Elysee Theatre

202 W. 58th Street,
New York, NY 10019

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bonacker2 on October 12, 2018 at 2:23 pm

I went to the Elysee/ABC Studio TV-15 sometime around 1955 to see a game show called “Dollar a Second.” The host was Jan Murray, the former Catskills comedian. My parents were friends with the head of the small ad agency that had the account of the show’s sponsor, Mogen David Wine. The show was done live (there was no tape in 1955) on Fridays at 9 PM. I sat in the sponsor’s booth which was in the rear of the theatre on the left side. It was very plush, like another world compared to the audience seating just outside the booth.

My parent’s friend had promised me I could see the control room, so about halfway through the show, he led me to the control room at the back of the theatre. It was extremely exciting. At one point, I saw on the monitor that the mic boom was visible in the shot. I tried to bring this to the attention of the director calling the camera shots who was right next to me. He never recognized my existence.

An interesting thing is that after “Dollar a Second” was over, a second show was aired there, but it was on NBC! It was some kind of variety show that was supposed to follow the Friday night Gillette (boxing) Fight of the Week. Its starting time depended on how many rounds the match lasted. The night I was there, there was not enough time for Jan Murray’s NBC show, because the fight ran too long. I heard them discussing what to do. They decided to do the show on Kinescope. I don’t know when or if the show ever played on TV.

After both shows were over, I and my school friend were led by the ad man out of the theatre to the stage door that was at the end of a long North-South alley just West of the theatre. Then up some stairs, we arrived at Jan Murray’s small, plain dressing room. Murray was exhausted and not interested in talking to us. He just said, “Okay boys, I’ll give you my autograph.”

I also met and got the autograph of the announcer, Ken Roberts.

My other memory of the theatre was when Dick Cavett was doing his show there. It was just before Christmas, and I happened to be walking by while he was taping a show some time after dark. Cavett’s limo was parked outside and was loaded with Christmas presents. His driver was chatting with some people about how Cavett was going to be going out to Montauk after the show and how long the drive would be etc. and how late it would be by the time they got to the end of Long Island. I remember thinking Dick Cavett has a darn good life.

KGordonMurray on November 22, 2014 at 5:09 am

Alas, Mr. Miller, your recollection of what you believe to be the Elysee/ABC Studio TV-15 is mistaken. The structure you cite in your above posts is not, nor was it ever at any time, a part of the Elysee. It’s an adjoining building. Please trust me on this. I’m a former ABC-TV employee…I assure you there isn’t a single remnant of that theatre still standing on 58th St. I saw the deep hole where it had once stood. I have in my possession 14 blueprints of the Elysee from various periods during ABC’s ownership. These include structural changes, dressing room makeovers, seating configurations and so on. The Elysee stood on what is Block 1029/Lot 37. That lot measures 75-feet wide by 100-feet 5-inches deep. It (and the theatre, of course) is a simple rectangle. As you know—having seen Lucy there (what luck!) the theatre’s orientation was north to south (i.e.; the front entrance on 58th St—the back wall of the stage oriented south of 58th). The building to its west (the one you point out) isn’t a part of the lot; the theatre’s west wall adjoined it. Mr. Miller, as I indicated above in Sept 2010, I so wish it were true that the Elysee—or even a piece of—still stood. It doesn’t and hasn’t since 1985. The St. Thomas Choir School now sits on “Block 1029/Lot 37”.

Ed Miller
Ed Miller on November 22, 2014 at 12:57 am

I just checked Google Maps, and the John Golden/Cort/Elysee/Dick Cavett Theater is still standing, exactly where I described it in my previous post. It is the building on the far right in the picture at the top of this page, and if you look at the Google Maps image of August, 2014, the theater is the building covered with scaffolding.

Ed Miller
Ed Miller on November 22, 2014 at 12:47 am

I’m sorry, but I must beg to differ about the information here regarding the John Golden/Cort Theater. I had an office job at 220 West 58th Street in 1973-74 (that building was recently demolished) and next to it was “The Dick Cavett Theater,” which had previously been the Golden/Cort. I walked that block this past summer, and I could see the remains of the Golden/Cort, though there’s no marquee, and the entrance doors have been surfaced over. (I saw Lucille Ball, as Cavett’s only guest, in this theater, when she was publicizing her movie, “Mame”.)

jimmo531 on August 9, 2012 at 6:49 am

Why was this theater re-named, for the second time from “Cort’s 58th Street Theatre” to “The Elysee Theatre” in the late 1940s? Does anyone know this?

Did the theater owner)s) of that time have some affinity for the Elysee Palace in France and/or did the architecture of the building in any way resemble the French palace? Or did the owner(s) just think that a good name for a venue showing foreign films?

edschuster on November 12, 2010 at 2:20 am

I was the manager of the Elysee Theatre for about a year in 1952. A major show then was “Stop the Music,” and they had some very fine guest singers. I’ll never forget sitting in my office and hearing an angel’s voice from outside and below. I rushed out to hear Sarah Vaughan singing “Tenderly.” But my most memorable moment was a benefit for Adlai Stevenson, especially after the show when Tallulah Bankhead rushed into his body declaring, “Darling, I’ve been working my bones off for you.” I’ve never seen a more startled gentleman. (Eisenhower also did a tape there.)

KGordonMurray on September 4, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Regarding Mr. Wilson’s post: my recollection of the Elysee’s site was one of complete demolition. I worked for ABC-TV at the time and curiously passed by one afternoon to ‘say good-bye’ to what was our stalwart Studio TV-15. There was nothing left. I would love to believe there is extant Elysee architecture still occupying 202 W 58 St., but I think it unlikely. Oh! How I would love to be proved wrong! I also attended Mr. Cavett’s show there and later on made many visits during “The $20,000 Pyramid” era. How lucky you were to have worked with Mr. Cavett!! A brilliant writer.

RichardWilson on August 25, 2010 at 1:58 am

I believe a small part of the Elysee Theater is still standing and integrated into the Choir School. It appears to be the “narrow, unadorned lobby” referred to in the main description, since it looks very old with a possibly Moorish design of the original building. As I recall, the lobby was on the right hand side of the theater. I attended a taping of “The Dick Cavett Show” here in about 1970, when I was a college student. 15 years later, I had the good fortune to work as a writer for Mr. Cavett on his short-lived USA Network series in 1985.
– Richard Wilson

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm

The first run of “Carnival In Flanders” was also the opening film when it became a cinema in 1936.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 3, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Stopped showing movies in May 1949 with the classic “Carnival In Flanders”

KGordonMurray on April 12, 2009 at 5:49 am

Yes, Blankety Blanks was taped at the Elysee Theatre, more correctly referred to as ABC Studio TV-15 by that time. The pilot was shot Monday Feb 10, 1975. The series itself only lasted 10 weeks though.

TheGameShowGuy on September 19, 2008 at 10:37 pm

The $10K,$25K,$20K and $50K Pyramid shows were taped here. As a college student,I spent the better part of Winter 1981 attending tapings of $50,000 Pyramid here- the last Pyramid to be taped in NYC. By then The Elysee was a bit shopworn…but I have fond memories of those Pyramid tapings. I believe the short lived Blankety Blanks, with Bill Cullen was taped here as well. You would often hear fire truck sirens from the fire house across the street from The Elysee on both shows.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 18, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Weinberg also wrote a Film Culture magazine column called “Coffee, Brandy & Cigars”. A collection of his writings was published under the title Saint Cinema and had a preface by Fritz Lang! I rememember him from some film society organization showings in New York at the U.N. around 1964 when he introduced a bunch of movies.

AdoraKiaOra on February 12, 2008 at 9:28 pm

What a charming name- Filmarte.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 12, 2008 at 8:39 pm

The into to this theatre should show that it was still showing films as late as 1948/49, as RobertR mentioned in his 2005 postings.

skyvue on January 16, 2007 at 2:45 pm

In 1937, when it was known as the Filmarte, this theatre also hosted the first Japanese picture ever to screen in America, Mikio Naruse’s WIFE! BE LIKE A ROSE (though it was shown under the alternate title of KIMIKO).

YMike on August 29, 2006 at 9:57 am

I believe ABC was using this theatre for TV before 1955. The game show “The Name’s The Same” originated from this theatre from 1952-55. The front of this theatre can be seen in at least 2 episodes of the classic TV series “The Odd Couple”. I also saw a broadcast of “Dick Cavett” at this theatre. I sat up in the balcony.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 30, 2006 at 10:32 am

You’ve got me on that one, Al. The CT-powers-that-be seem to have a grudge against that theatre. Whatever else it was, it was also a cinema treasure. Keep trying.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 30, 2006 at 10:00 am

Gerald, I recently tried adding the Ambassador and it was not posted either. Does anyone know the reason why a theatre that ran movies for over six years and brought foregn language classics like CHILDREN OF PARADISE to New York does not rate but the Winter Garden, Henry Miller, Bijou, and Drury Lane do?

RobertR on June 14, 2005 at 10:59 am

That’s a great picture, thanks for posting it. It seems 1948 and 1949 were big years for foreign films. I wonder if it had to do with the war having ended a few years before? I saw so many theatres even outside Manhattan showing international cinema.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 14, 2005 at 10:18 am

I once posted the Ambassador on Cinema Treasures. Someone must have deemed it unworthy because for most of its career it has been associated with live theater. So it was summarily removed. Here is a photo of the Ambassador in September of 1949 (was that a “slow” legit year too?) with patrons lining up for Rossellini’s “Germany, Year Zero.” I think these theatres should be added. After all the Henry Miller is on Cinema Treasures.

RobertR on June 13, 2005 at 11:21 pm

I don’t know if 1948 was a slow year for legit shows on Broadway, but both the Golden and Ambassador were being used for foreign film showcases. In April of 1948 there was a block of 4 theatres advertised as New Yorks Most Exquisite Art Theatres Presenting the Finest International Pictures. The Ambassador which was showing Ben Johnson’s “Volpone”, The Elysee playing “Fanny”, Art Theatre showing “Farrebique” and the Golden playing “La Traviata”.

Astyanax on May 8, 2005 at 2:49 am

Yes Shane, the show sounds vaguely familiar. Went there during the my early teens when my high school friends and I were too young to get summer jobs.

shane on May 5, 2005 at 5:37 pm

Hey Astyanax,
I once saw the same game show you mention from the second to the last row of the balcony. It was called Camoflage, done live and in black and white. Objects were hidden in a picture on a screen that had to be traced by contestants.
I also attended several Dick Cavett tapings there too. Knowing a stagehand got us third row orchestra seats.

Astyanax on March 25, 2005 at 11:06 pm

I had completely forgotten that I had come to a taping of a game show there in the early ‘60s. No idea of the name of the game show, and I suspect with all of the TV rigging, the features of the theatre were obscured.