Monday, August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder, RIP -- August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder sounded like a truly nice person. 

I think the first thing I saw him in was Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Parkside on Taraval.  I had played Mister Salt in a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in a summer theater class and I was interested to see how the movie worked.  It was scary. 

I saw Blazing Saddles later.
I saw The Producers after that on television.  It left an impression.
Young Frankenstein was one of the first movies I went to by myself.  I think it was at the Metro on Union.  I'm happy that it is a favorite of my whole family.
I think I also went to the Metro to see The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, which Wilder directed.  I thought the construction was sloppy.  I was becoming a snob after watching many Chaplin and Keaton movies.
Silver Streak initially caught my interest because of the train.  Wilder and Pryor worked very well together.
I loved the way he spoke about his wife Gilda Radner after she died. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Slipping Wives -- August 24, 2016

Film Daily, 18-April-1927

Priscilla Dean had been a popular actress in the late Teens and early Twenties.  By 1927, her career had slipped.  This made it appropriate that she appeared in Hal Roach's short comedy "Slipping Wives."

Herbert Rawlinson was a leading man who later did character parts in Talkies.   Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy appeared in the movie, but not as a team.

A note at the bottom of this ad says that it is a cornerblock provided to theaters to use in newspaper advertising.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fyvush Finkel, RIP -- August 15, 2016
I was sad to learn of the the passing of actor Fyvush Finkel, who had a long career, starting as a child in the Yiddish theater, and continuing on through English-language musicals, movies and television.  I always enjoyed seeing and listening to him.  On KQED-FM today they talked about him and included a recording of him singing a Yiddish song. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum -- August 10, 2016

On Sunday, after our ride on the Niles Canyon Railway, we went to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.  Saturdays are busy for us, so I have never been able to attend one of their film programs.  They have a nice variety of old cameras and projectors, and many posters for Essanay films and others.  There are many items about Broncho Billy Anderson and Charlie Chaplin, who made movies in Niles.  A volunteer was giving an enthusiastic tour, telling about Gilbert Anderson. 

"His Regeneration" starred GM Anderson, but he was not playing Broncho Billy.  Chaplin made a cameo appearance.

"Versus Sledge Hammers" was a comedy short made in Niles which starred Margaret Joslin, Harry Todd, Victor Potel and Ben Turpin.

A label on the projector said it was from a company on Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco.  Golden Gate Avenue was a center of the film industry.  In the 1970s and 1980s I took black and white film to a lab on Golden Gate for developing.

The California Motion Picture Company produced many of its movies in San Rafael.  They starred the beautiful and celebrated prima donna (that's how she was billed), Beatriz Michelena.

A silent movie camera, perhaps a Bell and Howell.

A DeBrie Parvo movie camera

Blackhawk Films must have been having a special one month, because I purchased a Super-8 copy of this Broncho Billy movie. 

Another non-Broncho billy part for GM Anderson. 

This Model T Ford was parked out front. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Movie Theaters in the Teens -- August 5, 2016

This post is part of  the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon III, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently, Ruth at Silver Screenings and Aurora at Once Upon a Screen.  From Fritzi: "While the last two events have been about chronology, this year we are focusing on specific aspects of classic film that are particularly juicy: The System, The People and The Films."  I decided to write about part of the System, movies theaters in the Teens (The 1910s, not the 2010s).    

Day One (The System) recap:

Day Two (The Films) recap:

Day Three (The People) recap:

Day Four (The System) recap:
Day Five (The Films) recap:
Day Six (The People) recap:
My 2015 post:Life of an American Director: Edwin S Porter in 1903:

My 2014 post:
1916, A Funny Year:

I grew up in San Francisco's Richmond District, which is as close to the Pacific Ocean as you can get without falling in.

When I went to Saint Monica's School, they used to block off 23rd Avenue between Geary Boulevard and Clement Street so the boys could play there at recess time because there were too many kids to fit in the yard.  I liked to look across Clement at the marquee of the 4-Star Theater and wonder what the movies were like.  I especially remember wondering about The Sterile Cuckoo, which sounded like an interesting title.  At the time I did not know that the theater had opened in 1912 as La Bonita.  It has been threatened many times over the years, but it still survives.

I saw many movies there, including Kiss Me Kate and two Three Stooges shorts in 3-D.  

I took the photo in February, 2013.

Motion Picture News, 23-April-1921
This ad shows that La Bonita was using a 9-10 year old Simplex Projector in 1921, which makes sense since the theater opened in 1912. 

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
La Bonita was listed in the 1926 Film Daily Yearbook as having 400 seats.  The address is still 2200 Clement Street.

Motion Picture News, 08-April-1927 
It looks as if La Bonita became the Star Theater in 1927.  Perhaps it actually became the Four Star then.

The Four Star has survived long enough to have a website:

The Coliseum Theatre, farther down Clement Street, was open from 1918 to 1989, with a couple of interruptions.  The Reid Brothers designed it.  They also designed the Balboa, the Alexandria, the New Mission and the York.  Now the Coliseum has a Walgreen's on the ground floor and condominiums upstairs.  I saw Jaws there, and a bunch of other movies. I always thought the theater was dark and gloomy.

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
"Names of theaters which appear in CAPITALS are first run houses."  

I need to do some research on the 250-seat Clement Theater.  It was gone before I came along. 

I later learned that other theaters in the Richmond had been built in other decades.  The Balboa and the Alexandria opened in the 1920s.  The Bridge opened in the 1930s.  The Coronet opened in the late 1940s.  I noticed that each theater had different design features, and wondered if they had to do with the decade in which the theater was built.

Early in the Teens, theaters tended to be small, like La Bonita.

Moving Picture World, 25-September-1915
Film Daily Yearbook, 1926

The Acme Theater stood on Stockton Street between Pacific Avenue and Broadway, near the Barbary Coast.  The 250-seat Acme was noted for the great variety of people who made up its audience.  "A more motley crowd than visits this theater in the evening would be difficult to conceive.  Chinese, Japanese, French, Italians, Filipinos, Hindus and Spanish form a large part of the audience, but they are very orderly.  Occasionally parties from Nob Hill visit the place to study the different races and to see pictures out of the ordinary.  The best business is in the fall, when the salmon packets have returned to San Francisco from Alaska, filled with foreign workers well supplied with ready money."-- Moving Picture World, 25-September-1915

Note the arch above the ticket booth and the entrance.  This was a popular design feature on movie theaters of the teens.

I suppose "Acke" at the same address in the Film Daily Yearbook  is a typo.

Moving Picture World, 23-October-1915
Some small towns had moderate-sized movie theaters.  Fort Bragg, California, a lumber town, had three in 1915. 

"Competition Keen at Fort Bragg, Cal.

"Town of Three Thousand Inhabitants Supporting Three Motion Picture Theaters

"Fort Bragg is one of the most interesting of the small seaport towns in northern California ... It is in the center of a great redwood lumbering region and is almost entirely dependent upon this industry for its existence, the "back country" being but sparsely settled.  Business is conducted there in a big way, lumber being sold largely in cargo lots; and while the population is probably less than three thousand, there are twenty-eight thirst-quenching emporiums, not counting the soda fountains, and three moving picture houses -- all striving eagerly for business."

Moving Picture World, 23-October-1915

Note the arches in the Union and the Dreamland.

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
By 1926, there were only two theaters in Fort Bragg.  I wonder if the United was the Union.  The last column with two dots is headed "Days Open."  I assume that the dots mean both theaters are open seven days.  There were no blue laws in Fort Bragg. 

The old growth redwood lumber near Fort Bragg is just about gone, but the town is still the home of the California Western Railroad, the Skunk Train:

Motography, 29-January-1916
Movie theaters got bigger during the Teens.  The 2500-seat Coliseum Theater in Seattle was the largest movie theater in the United States when it opened. Coliseum was a popular name for a big theater. 

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
In 1926 the yearbook said that the Coliseum had only 2200 seats.  I would like to learn about the Blue Mouse.

Theater owners tried some tricks to improve business.  Sometimes they built new types of theaters.

Cyclopedia of Motion-Picture Work, 1911
 Before air conditioning, theater business tended to decline during hot weather.  Some theater owners in warm areas countered by creating open air theaters called airdomes or air domes.  They were not drive-ins.  Customers sat in chairs and enjoyed the evening breeze.

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
The Airdome in Corpus Christ, Texas seated 800.  I like the name of the AMUSU (think about it).

Motography, 12-February-1916
Foreshadowing the multiplex, the Duplex Theater in Detroit had two auditoriums.  Unlike a modern multiplex, both auditoriums showed the same program.  One side would play the short subjects while the other would play the feature.  Then they would switch.  A single projection booth covered both.  A single organ could play for either side by opening and closing doors.  I guess the orchestra moved back and forth.

Motography, 15-January-1916
Moving Picture World, 12-September-1914
This image explains how it worked.  People in the auditorium on the left looked through the glass wall in the middle and watched the screen at the back of the auditorium on the right.  People in the auditorium on the right watched the screen on in the auditorium on the left.  I'm not clear why it would have been set up that way.  I would have spent a lot of time looking back over my shoulder. 

The Duplex does not appear in the 1926 Film Daily YearbookI suspect it may not have been a success. 

Theater owners tried a lot of promotional tricks to get people to buy tickets.  Many of them involved Charlie Chaplin movies.

Moving Picture World, 09-October-1915
The Star Theater in Louisville, Kentucky worked hard to advertise Chaplin's Essanay production "By the Sea" with "an unusual use of cut-outs for lobby display.  It will be seen that not only the regular cut-out is displayed, but that a big sheet has been cut up to increase the display."  

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
 "Sup. Pict. Hse."?  Superior Picture House?

Moving Picture World, 02-October-1915
The Bijou-Grand in Walla Walla, Washington ballyhooed Chaplin films using a cutout on the front of an auto.  "The value of the cut-out over the painted sign is that wherever it is seen it is known."

The Bijou-Grand does not appear in the 1926 Film Daily Yearbook

Motography, 27-May-1916
"Manager John Hamrick of the Rex Theater is on record as having worked the greatest advertising stunt ever seen in Seattle.  Mr. Hamrick has the smallest first run house in the city, but in spite of this, when the date for the release of the Chaplin feature, 'Carmen,' was announced, he resolved to get it. 

"With all Seattle's larger theaters bidding for it, Mr. Hamrick outbid them, paying a record price.  Realizing that such a picture deserved big advertising he set to work right away.  The first showing of the film was to be Sunday, April 16.  For a week before he had the town well papered with huge posters showing a picture of Charlie as Darn Hosiery and announcing the price he had to pay to outbid the other exhibitors.  Next, he arranged with the Seattle Star to run a Chaplin contest to take place Saturday noon, April 22, in Bon Marche Park, in the center of the downtown district.  Then in some unaccountable way he managed to persuade the editor of the Star to feature this contest on the front page of his paper five consecutive days.  The result was so many entries that Mr. Hamrick began to wonder whether there would be room in the park for them all." 

Seattle Star, 22-April-1916
Seattle Star, 22-April-1916
Seattle Star, 22-April-1916
 The Rex does not appear in the 1926 Film Daily Yearbook.

Film Fun, January, 1916
Adults also participated in Charlie Chaplin look alike contests.  The Film Fun images are from such a contest "staged by the management of a picture house in Dublin."  There is a popular story that Chaplin himself entered a look alike contest and came in second.  This is probably not true, but it is a good story. 

Motography, 20-November-1915
The accompanying story says that HE Ellison, proprietor and manager of the Princess Theater in Denver, Colorado, used decorating color schemes to let patrons know what was playing.  Baby blue indicated Mary Pickford.  Blanche Sweet was yellow and Marguerite Clark was "deep purple."  My eyes aren't good enough to spot it, but apparently in this photo there is a large gold ring around the box office because they were showing a Blanche Ring movie. 

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
The Princess seated 1150.  Note the arch. 

Nickelodeon, 18-March-1911
The Star Theater in Portland, Oregon was showing "The Cheyenne Brave," which starred James Young Deer, a pioneering Native American actor and producer.  I suppose the waterfall and river scene above the entrance is part of the promotion for the movie.

The Star does not appear in the 1926 Film Daily Yearbook

Exterior lighting was one method used by theater managers to attract attention.  Neon lighting was first presented in France in 1910,. but it did not appear in the United States until the 1920s.  Exterior lighting in the Teens was done with individual bulbs.

Nickelodeon, 04-February-1911
The Broadway Theater in Louisville, Kentucky is described as "A Successful Suburban House."  The accompanying article says the mission style façade was "painted in harmonious shades of green."  The arch was "studded with about one hundred and fifty 60-candle-power-tungstens."  The four globes each contained "four 40-watt tungstens."  The "Broadway" sign was "composed of one hundred 60-candle-power-tungstens." There's an arch again.

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
259,259 was the population of Louisville, Kentucky.  The Film Daily Yearbook does not have the theater's capacity.  The two dots at the end seem to indicate that it was open seven days a week. 

Motography, April, 1911
The illumination of Denver's Isis Theater is shown in these two rare night-time images from the April, 1911 Motography.  Note that admission was five cents a head and that there was a "New Picture Every Day."  Also note the flattened arch. 

Motography, April, 1911

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
I thought it was interesting that Denver had an Iris Theater and an Isis Theater, which must have been on the same block.  I suspect they may have been under common management. 

Motography, April, 1911

Nickelodeon, 25-March-1911
The Majestic Theater in Louisville, Kentucky.  The accompanying article calls it the "cynosure of attention."  Not a word one sees every day. Note the arch. 

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
The Film Daily Yearbook does not have the theater's capacity, either.

Motography, 28-November-1914
Signs on Milwaukee's Mozart Theater advertise After the Ball, a film starring husband and wife Herbert Kelcey and Effie Shannon.  "Crowd gathered ... at 10:30 P.M. still waiting to see 'After the Ball' the Photo Drama Company's multiple reel feature."  Kelcey and Shannon had appeared on stage together frequently and made one more movie together before he died in 1917.

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
Moving Picture World, 11-April-1914
Music was an important tool to help pull in customers.  Big first-run theaters had orchestras.  Smaller theaters had organs or the Fotoplayer, which produced a variety of music and sound effects along with the music.

Moving Picture World, 15-May-1915
Other theaters went with Wurlitzer, the "One Man Orchestra." 

After writing all this, I realized that I had shown only two theater interiors.  The thing I notice is that the interiors look nice, but they are not as ornate as the interiors of theaters built in the 1920s. Perhaps I am prejudiced from having grown up in San Francisco, where they built some pretty ornate theaters in the 1920s. 

Motography, 07-November-1914
The interiors of two Minneapolis theaters, the Saxe and the Lyric.  Notice the view-obstructing columns in the Lyric.  The newer Saxe appears to be a much cleaner design.

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
The Saxe does not appear in the 1926 Film Daily YearbookPerhaps its German-sounding name was changed during World War One.

Moving Picture World, 16-January-1915
Here we see the foyer (lobby) of Tacoma's Colonial Theater and "Retiring Room for Women," which I assume is a lounge.

Tacoma Times, 14-January-1915
Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
I was interested to learn that Tacoma, like Seattle had a Blue Mouse.

Moving Picture World, 23-January-1915
Chicago's Biograph Theater on North Lincoln Avenue, which opened in 1914, became famous on 22-July-1934 when John Dillinger attended a showing of MGM's Manhattan Melodrama which starred Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and William Powell.  One of Dillinger's companions had fingered him to the FBI.  After the show, a team of agents led by Melvin Purvis shot and killed Dillinger as he tried to escape.  Today the theater houses live performances:

At one time I thought it would be interesting to have a film festival showing the last movies known to have been seen by various people.  I should find the list I started to make.

Moving Picture World, 23-January-1915
 The ceiling looked very low to me until I noticed that the theater does not have a balcony.

World War One killed nearly ten million soldiers, but it gave a nice boost to the movie business.  Once the United States entered the war in 1917, theater operators had to collect a three cent federal War Tax.  The industry participated strongly in encouraging people to buy Liberty Bonds and Liberty Stamps to help pay for the war.

My Own Story, Marie Dressler, 1934
Many Hollywood stars participated in rallies to sell Liberty Bonds.  Here we see Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D Roosevelt, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Marie Dressler and Charlie Chaplin.

Motion Picture News, 07-September-1918
"Every Motion Picture Theatre in the country is to receive a set of five slides to be shown during the coming Liberty Loan Drive." Movie theaters were encouraged to promote and sell war bonds, just as they were during World War Two.

Motion Picture News, 07-September-1918
The Schade Theatre (that's how they spelled it) in Sandusky, Ohio used decorations to promote two war films, Pershing's Crusaders and To Hell With the Kaiser.

Motion Picture News, 29-June-1918 
Pershing's Crusaders was a documentary produced by the Creel Committee, also known as the Committee on Public Information, which coordinated US government propaganda.

Motion Picture News, 29-June-1918
Note the Kaiser being punched in the first poster.  In World War Two, there was a popular tradition of comic book covers where Hitler got punched.

Film Daily Yearbook, 1926
Sandusky had a population of 22,897 in 1926; the Schade seated 700 and it was open seven days a week.

While the war went on, another catastrophe hit the world, the so-called Spanish flu, an influenza pandemic that may have killed 50-100 million people.

Exhibitors Herald, 23-November-1918
The virulent flu, which killed between 10 and 20 per cent of the people it infected, caused many states, including California, to force movie theaters to close.

Exhibitors Herald, 30-November-1918
I learned that the opening of the Coliseum on Clement Street was delayed for a couple of weeks by the influenza-inspired theater ban.

Moving Picture World, 21-December-1918
The photos of the front, lobby and auditorium look familiar. 

Moving Picture World, 21-December-1918
Roscoe Arbuckle, who frequently visited San Francisco, made a surprise appearance at the opening of the Coliseum. 

Exhibitors Herald, 14-December-1918
I will conclude with one more thing that theater owners tried to bring in customers.  Samuel Levin, owner of the brand-new Coliseum set up an area in the lobby where patrons could park their strollers and even leave their babies under the watchful eye of a nurse.

 This post is part of  the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon III, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently, Ruth at Silver Screenings and Aurora at Once Upon a ScreenThank you to all three of them for all the hard work.  Thank you to everyone who visited and I encourage you to read and comment on as many posts as you can.  Bloggers love comments.  

This post is my fourth blogathon post of 2016 and my 44th since 2007.  This is my 26th blogathon.    This page has a list of all my blogathon posts.