Paramount Theatre

1501 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Patsy
Patsy on February 5, 2006 at 7:05 am

We seem to have some real theatre sleuths on CT, of late. It’s all very interesting to read and now it would be great to see a b/w photo of Dean and Jerry at that dressing room window with the crowd below!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 4, 2006 at 9:57 pm

I’ve been thinking about this and I agree with Ian and Brian’s take that this is a photo taken from the former stage housing on the north end of the building (with W. 44th street at our backs) and looking south into the house. That would make sense with the incoming streams of sunlight, which, in New York City, would likely signify a southern exposure. I know the southern exterior facade had those vertical windows from a photo Warren had posted a while back. Those windows would be along the left side of the Grand Foyer photo – but were they covered over anyway by the interior plasterwork? A similar situation might have existed on the stage side of the building along W. 44th street. A look at that footage of Martin and Lewis leaning out of the dressing room window would reveal if that was the case. If so, the windows(at least the first 5 floors or so) on both sides of the building were merely for decorative and non-functional purposes. If you were to look at an exterior photo of either facade, it was almost as if the design was to convey the illusion of a standard office building and protect the secret that, in fact, a vast and glorious theatrical space was contained within.

Broan
Broan on February 3, 2006 at 9:14 pm

I don’t know the layout of the building or anything, but it seems to me that it wouldn’t make sense to have windows like that in the stage section. Does the angle the sunlight is hitting at tell us anything about the orientation of the photo? It’s hard to get a sense of perspective.

IanJudge
IanJudge on February 3, 2006 at 8:57 pm

I would guess that the demolition photo under discussion is taken from the perspective of near the stage facing the house; I guess this because one can almost make out the line of the balcony along the left wall, with descending exit door openings from the top rear (center near the top of photo) towards the lower/left foreground of the picture. Never having stepped foot in the building, this is merely an educated guess.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 3, 2006 at 8:20 pm

Jim… Perhaps if it were possible to enlarge the demolition photo enough to make out the buildings across the street that were facing those windows, we might be able to determine which view it is. Across W. 44th street would have been the side facade of the Hotel Astor. I’m less sure of what would have been across W. 43rd except for maybe the rear facade of the Victory Theater.

Patsy… I haven’t seen a really great view of the old auditorium. That shot of the VistaVision screen is about the best I’ve seen. There is a color image of an artist’s rendering of the full proscenium that was posted back on December 15th by Jim Rankin.

Patsy
Patsy on February 3, 2006 at 11:50 am

Can anyone provide some auditorium photos or did I overlook them?

JimRankin
JimRankin on February 3, 2006 at 11:46 am

Ed: I finally got my computer to enlarge that demolition photo, and now I must agree that it is not looking out upon Times Square as I had thought. My apology is extended to any who may have been misled. The photo may well be of the areas you posit, but I guess we will never be able to prove which, since I doubt the photographer is still around to advise us, if indeed he could recal.

You are also quite right about the “circular lobby” view except that it was actually semi-circular, which I have a hunch is what you meant. They referred to it as the “Ticket Lobby.” In the 1976 Annual about the theatre, published by the Theatre Historical Society ( www.historictheatres.org ) are floor plans and many photos which make all areas clear, but they show no demolition photos. In 2001 two issues of their MARQUEE magazine show photos of the original facade and its lesser reproduction, as well as other changes to the interior. Columbia Univ. library as well as N.Y. Public should have copies of these that you may enjoy.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 3, 2006 at 6:44 am

Vincent… I hear you on the smug nature of some of the writing, but I can’t pick up the News or Post because there’s little coherency in the writing – it’s all tabloid style with no stimulation of my intellect. Newsday is well written, but the features are too specific to Long Island to suit my needs. I also love William Safire’s “On Language” column and the crossword in the Sunday magazine. And, I must admit, my politics do lean to the left, though I rarely read the editorials.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 3, 2006 at 6:37 am

Jim… I always thought that the view in that demolition photo was from the 43rd street side of the theater structure – from approximately where the grand foyer was – looking towards the 44th street – or stage side – wall. The wall on the left – with floor and interior wall structures exposed, might be where offices and dressing rooms were located. Of course, the view may also be precisely the opposite – looking from the stage end at 44th street towards the 44th street side. I know the vertical windows shown in the photo match what I’ve seen of the exterior 43rd street side of that structure – not sure if there were similar windows behind the stage area on 44th. If you look through those windows where light is streaming in, the view outside definitely seems to be one of the side streets and not Broadway. If the light pouring through was wear the great facade window was, we’d be looking out onto Times Square – not to mention that the extent of the gutting would seem to reach deep into the office tower, which was not the case. The office tower that fronts Broadway is either out of frame towards the right of that photo or behind the exposed wall depicted on the left, depending on whether the view is towards the north or south.

The 1926 circular lobby photo appears to be of the vestibule corridor that ran through the Paramount office tower connecting the entrance on Broadway (which would be on the lower left side of the photo) with the grand foyer, as described by Warren when he first posted the image. This image seems to be looking north with the chandelier hanging in front of that grand arched facade window we’ve been talking about (just out of frame to the right) and behind those “lunettes” would be regular office space within the tower.

Does that make sense?

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on February 3, 2006 at 5:37 am

Ed just like you I was addicted to those sections including Travel. Now I find it all just about unreadable. Smug overly assured just like that guy in the commercial"It’s the when where to to how to"-pretty annoying.

JimRankin
JimRankin on February 3, 2006 at 4:56 am

In Ed’s links above, the “circular lobby/vestibule” photo is virtually the same view as the Times' demolition view except that the Times' photo is from the ground floor level. The wall that appears to be windows in the 1926 view is actually two “lunettes” (mock windows) that are really mirrors heavily draped. In the demolition view the bare structural wall is the wall that the ‘mirror windows’ were hung on, and to the right in the demolition photo is the daylight pouring through the place where the great window with the stained glass ‘medallion’ was. A man I know was there during demolition and described the huge stained glass circle as “smashed,” so probably nothing of it remains. The same logo ‘medallion’ is seen in the 1926 view as parts of the ornate railing between the columns, and a section of that railing with medallion was for sale on eBay a while back, for those still looking for a souvenier of the theatre — see the comment about it above.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 2, 2006 at 7:30 pm

When the theater was gutted, the facade was completely stripped – including the marquee, the entrance, doors, windows, etc. That portion of the building was then rebuilt to match the motif you see on the rest of facade (with columns of triple paned windows and cast iron spandrels between floors), erasing all evidence that the theater entrance had ever existed. I don’t know if any of the glass work was saved (or more likely pilfered) during the demolition, but the pane with the 1501 address on the recreation is the approximate location of where the Paramount logo existed on the original.

There is a St. James Theater right down the block on the same side of W. 44th Street, which is a legitimate Broadway theater that currently houses the smash hit musical “The Producers.” Not sure if it’s the same theater mentioned in the book.

Patsy
Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 4:28 pm

The exterior Time Square photo is really quite something…just gazing at it makes the scene almost come alive! I see where the stained glass area used to be and I assume that is where the 1501 Broadway address is now. Did they just cover it up or was it simply taken out and removed? If so, I wonder if it still exists?

Patsy
Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 4:22 pm

In the book, Dean & Me a theatre by the name of St. James is mentioned so is (or was) that one in the NY/NJ area?

Patsy
Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 4:21 pm

Ed: The Grand Foyer was certainly beyond grand! And I’m sure many of the Hard Rock Cafe patrons don’t know that Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis played the Paramount in the 10 years they were together! They’d know the Lewis name because of his MS Telethon, but not sure if many would know the name, Dean Martin. And thanks for posting the wonderful Paramount photos as I’m sure they brought many wonderful memories for many New Yorkers!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 2, 2006 at 1:06 pm

Sadly true about the Times' involvement in (at worst) and indifference to (at best) the destruction of the areas once great movie houses. Still… I can’t seem to live without reading the Arts & Leisure, Real Estate, Metro, City and Book Review sections each and every Sunday. Additionally, their movie reviews have routinely been the most literate and thoughtful among those of the City’s daily papers.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on February 2, 2006 at 1:03 pm

The French curve marquee was so great I hate to see part or all of it covered up.
Anybody have a list of VistaVision films that played at the Paramount?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 2, 2006 at 12:58 pm

Patsy… Check out my post of December 5th. I took a bunch of photos of the current facade and marquee as well as the storefronts and restaurants that now occupy the ground level of the 44th Street facade that once housed the backstage area. This is the area where those 1950’s crowds cheered for Lewis & Martin as they hung out of their dressing room window 6 stories up. The cut for the original stage door is still there (the 3rd photo in my post).

Meanwhile, here are some of Warren’s excellent photographic finds from previous posts:

Grand Foyer – This ran parellel to W. 43rd (through the exit doors on the left) with the doors leading to the auditorium on the right.
Circular Lobby/Vestibule – Entrance doors from Broadway can be seen on the lower level in the right in this picture (this is the space now used as an entrance by the Hard Rock Cafe – with the actual restaurant in the basement below).
VistaVision screen – A shot of the newly installed screen.
Exterior shot – You can see the deeper recess to the glass work above the original marquee here.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on February 2, 2006 at 12:32 pm

Yes, Warren above points out that no one would have dared to protest the destruction of the Paramount due to the power of the Times, a paper whose smug biases make the NY Post and the Village Voice seem like gentlemanly journals of measured good sense and reason.

Patsy
Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 11:51 am

Vincent: Interesting insight and now when I see photos and live scenes of Times Square I will know that the former and grand Paramount was once within its midst.

Patsy
Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 11:49 am

EdSolero: Found the link to your NY Times gutted photo as I thought maybe it was a different one. Thanks.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on February 2, 2006 at 11:48 am

The New York Times was a great champion of the destruction of Times Square.
The great liberal compassionate paper wields its power like a mercenary tyrant.

Patsy
Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 11:47 am

“The recently replaced arched window above the marquee is much more shallowly set then the original arched window, which featured a stained-glass Paramount mountain in its center.” Where on this link is there a possible picture of the original arched window with the stained-glass mountain in the center?

Patsy
Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 11:44 am

RobertR: How does one view the NY Times photo of the Paramount being gutted on the site you listed 4/18/05? Would also like to view any and all interior photos if someone could direct me to where they are on this link. Thanks.

Patsy
Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 11:21 am

While scanning this link I read where the Paramount Mighty Wurlitzer is located today…..Wichita Kansas so glad to know that it is in existence somewhere!