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correction— I should have specified: “smoking was permitted in NYC theater balconies.” Balconies only. I came finally to climb to them as a teenager accompanied by friends, each with breast-pockets bulging with packs of Phillip Morris (my poison of choice) et al.
For my similar experience in the Paramount’s lofty balcony, scroll above to 3 March 2005. I don’t know why my mom climbed to the balcony that day. We never did at other theaters, except when accompanied by a smoker (her younger sister was one). IN those days, smoking was permitted in NYC theaters. It’s a wonder the projection beam was able to travel to the screen through all the celestial haze of Phillip Morris et al.
Many thanks for posting the NYT ad for 8 Feb ‘49. Perhaps my memory played tricks in my post of 1 Sept 2005 above— There I recounted a “Stage Party” with an in-person Olsen and Johnson somewhat later that year (associated with a revival of the filmed “Hellzapoppin” that summer and a live O'n'J extravaganza at Madison Sq Garden). But the Tuesday crossover “Laugh Day” with “Crazy House” matches my account as well (sans O'n'J in the “Stage Party”).
I consulted the full-page NYT for 8 Feb ‘49 and was amazed to see how many other films that I saw as a kid were playing that season— “The Paleface” (and “Sealed Verdict”), “Three Musketeers” (and “Mickey”), “Julia Misbehaves” (and “Ruthless”), “Loves of Carmen,” “A Letter to Three Wives,” “Command Decision,” “So Dear to My Heart,” “Down to the Sea in Ships”— Over a period of months my folks took me to see them at various neighboorhood theaters (the RKO Shore Road, Loew’s Alpline and Bay Ridge, the Stanley), but three of them I recall seeing with them on B'way— “John Loves Mary” with Jack Carson on stage at the Strand; “The Bribe” with Arthur Godfrey on stage at the Capitol, and “Joan of Arc” at the Victoria. Our legs must have been run off from attending so much.
My point is not to wax nostalgic about these events (I could bore this page with details about each) but to remark about how common movie-going was in those days, both at the nabes and via hour-long subway rides to Times Square. My family’s penchant for that was not unusual—I remember that other kids my age attended at least as many movies and some even a lot more, with regular weekly seatings at the nabes regardless of what was playing (my experience was comparatively selective, bolstered by compulsive reading of ads and reviews and my pint-sized contempt for critical flops; also, despite my protests, my folks would not take me to see “The Snake Pit,” “Road House,” He Walked by Night,“ or "Force of Evil”).
Where did anyone find so much time to do this? Our jaunts to Times Sq invariably took place on Saturday or holiday mornings (reduced prices before noon). February brought a number of holidays— including the post-war “Coal Week” which closed the schools for ten days to save energy (today we ought to close the schools to save kids from standardized testing). Over-crowded space also meant that the lower grades attended half-day sessions to share classrooms expeditiously. In ‘49 I endured the second grade in morning sessions, and I recall my mom often meeting me afterwards and then walking to the RKO Dyker for afternoon shows (with a bag of home-made sandwiches for nourishment). As my dad worked around-the-clock, he’d often join us. The “Stage Party” beginning at 3:00 pm makes sense.
This account might seem incomprehensible to a generation that views most of its films on DVD— though that medium brings its pleasures too.
For a string of posts about “Auntie Mame” at RCMH, scroll above to 8 September 2005.
Between 2 June 2005 and 20 January 2006, my Showplace programs from 1956-74 appeared on this site (weekly on Thursdays around 10:00), with strings of valuable commentary from CinemaTreasures members at that time.
Nearly three years later, I’m looking forward to rejoining the discussion and sharing still earlier Showplace programs.
“Paradise Lost” could generate a terrific movie. Milton, whose 400th birthday occurs on 9 December (New Yorkers: rush to the Morgan Library on 37 and Madison to see the magnificent exhibit), was a dramatist at heart, and the unaltered text would provide great dialogue. I’ve never seen a film at the Ziegfeld, but might make a special trip there if it showed that one.
Thanks, Joe Vogel, for connecting the theater’s (and town’s) name to the founder of Cornell U. In these deep dark days when the Great “D” word looms on the financial horizon, it’s worth noting that—after amassing a fortune from supplying the telegraph industry with lumber for poles and using much of his income to establish the university in upstate NY—Ezra Cornell lost his fortune by investing in wacky initiatives and died nearly penniless.
The color picture of the interior is excellent.
Warren’s introductory header above states that the interior had been re-painted in whitewash in most areas. I recall that in the late 1950s when I attended the Savoy a few times, the color scheme was largely pale green with dark-green trim and dark-green stage curtain, house drapes, etc. That color scheme might not have been the original one. A neighborhood theater that I’d spent much more time in, the RKO Dyker, switched in the early 1950s from a cream-tan-and-ivory scheme that I remember through the 1940s to a pale-green/dark-green scheme introduced as part of a general remodeling.
I also recall that the Savoy seemed more dimly lit than most, with a cavernous glare bouncing off the screen onto the far reaches of the ceiling and rear seating areas. The large balcony overhang might have accounted for some of the darkness in the rear orchestra.
Yes, the Savoy! And designed by Thomas Lamb! About four or five blocks in the other direction (north-west of the Kameo) from the Rogers (south-west of the Kameo).
But in the mid-1950s, that meant crossing a dangerous line (Eastern Parkway). So, my friends and I generally stayed away from the Savoy. But it was a beautiful theater. I vividly remember seeing “The Young Lions” there. It carried fare from the RKO circuit—in those days, less interesting than the usually better fare at Loew’s.
The Rogers, as a sub-run house, carried fare from both, for shorter (and later) three- or four-day runs rather than than the week-long first-runs at the Kameo and Savoy.
You probably mean the Rogers, on Rogers Ave between Montgomery St. and Sullivan Place. You can find it on this wonderful CinemaTreasures site by searching its name (there two Rogers listed for Brooklyn— this one is the first listed; the second was on Broadway). It’s not exactly around the corner from Loew’s Kameo, but about five or six short blocks away. I saw a bunch of second-run movies there (and at the Kameo)in the 1950s when I attended high school mid-way between the two theaters.
That’s pure, vintage Bosley C. My guess at the bottom of the page is that the film opening at the RKO Albee that day was “Weekend in Havana,” with Alice Faye and … Carmen Miranda! It would have been a better choice for the Palace to have followed the paradigm of “Falcon” and Bomber" by booking that film instead.
“The Maltese Falcon” opened at the Strand on 3 Oct ‘41, with Jan Savitt and His Tophatters, plus Hi Lo Jack and the Dame (Radio’s Most Unusual Rhythm Makers) on stage. WB’s premier venue, the Hollywood, was showing “Sargeant York” on a long hold-over run.
The Palace in those days ran a double-feature bill that cherry-picked the two main-feature films current on the RKO nabe circuit—in this case, “Dive Bomber” (with Errol Flynn), the feature attraction at the RKO Manhattan theaters, plus “Sun Valley Seranade” (with Sonja Henie!), the feature attraction at the RKO Albee, slated to follow “Dive Bomber” onto the Manhattan screens.
Nostalgic footnote: The World Series was evidently in progress, and the RKO advertisements boasted: “World Series Returns Announced.” I had almost forgotten that at that time of year in those pre-instant-newsflash days, the projectionist periodically muted the film’s sound track to announce the Series (and Pennant) scores at the end of each inning. Though barely more than a toddler, I hated that desecration of the movies and consequently developed a life-long indifference to America’s Favorite Passtime: who, in any case, should ever have so much time to squander on a leather ball?
Sorry— Radio City Music Hall in the early (and late, after the Fox’s demise) sixties (Pollyana, Absent-Minded Professor, Happiest Millionaire and many others that would take too much space to mention
Warren— As far as I know, the date of the change in copyright coverage began in 1979, and one of the leading lobbyists for it was the Disney Corporation. As you know, Disney’s Mickey Mouse made his debut in “Steamboat Willie” at the Colony Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1928, and the owner corporation began pushing for an extension of the copyright law several years before the little rodent’s fiftieth anniversary in order to protect its investment for years to come. When I published my own first book in ‘78, I needed to pay no royalties for quoted materials published more than fifty years earlier. For my second book (1982), I needed to pay hundreds of dollars for quoted materials published in the new twenty-year extension. For a book I published last year, I paid tens of thousands of dollars for such permissions.
The relevance of my comment to this pages on this site is to invoke the power of Disney’s movies to create change (for better or worse), and a question about whether the Fox ever booked Disney product the way NYC’s Roxy did in the fifties (Peter Pan, 1953), Lady and the Tramp, 1955) and Radio City Music Hall did early (Snow White, Bambi) and late (Mary Poppins and a host of other bookings in the early fifties). To me, as those large theaters turned to Disney, it seems that their horizons faced economic troubles.
Not shameful at all, Warren—
Francisco often lists Jan and Feb bookings at the end of the preceding year. I imagine that the reason has something to do with national release dates. In ‘56, for example, “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” opened in January and “Picnic” in February. Francisco lists them at the end of bookings for '55. Neither would have been appropriate for family holiday fare. But both opened in Los Angeles in December to qualify for Academy Award nominations. RCMH screeened them early in the following year.
Here are some other examples: “A Double Life” in Feb. ‘48; “My Foolish Heart” in Jan. '50; “Magnificent Yankee” in Jan. '51; “The Bad and the Beautiful” in Jan. '53; “Some Came Running” in Jan. '59; “Days of Wine and Roses” in Jan. '63 and “"To Kill a Mockingbird” in Feb. '63
One astonishing string of MGM films ran from “Mogambo” (1 Oct. ‘53) through “Brigadoon,” which made way for Paramount’s “White Christmas” on 14 Oct. '54—fifty-four continuous weeks of Leo roaring out “ars gratia artis” as the contour curtain rose.
If you scroll above, you’ll find that Warren has provided many such titles in past posts, memorably on 4 Jan ‘06 among others.
I can point to some of my own posts, too, on 29 Nov ‘05, 20 Oct '05, 28 Aug '05, 26 Aug '05, 23 Aug '05, and 26 March '05.
I thought I had also posted an account of my earliest visit to the Strand (4 Feb ‘49) on the opening day of “John Loves Mary,” with a guest appearance on stage of one of its leads, Jack Carson; another of its leads, Ronald Reagan, did not show up. The live review featured singer Marion Hutton, Robert Alda (known for his singing talent as well), the Emerald Sisters, Chris Cross and his Orchestra, George Mann, Beb Sweeney, and Dave (Tugwell) Willock.
From the center balcony, the performers seemed small and distracted to me, and the quality of the show not at all up to the pizzazz of the Paramount, the snaz of the Roxy, the showmanship of the Capitol, the splendor of Radio City Music Hall, or even the snap of Loew’s State in those days. Or perhaps it was me, at the age of seven, who was small and distracted.
Thanks for the wonderful ‘27 photo. That magnificent marquee evidently was the first of what might have been three in the theater’s lifetime. In my post of 10 March 2005 above, I noted that the theater underwent a facelift in early summer 1951, importing the modern marquee in the photo I posted on 26 April 2005. My earlier memory projects another marquee, larger that the one in your photo. It bore the shape of what was then the conventional RKO nabe marquee, approximating a smaller version of the one at the RKO Albee on Albee Square. It would have had four lines of title space, with white letters on black background.
But I also have a hazy memory of yellow letters on blue background—I’m recalling my first nighttime visit to the Dyker to see “Down to the Sea in Ships” (I was/am slightly younger than Dean Stockwell) in April 1949 (I’m associating the date with a family birthday) and was astonished to see lights that I’d never imagined.
Your photo also suggests my memory of the theater’s pre-‘51 box-office, established in the lobby’s right-hand wall-space upon entering the bronze and glass doors from the street. It resembled box-offices in mid-town legit theaters, with a bronze window-grating separating the buyer from the seller. Some of the earliest crayon drawings that I produced as a child represented that wonderful box-office, as its lines were easy to reproduce and the finished picture gave me the thrill of visiting the Dyker for yet another terrific movie.
I believe it might have been the B'klyn headquarters of Borden’s Dairy.
Thanks for the comments— I’ve been swamped with work and traveling widely for the past year and a half, and so have cut down on quality time with our treasured theater memories— I still have lots to share on this site, and will do so when time permits— am meanwhile thrilled to hear that your dad managed the venerable RKO Dyker— in the late forties and early fifties, my childhood nickels must have added greatly to your family income— Box-Office-Bill
The theater was located on Xi Chang'an Avenue, diagonally opposite the residence and executive offices of President Hu and other top officials of the national government (the “Zhongnanhai,” or “Red House” as Americans call it by analogy to the USA’s “White House”). In Spring 1999 when I lived in Beijing, the Capital was still in business, but I never passed through the portals of its cream-marbled lobby. Its screen-fare featured Hollywood blockbusters of the time that didn’t interest me (“The Matrix,” “The Phantom Menace,” Disney’s “Tarzan”). I regret not having sprung for at least one ticket.
I’ve just returned from two more months in Beijing, and was sad to see that the buidling has been demolished. The good news is that the area has been cleared for the magnificent new National Theater complex. Designed by Paul Andreu (French architect of De Gaulle airport and other airports, as well as of the French terminal of the Chunnel), the complex will open in September.
A huge steel and glass dome (rather like a mammouth version of LA’s Cinerama) surrounded by a broad moat, the National Theater includes an opera house, a stage for drama, a concert hall (even though the giant Beijing Concert Hall stands alongside it to the west), and an art gallery. I can only imagine that the space can accomodate film screenings as well, perhaps in its dramatic venue. Beijing TV recently aired a tour of the almost-finished structure, and it looks magnificent— a more-than-worthy successor to the now lamented Capital.
Excellent, Warren— both films played at our treasured Loew’s Alpine upon their original release. After touring through Loew’s Ray Ridge and the RKO Shore Road, they went to the Harbor and then to the Fortway. Last stop after that was the Stanley. Low on the food-chain in those days, the Fortway remained the penultimate survivor of the bunch.
Footnote: the RKO Shore Road itself is entwined with a Chinese destiny. Next door to it (originally east of it, in the mid-fifties moving to a new location a few doors west of it) was a Chinese restaurant named the “Shore Road.” The kitchen staff used to take cigarette breaks in the alley and backyard adjacent to the theater. When the RKO theater closed in 1951, part of the space was converted to a catering facility; in later days (the ‘70s, that space itself became a new chinese restaurant. History runs in cycles. to
Warren’s clip of the ad for “Ranchipur” is a special treat for Roxyphiles on this site. “Happy Holiday—Anywhere U.S.A.” marked the resumption of stage shows at the World Famous theater, after a hiatus of two years and four months upon the debut of “The Robe” and CinemaScope.
I remember reading as a kid those early 50’s ads about “open ‘till dawn” and then cross-checking the column of “Show Times” in the NY Daily News to see how the theaters managed to do what they claimed. Here’s how: the last stage show began just after midnight, drawing in the Times Square crowds after the ball fell. It was followed by the film, which then ran continuously until dawn. Truth in advertising: the bottom line of the ad would have read “Last complete show starts at midnight” (even the ad that Warren posted reads “Last complete show starts tonight (Friday)10:15 p.m.”). Eddy had to get some sleep before starting up the next day’s first stage show a bit after noon.
As it happened, I attended that memorable show at the Capitol at the age of seven and reported on it above, Feb 15 2005. To save you the scroll, here’s an excerpt: it “accompanied the â€™49 Christmas presentation of â€œAdamâ€™s Rib,â€ which I saw as a consolatory turn-away from the long lines for â€œOn the Townâ€ at RCMH. Hardly a consolation prize, the film was great, and the stage show offered a pitch-perfect match. It featured Eddy Duchin and his Orchestra, with some impressive finger-work at the piano in classical-sounding pieces (Chopin?) that drew the attention of even this mass-pop-culture-bred kid. I sensed that something larger that what I knew was happening. And I liked it even better than the flashy acrobat act that was more obviously but pleasantly designed for my boyish tastes.” Evidently the name of that acrobatic act was “The Kanazawa Trio”?
If you can locate a copy of an old “Stubs” guide to theater seating, you’ll see that the Criterion’s balcony was extremely shallow. (“Stubs” published floor plans of legit theaters for purchasers of reserved seats to check their seating; in the 50s/60s, it included floor-plans of road-show movie-houses for the same purpose; I deeply regret having discarded my copies over the years.)
From my memory of the Criterion, I’d find it inconceivable for the shallow balcony to function as a single theater: its wide screening/playing area would have projected to just a few rows of seats stretching expansively from wall to wall, giving patrons at either end a radically slanted view and wickedly stiff necks.
That’s a terrific photo— It recalls the neighborhood as I knew it in the 1940s when my grandparents lived there— Thanks.
What was the date?