Tracy Theatre

219 E. Seaside Way,
Long Beach, CA 90802

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Tracy Theatre, August, 1973

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The Tracy Theatre originally opened as the Ritz Theatre in 1925, but the name was soon changed to Capitol Theatre.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 53 comments)

kencmcintyre on March 21, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Here is a condensed version of the article:

If you shut your eyes tightly, close your mind to all else and listen attentively, you just might be able to hear the distant echo of soprano Jacqueline McFadden singing, “How Are Things in Gloccamorra?”
And if the nostalgia of the moment, the plaintive air of the song, does anything to stir your body chemistry â€" you’d better keep your eyes closed, your mind a blank. For, to capture this mystical memory, you’d have to be standing in the once-proud theater where Miss McFadden’s rendition of the song from “Finian’s Rainbow” was among the last performances ever staged, back in 1959.

And a sight of your surroundings, the recollection of what used to be, would shatter your reverie forever. You’d see crumbling walls, rotting stage curtains, theater seats ripped out, the ugly scars of a bonfire, the shattered remains of a fallen chandelier, electrical fixtures dangling from ripped cords, pigeon excrement peppering the whole floor. You’d see a theater interior smothered in a delapidation, matched in ugliness only by the building’s exterior affronting 219 E. Seaside Way, under the sign: “Tracy’s.” Of course, you wouldn’t be able to walk into the theater now. The boarded up windows and doors, the trash littering its sidewalks, its smashed window panes, would tell you that this building across from the Municipal Auditorium does not welcome the legitimate visitor.

But beyond the barriers, the empty wine bottles, the cache of stolen credit cards in a pipe, are tipoffs to the clientele it now accommodates. And like an orphan, disowned by the city, neglected by its owners, forgotten by the community, it apparently will remain in this state for the foreseeable future. But no matter how gloomy its future, inglorious its present, there are many in the city who’ll long recall its splendid past.

Tracy’s was built in 1924 at a reputed cost of $225,000, as a legitimate theater with 1,200 seats. In its early years it played host to legions of international stars and earned a reputation as one of the finest acoustical and aesthetic theaters around. In addition to the theater proper, there was an attached three-story building which included six stores on the ground floor, a 4,000-square-foot balcony and cafeteria on the second, and two penthouse apartments with a private elevator from the ground floor street entrance.

After several years of use as a legitimate theater it was converted into a movie house with a projection and sound room. In the early 1950s it became the home of the Youth for Christ movement for about two years. Then in 1953 it became idle. For six years it stood dark until 1959 when the hope of a new life was fostered by the Long Beach Civic Light Opera Association.

But their dream of a future home remained only in their hearts. When the curtain rang down after a show on October 14, 1959, it closed the last performance ever staged at Tracy’s and the dream never bore wings because the necessary funds could not be raised.

Three years later, in March 1962, it appeared the shroud of darkness would be lifted at Tracy’s. Fred Anthony Miller, who owned the adjacent Wilton Hotel later renamed the Breakers International announced purchase of the Tracy building. Miller said he planned to remodel the theater and convert it into 1,200-seat convention hall. The plans never saw fruition. And the building has been empty ever since.

Current owners are listed in the city assessor’s office as Miller and Albert B. Parvin. Parvin’s firm of Parvin Dohrmann owns the Fremont Hotel and Casino, the Stardust and the Aladdin in Las Vegas. He also is the man who established the Parvin Foundation in 1961 that paid Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas $12,000 a year as president â€" dealings which have generated congressional attempts to impeach Douglas.

kencmcintyre on March 21, 2009 at 3:40 pm

The Tracy was finally demolished over the course of a few days in late March, 1974.

kencmcintyre on March 21, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Here is an expanded version of the photo at the top of the page, along with another photo, both from the LA library:

AliceK on April 10, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Very excited to find the great information on the Tracy Theater. As a young girl I attend the theater many times with my close friend Catherine Tracy whose father owned the Theater.

Catherine and I were school mates and best friends during the late 1930’s. I lost touch with the family and would be very happy to hear from anyone in the Tracy family. Catherine’s married name was Cobb.

If you have information about her or her family members please contact me at Thank You. Alice K

TLSLOEWS on February 4, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Great pictures too bad its is gone now!

kencmcintyre on May 7, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Here is a 1932 photo from the Long Beach Library:

TLSLOEWS on May 7, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Very good vintage photo ken mc.

GaryParks on October 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm

The Long Beach Library photo two posts above can’t be from 1932. Someone must have mislabeled it. The swing-out sign mounted on the theatre’s facade would have been of that vintage, or a little earlier, but the marquee is of 40s vintage. Trapezoidal and wedge-shaped marquees did not appear until 1935-‘36. The marquee shown in the photo was still on the theatre in 1973, when my adopted grandmother Mary Tolson snapped a picture (which I still have) of me standing under it. At the time, I was fascinated by the Tracy—though I never went inside. It’s boarded-up entrance and broken second story windows and terra cotta masks had me hooked the way many children get spooked and fascinated by old abandoned mansions. I remember even at that age noticing that the neon “crest” on the vetical sign was similar (though simpler) to that on the Belmont Theatre in Belmont Shores, which was still very much in operation at that time, and which we occasionally attended.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 27, 2010 at 6:08 pm

The photo is probably from 1939. The movie “Missing Daughters” was released that year. The “Jack London Hit” on the marquee could have been “Mutiny on the Elsinore” which was made in 1937 but not released in the U.S. until February, 1939, according to IMDb. Another London tale called “Torture Ship” hit the screen in October, 1939. The marquee looks brand new in that photo.

I don’t know who Norvell was, though, and the Internet isn’t helping, but the name rings a vague bell. Was he a mentalist? An illusionist? Probably something of that sort if he was doing a stage act that was not part of a larger vaudeville show.

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