Teatro Hispano

1421 Fifth Avenue,
New York, NY 10035

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Harlem on April 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm

The comedian Milton Berle, in a profile interview by Arthur Marx (Groucho’s son) for Cigar Aficionado Magazine reflected on a interesting experience he had at Harlem’s Mt Morris Theater.

‘A man named Schoenstein heard Milton and hired him to sing at the Mt. Morris Theater on 116th Street and Fifth Avenue in Harlem the following Thursday night.

Thursday at Mt. Morris was “songwriters' night,” when composers of pop tunes were encouraged to get up and plug their newest “standards.”

Because Berle was under 16, the rules of the Gerry Society prevented him from performing onstage at night. The organization had been founded to curb the exploitation of child actors by greedy parents. But Schoenstein got around this obstacle by having the young Berle sing while standing in a box at the side of the stage.

The songwriter that evening turned out to be Irving Berlin, who was there to introduce his latest song, “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” which was the big number from his army show, Yip, Yip, Yaphank. Berle sang it while wearing a Boy Scout uniform.'

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 1, 2010 at 3:03 pm

This Mount Morris was already showing movies in 1911 according to the NYT. It is still listed in the Film Daily Yearbook for 1947 as the Teatro Hispano with an address of 1 West 166th street.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 12, 2008 at 12:17 pm

According to a New York Times June 1991 article this was designed by Hoppin & Koen.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 25, 2006 at 12:15 am

This theatre is mentioned in Rogelio Agrasanchez, Jr.’s excellent book MEXICAN MOVIES IN THE UNITED STATES.

It was inaugurated as the Campoamor on August 10, 1934 by Argentinian tango singer Carlos Gardel (currently known as the composer of the song VOLVER) plus a variety show and the film CUESTA ABAJO. The film was a New York production starring Gardel himself. The theatre thrived with a string of Spanish language melodramas designed to make the audience cry. The Jorge Negrete feature UNA CARTA DE AMOR was granted standing ovations.

It was the CERVANTES by 1936 and then the HISPANO and was briefly known as the RADIO TEATRO HISPANO from 1940.

A photo as the TEATRO HISPANO is available in the book mentioned above.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 29, 2006 at 6:30 am

I should have written “two balcony levels” rather than “balcony sections”.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 29, 2006 at 6:29 am

I forgot to mention that it appears the theater had two balcony sections, judging from the view of the fire escapes. And this aerial view from the local.live.com indicates considerable fly space:

View to the East

You may have to close the welcome box at the left of the page to get a proper view.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 29, 2006 at 6:18 am

Here’s an undated B&W shot of the 116th Street facade showing the balcony fire escapes still intact:

Mt. Morris fire escapes

The shot was taken by Matt Weber who hosts a site at www.urbanphotos.com featuring his excellent photography of all sorts of NYC street scenes. He was kind enough to let me grab a handful of his theater shots for use here. Some of his images were also used on the recent forgotten-ny.com page on 42nd Street.

JonLoews83 on September 3, 2005 at 9:08 pm

Yes, the astronomical jump in value can be attributed to the development of the area… Just across the street, a new middle class building went up… Looks much better.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on February 22, 2005 at 2:26 pm

That’s a very interesting document lostmemory, thanks for posting it. There is a remarkably big jump in the market value in this past year. Is this due to a renaissance of the area?

Built in 1912 would make this a legit or vaudeville theatre to start with, it certainly looks like one. The Mike Rivest ‘Ultimate Movie Theatres and Drive-in’s List’ has it listed as operating from 1930-1940 which coincides with it not being listed in the Film Daily Yearbooks from 1941. What use befell it after 1940 until the current church took control I wonder?