Blue Mouse Theatre
626 SW 4th Street,
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This partially excerpted story appeared as the article with the nifty title: “THE SAD DEMISE OF THE DESPONDENT RODENT” (get it? ‘DESPONDENT’=Blue, ‘RODENT’=Mouse) by Loren Shisler in Marquee magazine of the Theatre Historical Soc. in 3rd Qtr. Of 1977, along with six photos.
The Blue Mouse wasn’t an architectural jewel, though at the time of its opening as the Capitol in July of 1928 it did have a pleasant Spanish motif with the exterior, interior, and furnishings very well coordinated, and of excellent design. It was of about 850 seats with a small balcony.
In 1912, a rather pleasant and pleasing little theatre opened at 11th and Washington Streets in downtown Portland. The name of the theatre was the Globe. It was later taken over and completely remodeled by John Hamrick and opened as the Blue Mouse on November 28th, 1921. In each Northwest city, when the Hamrick chain came in and established themselves, their first house was always called the Blue Mouse. It is interesting to note the origin of the name. One story is that Mr. and Mrs. Hamrick were visiting in London where they attended a musical play titled “The Blue Mouse”. They were so entranced by the play that they thereafter named their theatres Blue Mouse. There was also a Shubert production of “The Blue Mouse”.
We now have the Blue Mouse launched on its career. The first sound picture in Portland was presented at the Blue Mouse in 1926: John Barrymore in “Don Juan”. About 1936, the Hamrick-Evergreen Theatres closed the original Blue Mouse and later in October of 1940 Mr. Paul Forsythe would re-open the theatre. He presented family films and kiddie matinees. He was rewarded with success and a host of good patrons, young and old who became loyal Blue Mouse fans.
In the meantime, the Capitol Theatre had gone through a period of second run pictures, then vaudeville acts, then an era of strip-tease. It is said that the famous stripper Tempest Storm once for a short time owned and operated the Capitol. The theatre had been closed for some time by 1958 when the original Blue Mouse faced eviction when the property was sold and the building was to be torn down. Mr. Forsythe then removed the “Blue Mouse” sign from the old house and moved it and his operation over to the Capitol in August of that year. There was, however, one great difference in the operation of the new Blue Mouse as compared to the old situation. Whereas the original Blue Mouse had been located Uptown quite close to a good middle class apartment district, his new Blue Mouse was downtown in a district of old, cheaper hotels and small businesses. Consequently, some policy changes were necessary. The staff became the ‘shepherd’ and confidant of literally hundreds of lonely souls and habitues of skid row. The theatre became ‘their’ theatre and they loved the staff that worked there and continued their support of the theatre for many years.
In 1977 the “Blue Mouse Block” was to make way for a huge parking facility. There was a faint outcry to “save the Blue Mouse” but even if it had been a mighty roar, it was to no more avail than the “Save the Fox” campaign was in San Francisco in 1963. So now the familiar Blue Mouse sign that had been part of the Portland scene for so long has come down in 1977, the building demolished, and the unusual name no longer is a part of the world of the movie theatre. It may never have been the “Mouse That Roared” (to borrow from the title of the Peter Sellers movie), but it did manage to please many and squeak by for many years.
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