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RobertR: The paper I saw had all the movie showtimes listed in a separate column called Movie Clock or something like that, but that was probably set up to be printed before the assassination. I don’t know if the movie theaters actually closed, but I’m sure you’re right about not too many people going to the movies that day.
Vito: I also recently saw a paper from November 23, 1963, the day after JFK was assassinated. I noticed the ads for the two great Cinerama features playing three blocks away from each other, and I wished I was as old as I am now when that paper was new, instead of being only 9 . I would have been going to see them on a regular basis. Another great ad I noticed: Fellini’s “8 ½” playing at the New Embassy 46th St. in Times Square.
BobT: When I think back on the best soundtrack experiences I’ve ever had in a theater, one of the best of them all was “Tommy” at the Ziegfeld.
I sure hope Vincent is right and they show it at the Ziegfeld. If Fox promotes it properly, they should get a really nice turnout. All of us will be there for sure.
Vito: here’s the link to the “King and I” screening info. I hope they bring it back someday!
I asked my friend how big the theater was. He said about 250-300 seats, but the screen was very impressive. So it sure ain’t the Roxy, but I’m still sorry I missed this screening.
A friend of mine went to “The King and I” and said the screen was very large, but he didn’t say how big the theater itself was. But if it’s the Academy’s only theater in New York, I figure it’s got to be a good one!
There is a theater devoted to showing only classic films, but it’s only one day per month. It’s the theater of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Lighthouse International building:
Next up is “The Pride of the Yankees”; last month was “The King and I” in CinemaScope 55. I just found out this theater existed and haven’t actually been there yet, but I hope to be going as often as I can.
Richard: Thanks to two wonderful revival theaters in my area, I’ve been fortunate enough to see both the 1926 “Ben-Hur” (at the Lafayette in Suffern, NY) and the 1959 version (at the Loew’s Jersey, Jersey City, NJ), but seeing them together the way you did must’ve been really wild, like you said.
Another reason why I’m so down on today’s movies: last night I dug out an old New York Times movie section from April 1968, and it was filled with ads for great movies playing all over the city – not just 1967 holdovers like “The Graduate” and “In Cold Blood” but new releases that had already opened in the early months of 1968, films like “2001”, “Planet of the Apes” and “The Odd Couple”. If I look at the movie section in today’s paper, I’ll only get depressed.
Richard, Vincent and CC: This is a very interesting and entertaining discussion, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: the movies of the ‘70’s as well as the older classics make most of today’s movies shrink to practically nothing by comparison. It’s almost April and there hasn’t been one new movie released all year that I’d want to go out and see. I probably won’t see any until “Star Wars Episode III”, a prequel to a '70’s movie. On top of that, the best theatrical experience I’ve had so far in 2005 was 1959’s “Ben-Hur” at the Loew’s Jersey.
The “2001” print that played the Uptown in DC in 2001 was the cut version. The 162 minute version was seen only by a lucky few, like Paul Noble. I saw it at the Capitol in June 1968 and so missed it by several weeks, but I have an old New York Times from 1968 which features a letter to the editor written by Jon Davison, who became a film producer in later years (“Robocop”, etc.). This letter gives us some idea of what the original version was like:
TO THE EDITOR:
After seeing “2001: A Space Odyssey” at a press preview, I was eager to see it again. Monday I cut poetry class, went to the theater and discovered someone else had been very busy cutting.
Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent work has been butchered; the sad result of the critical abuse heaped upon it by critics conditioned by TV pacing and Lester’s running, jumping and falling down editing. Almost 20 minutes have been removed, including some important plot threads. (This is a film that can ill afford to spare them.) The cuts (numbering somewhere near 30) were rather sloppily made on the print Loew’s Capitol is projecting. When I asked the manager about the deletions, he denied them, but a nearby projectionist added, “They only cut some of the parts that didn’t mean anything.”
Some of the parts that “didn’t mean anything” were: The computer’s asking for permission to repeat the message from mission control telling of its own malfunction; parts of the scene in which Dullea removes the faulty communications unit; the computer’s turning off the pod’s radio before killing Lockwood (thus puzzling the audience when Dullea asks HAL if he has been able to establish radio contact yet) and a host of visual cuts and shortening of scenes.
Besides the wholesale slicing, MGM added two meaningless title cards, which grate on the film’s visual style. The bastardization, complete with sloppy splices and uneven pacing, is now being viewed by even more confused audiences than met the original. But the most confused of all is MGM, whose lack of artistic faith in its own film led it to cut what it couldn’t comprehend, thus destroying what it hoped to save.
JON F. DAVISON
Graduate Film Student
New York University
New York City
Elsewhere in the same Arts and Leisure section (April 28, 1968), there’s a short article quoting Kubrick on how he himself has cut 19 minutes out of the film:
“Nothing has been deleted entirely,” he said. “These were simply short cuts here and there – it’s a common practice – to tighten and make the film move more rapidly.”
Anyway, I hope Richard W. Haine is right and the cut sequences still exist. I’d love to see them someday.
Vito: you’re right about today’s Fox fanfare. It doesn’t have the impact of the original orchestration we heard in, say, “The King and I” (1956), which was perfect. I can’t figure out why Fox made changes and so-called improvements in something that never needed any. Maybe some future Fox exec will change it back again someday.
Vito, thanks for that great story about the Fox Fanfare. 20th Century Fox had the best-looking AND the best-sounding studio logo in the history of the movies.
You’re welcome, Christian. That’s the first photo I posted to the web – I’m glad it worked. I hope you find your book. I’m looking forward to reading some of those stories.
Mike: the Loew’s officially closed in 1986. Here is the theater history page from their website:
The Stanley no longer shows movies but you can take a tour of the theater, which has been fully restored by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The State, sadly, no longer exists. In its place is a high-rise apartment/office building which hasn’t opened yet. The State is the one I went to the most when I was a kid in the 1960’s (they got all the Disney movies).
Pete’s right – there’s no exit music in “Ben-Hur”. Besides, the exultant music Miklos Rozsa composed for the final shots and the end title card couldn’t be topped anyway. Better to let the audience go out having just heard that.
I hope some of you who are reading this were there to see “Ben-Hur” last night. The picture and sound were beautiful, and the chariot race was never before as thrilling as it was from the front row of the Loew’s.
Maybe this link will work better:
Here’s a link to a picture I took in 2003 of the “King and I” footprint block. I hope it works:
Another funny line, from early on in the film: Cedric Hardwicke to Heston: “We have heard how you took ibis from the Nile to destroy the venomous serpents which were sent against you when you laid siege to the city of Saba.” Try saying that 3 times fast! Whether you take it seriously or not, “The Ten Commandments” is a real cinema treasure.
I remember The Closing of the Capitol being talked about on NBC’s Today Show in September 1968, but I was too young to attend. By the way, CConnolly, was the Anne Baxter “Ten Commandments” line you mentioned, “Oh Moses, Moses, you stubborn splendid adorable fool”? There were so many lines like that, but that one came to mind first. During one long-ago annual TV showing, my brother kept track of how many times the name “Moses” was spoken in the film. It ran into the hundreds.
I remember The Closing of the Capitol being talked about on NBC’s Today Show in September 1968, but I was too young to attend. By the way, CConnolly, was the Anne Baxter “Ten Commandments” line you mentioned, “Oh Moses, Moses, you stubborn splendid adorable fool”? There were so many, but that one came to mind first. During one long-ago annual TV showing, my brother kept track of how many times the name “Moses” was spoken in the film. It ran into the hundreds.
I agree with CConnolly. In 1989 “The Abyss” was shown at the Music Hall for one night only prior to its official opening day (in 70mm I think), and the place was packed. And didn’t Bob Furmanek say he saw the latest Harry Potter movie there last year? Was that open to the public or was it an invitation-only event?
Gee I don’t know, CConnolly … “Psycho” (1960) filled the entire orchestra section of the hall – thousands of seats, and on a weeknight yet! – while when I saw both “Kill Bill” movies on first run they each played to half empty theaters. But you can’t go by me – I’d go see any movie that played the Music Hall.
Before “The Exorcist” started that night, Friedkin told a great story relating to what CConnolly and R.H. said: in 1973 he and writer/producer William Peter Blatty were editing the film at Warner Bros' editing facility at 666(!) Fifth Avenue. They took a break for food at a nearby deli, and passed Radio City. Friedkin said to Blatty, “Well, there’s one theater our movie will never play!”
About the beat up print of The Exorcist REndres told us about: there was a splice during an early scene with Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn, creating a jump cut where Linda Blair seemed to teleport across the room from one place to another. It got a huge laugh from the patrons in the Hall.