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).
Tabloid perfects the unauthorized photo leak long before the internet age.
This issue of National Informer was published today in 1972. We love this tabloid, but we'd be have to be blind to not see how low rent it is. It's a mess. Words are misspelled, columns and graphics are crooked, and it's heavily padded. For example there's a random photo of a water buffalo and a sexual quip about its backside. That's pure editorial desperation to fill a gap in the layout. And to make sport of such gentle creatures. Sad!
And speaking of unauthorized usage of gentle creatures, Christina Lindberg pops up yet again in Informer. Rather than in an alleged orgy, this time she appears in the story, “Do Sexually Inadequate Hubbies Force Women To Become Lesbians?” Seems like the editors had a real thing for her. But we have to admit, if we had a bunch of photos of Lindberg around we'd probably squeeze her into our editorial content time after time after time after time too.
Um, where were we? Right—elsewhere in Informer, resident prognosticator Mark Travis makes another set of predictions. You know his track record isn't good, which gives us the idea to have a little quiz. So here you go: which of these two predictions did Travis get more wrong?
1: I predict the ghost of Josef Stalin will appear in Red Square in Moscow during a public ceremony and throw the crowd into a panic.
2: I predict a black governor for the state of Georgia in 1974.
It was a trick question. Both predictions were equally wrong. The ghost of Stalin has not appeared in Red Square, and the state of Georgia, which has a 30% black population, has never had a black governor. Actually, there are no black governors of any U.S. state at the moment, and there have been only four in U.S. history. Bunch of scans below.
From the streets of Moscow to the stars.
On November 3, 1957, the Soviet Union launched a stray dog into space. She had many names, but the international press picked up on Laika and that is how she has been known since. Her purpose was to provide crucial data about whether humans might be able to survive the conditions of launch and weightlessness. In that respect, her mission was a success, but she did not survive the flight, nor was she ever intended to, since the Soviets had not yet developed a way to retrieve orbiting capsules. Popular myth states that Laika starved to death after a few days floating in space, but that isn’t true—she actually died a few hours after launch due to stress (read: terror) and heat. The latter was due to a malfunction in the capsule, but it’s easy to imagine the former might have killed her anyway. But Laika lives on, sort of. In 2008, Russia unveiled a monument in her honor, built near the Moscow research facility that prepared her for spaceflight. It’s a statue of Laika standing on top of a rocket.
Rudolph Nureyev’s defection from the Soviet Union fascinated the world—and changed his life forever.
One of the more interesting pulp events of the 1960s occurred when a little-known ballet dancer named Rudolph Nureyev broke away from two Russian guards at Le Bourget airport in Paris and dashed through a security station shouting in English, “I want to be free!” His sprint into Western arms made him internationally known, rocked the dance world, and strained relations between the Soviet Union and France. It was one of the first high-profile defections, and the inside story had all the pulp elements we love best—secret romance, political intrigue, lots of headlines, and a fascinating personality at the heart of it all.
For three weeks prior Nureyev had been performing in Paris with his troupe, the Leningrad Kirov Ballet, and in his off hours enjoying the City of Light with society friends. News of these associations had filtered back to Moscow and, concerned, Soviet authorities decided to summon Nureyev back to the motherland for a chat. For two weeks they had trying to get him sent home, but Kirov directors and the Soviet embassy in Paris had been deliberately unhelpful. Finally, on the day the Kirov was supposed to board a flight to London for the next leg of their tour, two Soviet security guards intercepted Nureyev and told him he was wanted in Moscow. His dash for freedom minutes later set off a chain of events that would end with him receiving asylum in France.
Most assumed Nureyev had been thinking of defection for quite a while, but Soviet records declassified in the late 90s suggest he planned to return home. There were rumors he had fallen in love with a beautiful Chilean heiress named Clara Saint—in fact, this story was reported in much of the Western press—but in reality Nureyev was gay and had been seriously involved with a male dancer from Leningrad named Taja Kremke. It was Kremke who convinced Nureyev his talent would never flourish in the Soviet Union, but still, left to continue his tour with the Kirov, Nureyev likely would have flown home at its completion. Despite his general unhappiness, it seems to be the actual arrival of the security guards that triggered his defection. When the guards appeared he immediately knew he was in deep trouble and feared returning to Moscow meant he would not be allowed to dance anymore.
News of the defection broke huge. The West gleefully used it deride the Soviets, who had been riding high on the triumph of sending the first human into space two months earlier. Soon the Clara Saint story began to be widely reported. But it soon became obvious neither politics nor love had been the primary trigger of the event, but a burning desire to dance and live unhindered. Nureyev got his wish—residing in the West he expanded his dance repertoire and acted in motion pictures. He also tookadvantage of his more permissive surroundings by pursuing relationships with famous men such as Tab Hunter, Eric Bruhn, and Anthony Perkins, and by posing for a very famous set of nude photos exposing his celebrated endowment. But he lost almost as much as he gained—he was completely cut off from his family back in Russia, and didn’t see his mother again until she was dying. Nureyev himself began to die from AIDS around 1990, and finally succumbed January 6, 1993. He was perhaps the greatest ballet dancer of the twentieth century, and the event that forever changed his life happened today in 1961.
Politkovskaya murder trial ends in acquittal.
In Russia, everything seems to have a spy movie twist. Today, the convoluted murder trial of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya ended in acquittals for four defendants. Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of the Kremlin, was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building on 7 October, 2006. The killer was believed to be Chechen national Rustam Makhmudov, but he escaped Russia using a fake passport, leaving his two brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail to stand trial along with two others on charges that they aided and abetted the killing.
But the prosecution case fell apart after a series of suspicious events, including the disappearance from evidence lockers of SIM cards, computer discs, and a surveillance recording purported to show the killer entering Politkovskaya’s flat. However, the case against the Makhmudovs and other two defendants was generally considered to be weak, with or without the stolen evidence. Prosecution lawyers claim this is because the key players are not the men on trial, but highly-placed political figures Politkovskaya often slammed in her articles.
Many suspect the villain may be Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin ruler of Chechnya, who was a frequent Politkovskaya target. Kadyrov is right out of a Bond movie. Sometimes referred to as the Idi Amin of the Caucasus, he rules Chechnya like a king and has a private army known as Kadyrovites who are documentably responsible for numerous crimes, including beatings, torture sessions, and one decapitation complete with a public display of the severed head. Asked about his possible involvement in Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, Ramzan Kadyrov asserted: “I don't kill women.”
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
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