Cadillac Palace Theatre

151 W. Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Cadillac Palace Theatre

There was already a 1,500-seat Palace Music Hall located at N. Clark Street and W. Randolph Street operated by the Orpheum Circuit which opened in 1912 and was later renamed the Erlanger Theatre, closing in 1962, it never screened movies).

The New Palace Theatre was opened in October 1926 and was designed by architectural firm Rapp & Rapp. Its interior design is similar in vein to the Los Angeles Theatre – a French Renaissance style beauty inspired by Versailles. The New Palace Theatre was originally opened as the flagship of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit (the State Lake Theatre, also in the Loop, was another one of the Orpheum circuit’s vaudeville palaces in Chicago). After showcasing dozens of big-name stars during the late-1920’s, the theatre was converted into a movie palace in 1931 as the RKO Palace Theatre.

In the 1950’s, attendance began to wane, at what was by then called Eitel’s Palace Theatre and live shows were re-introduced to the repertoire. During the late-1950’s, the Palace was altered to show Cinerama films. On November 12, 1965 it was renamed Bismark Palace. The neighboring Bismarck Hotel purchased the theatre in the 1970’s and it screened its last movie “Nicholas and Alexandra” in 1972. The auditorium was converted into a banquet hall by removing the seats on the orchestra level. In 1984, the theatre, now renamed the Bismarck Theatre, was converted into a concert venue.

Barely used during the 1990’s, the former New Palace Theatre was finally restored and renovated during 1999, and renamed the Cadillac Palace Theatre thanks to a large donation by the car company towards the theatre’s spectacular restoration. The renovated theatre was reopened during the fall of 1999, with the premier of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida”. The renovation has made true the name of the ‘Palace’.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 96 comments)

JRS40 on November 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

The last movie shown here was in 1972, the reserved seat presentation of “Nicholas and Alexandra.”

DavidZornig on January 12, 2015 at 8:19 am

1968 photo as the Bismarck added courtesy of John P. Keating Jr.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 29, 2015 at 1:08 am

This house was mentioned in Roger Ebert’s review of Finian’s Rainbow:

“Finian’s Rainbow” is a marvelous evening right up to its last shot of Astaire walking away down a country road. Unfortunately, the management of the Bismarck turned on the house lights before Astaire was finished walking; for that, I would gladly turn them into little green toads.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 29, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Your wish is my command: Link

★★★★ | Roger Ebert

October 14, 1968 | ☄ 0

“Finian’s Rainbow” is the best of the recent roadshow musicals, perhaps because it’s the first to cope successfully with the longer roadshow form. The best musicals of the past (Astaire and Rogers in the 1930s, Gene Kelly’s and Stanley Donen’s productions in the 1950s) were rather modest in length and cost. They depended on charm and the great talents of their performers.

Since “The Sound of Music,” unhappily, musicals have been locked into the reserved-seat format. That, in turn, apparently means they have to be long, expensive, weighed down with unnecessary production values and filled with pretension. It was a gloomy sight to see the great songs and performances of “Camelot” trying to get out from beneath the dead weight of its expensive, unnecessary, distracting sets and costumes. [Note: Camelot played at this theater too…!]

Movies are a faster medium than the stage. They don’t have entrances, exits, curtains, scene changes. Yet recent film “versions” actually tend to be longer than Broadway productions, and the second half is often an ordeal. Movie musicals shouldn’t be much more than two hours long, I think.

“Finian’s Rainbow” is an exception. It gives you that same wonderful sense you got from “Swing Time” or “Singin' in the Rain” or any of the great musicals: that it knows exactly where it’s going, and is getting there as quickly and with as much fun as possible. Remarkably, because it is only Francis Ford Coppola’s second film, it is the best-directed musical since “West Side Story.” It is also enchanting, and that’s a word I don’t get to use much.

A lot of the fine things in the film come from Fred Astaire, who possibly danced better 30 years ago but has never achieved a better characterization. In most of the Astaire musicals we remember, he was really playing himself, and the plot didn’t make much of an effort to conceal that. This time he plays arthritic, wizened, wise Finian McLonergan (with some songs and dances the original stage Finian didn’t have). And it is a remarkable performance.

It is so good, I suspect, because Astaire was willing to play it as the screenplay demands. He could have rested on his laurels and his millions easily enough, turning out a TV special now and then, but instead he created this warm old man, Finian, and played him wrinkles and all. Astaire is pushing 70, after all, and no effort was made to make him look younger with common tricks of lighting, makeup and photography. That would have been unnecessary: He has a natural youthfulness. I particularly want to make this point because of the cruel remarks on Astaire’s appearance in the New York Times review by Renata Adler. She is mistaken.

All the same, this isn’t Astaire’s movie. One of its strengths is that a lot of characters are involved, and their roles are well balanced. The story is familiar: Finian and his daughter (Petula Clark) journey to America with a pot of gold stolen from a leprechaun (Tommy Steele). They pitch up in Rainbow Valley, a rural co-operative near Fort Knox. It is inhabited by black and white farmers who raise tobacco, by a redneck sheriff and by a Southern senator (Keenan Wynn) who is even more stereotyped than Strom Thurmond. There is an intrigue involving the back taxes on the co-op, a couple of romances, race relations, and the pot of gold.

Petula Clark is a surprise. I knew she could sing, but I didn’t expect much more. She is a fresh addition to the movies: a handsome profile, a bright personality, and a singing voice as unique in its own way as Streisand’s. Tommy Steele, as always, is a shade overdone, but perhaps a leprechaun should be a shade overdone.

Al Freeman Jr., who plays an earnest young Negro botanist, has a hilarious moment as he brings the senator a bromo with the official darky shuffle. Barbara Hancock, an accomplished dancer, is fetching as Susan the Silent. Don Francks, as Petula’s boyfriend, is clean-cut and pleasant, alas. And after the racist senator (Wynn) is magically turned black, there’s a bravura scene. He joins up with one of the most improbable gospel quartets ever assembled.

The movie’s message is a sort of subliminal plea for racial understanding but not much is made of it. Perhaps that’s just as well. “Camelot” got mired in its involved philosophy, and “My Fair Lady” succeeded because it dumped most of Shaw’s preaching.

For the rest, “Finian’s Rainbow” is a marvelous evening right up to its last shot of Astaire walking away down a country road. Unfortunately, the management of the Bismarck turned on the house lights before Astaire was finished walking; for that, I would gladly turn them into little green toads.

DavidZornig on September 3, 2016 at 9:08 pm

1958 photo added courtesy of the AmeriCar The Beautiful Facebook page.

rivest266 on November 13, 2016 at 3:39 am

November 12th, 1965 reopening ad as Bismarck Palace in the photo section.

CineRob on July 10, 2017 at 4:44 am

Some of my fondest memories from my childhood were going to see movies at the then named Bismarck (Cadillac) Palace Theater in the mid to late 60’s. I was only seven years old at the time but remember how special it was to go to the movies back then and the Bismarck made it even more special and memorable. Thunderball, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, Patton, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid were some of the films that I remember seeing at the Bismarck. My parents and I always sat on the main floor about twenty rows back but it was the lobby, the huge screen, massive sweeping balcony and all of the detail and lighting that stood out and made going to the cinema an awesome experience.

MSC77 on December 31, 2017 at 8:09 am

There’s a new retrospective article out on “Camelot” which gives an overview of its roadshow run (including mention of its engagement here) and a historian interview.

JudyC on February 8, 2018 at 5:20 am

Just found a stage mechanic who was an employee of the Iroquois in 1903 and worked at the Erlanger in 1942. Arthur Marshall. Don’t know if he was at the Iroquois the day of the fire, tho.

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