Is there anything sweeter than a beautiful movie palace?
You probably recognize Grauman's Chinese Theatre, in Los Angeles. These days it's called TCL Chinese Theatre, because it's owned and operated by TCL Corporation—based in China, ironically. Since we write so often about movies we thought it appropriate to discuss the beautiful buildings in which the films were exhibited. Back in the day these were usually purpose-built structures, though some did split duty for stage productions and concerts. While many of these old palaces survive, nearly all surviving vintage cinemas in the U.S. were under threat at some point. Generally, if they hadn't been given historic protection they wouldn't be upright today.
Other times, if a city was poor, real estate costs didn't rise and old buildings stood unthreatened, usually idle. This happened often in the American midwest, where movie houses were neglected for decades before some were resurrected amid downtown revitalizations. It sometimes happens in Latin America too, although occasionally the formula fails. For example, Cartagena's majestic and oft photographed landmark Teatro Colón, located in the historic section of Colombia's most popular coastal tourist city, was torn down fewer than six months ago to make way for a Four Seasons Hotel.
Some of the cinemas below are well known treasures, while others are more unassuming places. But even those lesser known cinemas show how much thought and work was put into making moviegoing a special experience. The last photo, which shows the Butterfly Theatre in Milwaukee, exemplifies that idea. The façade is distinguished by a terra cotta butterfly sculpture adorned with light bulbs. As you might guess, many of the most beautiful large cinemas were in Los Angeles, which means that city is well represented in the collection. Enjoy.
Paramount Theatre, Oakland (operational).
Cine Maya, Mérida (demolished).
The Albee Cinema, Cincinnati (demolished)
Cooper Theatre, Denver (demolished).
Paras Cinema, Jaipur (operational).
Cathay Cinema, Shanghai (operational).
Academy Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
Charlottenburg Filmwerbung, Berlin (demolished).
Pacific's Cinerama Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
York Theatre, Elmhurst (operational).
La Gaumont-Palace, Paris (demolished).
Essoldo Cinema, Newcastle (demolished).
Théâtre Scala, Strasbourg (operational).
Teatro Colón, Cartagena (demolished in 2018).
Teatro Coliseo Argentino, Buenos Aires (demolished).
Pavilion Theater, Adelaide (demolished).
El Molino Teatro, Barcelona (operational).
Fox Carthay Theatre, Los Angeles (demolished).
Kino Rossiya Teatr, Moscow (operational).
Nippon Gekijo, aka Nichigeki, Tokyo (demolished).
Cine Impala, Namibe (operational).
Cine Arenal, Havana (operational).
Teatro Mérida, Mérida (operational, renamed Teatro Armando Manzanero).
Ideal Theater, Manila (demolished).
Odeon Cinema, London (semi-demolished, converted to apartments).
Mayan Theatre, Los Angeles (operational).
Rex Cinema, Port au Prince (being restored).
Urania Kino, Vienna (operational).
Tampa Theatre, Tampa (operational).
The Butterfly Theater, Milwaukee (demolished).
The fundamental things apply as time goes by.
Yes, we're back to Casablanca. Above you see a Spanish poster for this award winning war drama, which premiered in Madrid yesterday in 1946. The movie was a smash hit everywhere because, simply put, it dealt with every important theme in the realm of human experience, which is why it's still fundamental viewing. And that would be true even if most of the characters weren't migrants—a type of person that's very prominent in the news these days.
The poster art is signed MCP, the designation applied to work produced by the Barcelona based design company owned by artists Ramón Martí, Josep Clavé, and Hernán Pico. We'll get back to this trio's output a bitlater. Casablanca generated some very nice promos, and MCP's effort is one of the best, in our opinion. We also recommend checking out the Japanese ones here.
Perversion never goes out of style.
Years ago we briefly discussed the Marisa Mell thriller Una sull’atra and shared an Angelo Cesselon poster made for its Italian run. Well, we're back to the movie today with a poster made for its Spanish run under the title Una historia perversa. The illustration was painted by Francisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, who signed his work as Jano, and was one of Spain's more prolific cinematic illustrators. We put together a small collection of his work a while back and you can check that out here. Una historia perversa made its Spanish premiere in Barcelona today in 1969.
Havana shopping street catered to the international upper crust.
We're back from vacation. We were surrounded by colonial era architecture, which brought to mind this photo of Havana, Cuba, a former colonial city thousands of miles from where we were, but similar in many respects. The shot was taken along Calle San Rafael sometime during the 1940s. There's a lot of detail in this—in the distance we can see Bar Uncle Sam and a Philco store, and in the foreground the cars and flowing sidewalk mosaics are interesting too. Of particular note is the perfume store El Patio, where a sign tells us the Dana brands Emir, Tabu, and Platino are available. These were pricy concoctions, affordable for only the rare few, sold by a fancy perfumer that got its start in Barcelona back in 1932. Presumably Isaac Habif was a perfume or cologne too, but we can't find mention of it anywhere.
Some of the other businesses on San Rafael included the swank coffee shop Salon H, top jewelers Letrán de Isaac Barquet, Cuervo y Sobrinos, and Gastón Bared, two academies—Academia Pitman and Academia Gregg—which were expensive and private, the department stores Fin de Siglo and El Encanto, Indochina, which was an exotic gift shop, the eyewear boutique El Telescopio, and La Exposición, which sold furs—yes, in that climate. In all, Calle San Rafael wasn't just an ordinary thoroughfare, but a major shopping street serving Havana's economic elite. It remains a shopping street today, but the mosaics and fine brands are long gone. For a bit more on colonial era Havana, have a look here. And for an interesting array of post-revolutionary photos, look here.
I call this game Project Runaway. A model—that's me—points one of these shotguns at a pest—that's you. Guess what you do next?
Above, Natalia enciende la mecha, or Natalia Lights the Fuse, from Ediciones G.P. out of Barcelona, 1961. This was one of a series of books about Natalia, a French model who leads a double life as an international spy, with Marchal serving as the shared pen name of French authors Pierre Aspetéguy and Monique Henry. We first saw a front for this paperback over at the blog Spanish Book Covers way back, but this scan comes from a different copy, so we thought we'd share it here. Spanish Books Covers has been on hiatus a long while, but the site is still live and there are numerous interesting fronts there worth viewing. What we'd really like to know is who painted the cover art. Often with these European editions you get art reworked or copied from U.S. paperbacks, but in the case of Ediciones G.P. we think not. Put this one in the unknown file until further notice.
Experts reach consensus—she was exquisite.
Above is a little artifact from our last swing through Spain, discovered at the Mercat del Vell de l'Estació de Sants in Barcelona. It's an issue of Colleción Idolos del Cine, a magazine that devoted itself each month entirely to one celebrity, with rare photos and personal anecdotes. This one is from 1958 and features Ana Maria Pierangeli, who adopted the lyrical stage name Pier Angeli after debuting on the international cinema scene in Vittoria De Sica's Domani è troppo tardi and winning a Nastro d'Argento, or Silver Ribbon, from the Sindacato Nazionale Giornalisti Cinematografici Italiani. Angeli was a dewy eighteen in that role and looked so young as to be almost half-formed, which was perfect for her portrayal of a teen in the throes of first love. She maintained a youthful and innocent appearance for twenty more years, and is another actress who died young, in her case aged thirty-nine, via drug overdose, though accidental, officially. The printing quality of Colleción Idolos del Cine isn't the best, but the photos are very interesting. Mucho más Angeli below, and we managed to buy five other examples of this magazine, with stars such as Ava Gardner, Analia Gadé, and Belinda Lee, so look for those later.
A prescription for murder.
As long as we’re doing Spanish language pulp today, we might as well share this cover for El siniestro Doctor Crippen, or The Sinister Doctor Crippen, written by Enrique Cuenca for Barcelona based Ediciones G.P., and published in 1960 as part of its low cost Enciclopedia Pulga collection. Eventually, about five-hundred books appeared as part of the collection, including translations of Jules Verne, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and other classic authors. This particular novel is of course based on the strange story of Hawley Harvey Crippen, aka H.H. Crippen, the American physician and fugitive who murdered his wife Cora in 1910 and was eventually hanged in London’s HM Pentonville Prison. Many of the covers we’ve seen from Enciclopedia Pulga are nice, so we’ll try to revisit the collection a little bit later.
Spain is germane only if you look closely at Miss Crayne.
American actress Dani Crayne stands in front of a piece by the Valencian bullfight painter Juan Reus Parra, who signed his work J. Reus (not J. Revs, as many websites say) and was a top artist during the 1940s and 1950s. The poster advertises the Sunday bullfights at Barcelona’s impressive Moorish-Byzantine style La Monumental bullring. You would therefore think, this being a promo photo, that Crayne was shooting a movie having to do with bullfights or Spain, but she was actually filming Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend in the U.S., and it had zilch to do with bulls, Spain, or anything remotely Spanish. She is, though, wearing a somewhat Spanish outfit, and she looks great in it, so that must be the connection. The photo dates from 1957.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—Carothers Patents Nylon
Wallace H. Carothers, an American chemist, inventor and the leader of organic chemistry at DuPont Corporation, receives a patent for a silk substitute fabric called nylon. Carothers was a depressive who for years carried a cyanide capsule on a watch chain in case he wanted to commit suicide, but his genius helped produce other polymers such as neoprene and polyester. He eventually did take cyanide—not in pill form, but dissolved in lemon juice—resulting in his death in late 1937.
1933—Franklin Roosevelt Survives Assassination Attempt
In Miami, Florida, Giuseppe Zangara attempts to shoot President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, but is restrained by a crowd and, in the course of firing five wild shots, hits five people, including Chicago, Illinois Mayor Anton J. Cermak, who dies of his wounds three weeks later. Zangara is quickly tried and sentenced to eighty years in jail for attempted murder, but is later convicted of murder when Cermak dies. Zangara is sentenced to death and executed in Florida's electric chair.
1929—Seven Men Shot Dead in Chicago
Seven people, six of them gangster rivals of Al Capone's South Side gang, are machine gunned to death in Chicago, Illinois, in an event that would become known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Because two of the shooters were dressed as police officers, it was initially thought that police might have been responsible, but an investigation soon proved the killings were gang related. The slaughter exceeded anything yet seen in the United States at that time.
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