shuffling of opening the doors difficult. One of the limos had Natalie Wood and her mother. When the limo arrived I let out Natalie Wood and her mother, not knowing that there was someone else in the limo ready to depart. To my chagrin I closed the door on Tab Hunter as he was ready to get out. He chuckled and was very amused…but I was more or less embarrassed. I was only seventeen and something like that seemed more tragic that what it really was. Years later I had the opportunity to meet him and told him the story and again he chuckled. He also confided that that period in Hollywood was all publicity. He eneded up doing some good work later in his career. There was a film he did with Sophia Loren that I thought was one of his best films.

My wife who is 10 years younger doesn’t seem to feel the importance of that era. She loves to hear the stories of my experiences. I have an older brother who worked the Copacabana when Jules Podell ran the club. I keep telling him he should write a book about the machinations that went on there. Sorry getting long-winded!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 21, 2008 at 8:55 am

In all fairness, I’d hardly consider AlAlvarez' remarks to be an excoriation of leroyelliston. And the suggestion that one’s memory might be playing tricks need not be taken as a questioning of one’s sanity. My thanks to both Leroy and Al for sharing their facts and insights here for us to enjoy. Warren, your contributions to CT have been immeasurable, but you must admit that when the mood strikes, you are more than capable of administering some expert excoriation of your own!

roybarry
roybarry on January 20, 2008 at 11:39 am

I’m sorry for the mistake…but that to was previewed prior to the opening. I am not crazy! Must be a more gentle way of communicating!