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).
It's hard out there for a pimp.
The Mack is about pimping. Let's just get that out there. Those with twenty-first century sensibilities will probably hate the film on principle. But is there anything more to it than sexual exploitation? Well, it's an offering in the blaxploitation genre that deals with an ex-con's plan to rise to the top of the macking game in the city of Oakland. The main character, named Goldie, has a brother who intends to rid the streets of crime. Goldie's main antagonists are a pair of corrupt cops who see no difference between him and his brother. The subtext is interesting. Goldie and his brother represent opposite forms of direct engagement—one works to improve his environment while opposed by authorities who see political activism as a threat; the other works illegally to get ahead and get out while opposed by authorities charged with fighting crime.
The movie chooses as its backdrop one of the most activist cities in the U.S., with one of the most corrupt police forces. Both of these facts were true when The Mack was made and remain true today. For example, while Oakland police are tasked with preventing crime, they repeatedly and brazenly break the law, and have paid out more in civil damages than almost any police force in the nation. This dichotomy callsinto question whether the police actually exist for the good of the community at all, or for a more complex purpose—say to protect the interests of elites by both containing crime and hemming in the possibility of political empowerment. Actually, the question is rhetorical. We've been to many countries, and in all of them police suppress political activity among the underclass. So yeah, there's more to The Mack than just pimping.
The movie was actually inspired by the real life struggle between the Ward Brothers, who were leaders of Oakland's black underworld, and the Black Panthers. Both groups wanted to bring Oakland under their respective control for opposite reasons. Film critic Elvis Mitchell described The Mack succinctly in 2013, saying: “Do you become this horrible kind of mutation of free enterprise, or do you take the nationalist route and help your people?” But the Oakland police ultimately considered power achieved through crime and power achieved through politics to be equally unacceptable. And that may be the entire disturbing point of the film. The Mack premiered in the U.S. today in 1973, and the awesome poster was painted by Fred Pfeiffer.
There's a major front coming in.
And speaking of repeating ourselves, above you see a poster for the documentary The French Peep Show, which on this promo is called Peep Shows of Paris. Same movie though, and it starred Tempest Storm, a young exotic dancer trying to make it big with her fifty inch bust (see below). We talked about the movie last year and shared a killer poster made for its run in Japan in 1954. We suggest having a look at that. As far as the release date goes, most sources say the film first played in 1952, but IMDB says it was today in 1949 in Oakland, California. Why the discrepancy? We don't know. Meyer shot the footage at the El Rey Theater, which was in in Oakland, so perhaps IMDB knows something about the footage being projected back in ’49 before he packaged it for a wider run.
I'll get mine, yours, and everyone else's I can lay my little hands on too.
Set initially at San Quentin Prison, then in the wider environs of Oakland, California, I'll Get Mine follows a do-gooder prison shrink down the rabbit hole of Latino gang culture, where he becomes involved in a murder mystery and takes on the role of potential savior to a beautiful druggie ensnared in Pachuco culture. It was originally published in 1951 as Cure It with Honey, which you see at right.
Thurston Scott was a pseudonym for the team of Jody Scott and George Thurston Leite, and what they put together was racy stuff for the time, with hetero sex achieved, gay sex alluded to, various flavors of drugs inhaled and injected, and some violence. The mix of elements worked well—the novel was nominated for an Edgar Award. The 1952 Popular Library edition at top was illustrated by A. Leslie Ross, and its resemblance to a cover we shared last month puts us in mind of assembling a collection of women leaning against lamp posts and street signs. Stay tuned.
Russ Meyer turns what he loves most into a career.
This rare Japanese poster promotes the American movie French Peep Show, which was boob aficionado Russ Meyer’s first sexploitation film in a long, infamous series of them. Shot at Oakland, California’s El Rey Burlesk Theater, it was ostensibly a documentary about dancer Tempest Storm’s quest to make it as a performer, but of course was really just an excuse to film a burlesque show and use the medium of cinema to export it to the masses. The film is presumed lost, which is too bad, because in addition to Storm, it featured Lily Lamont, Terry Lane, Shalimar, Marie Voe, and others. The poster is composed of three famous shots of Storm, one of which we shared a while back, the others of which you see below. You can read a bit more about French Peep Show here. It premiered in the U.S. in 1949, but reached Japan this month in 1954.
Mid-1970s tabloid covers were dominated by a trio of distinct personalities.
The National Police Gazette didn’t become America’s longest running publication by not knowing which celebrities people wanted to read about. We see that at work on the cover of this issue published in June 1974, which features a triptych of the era’s most tabloid-worthy icons in the fields of sports, politics and music. Muhammad Ali at thirty-three was just past his prime, but was still a great boxer with two of his most memorable bouts still ahead of him; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was one of the richest women in the world and a full time obsession for an American public who remembered her mainly as a presidential widow; Elvis Presley was no longer a force on the pop charts, yet his albums were still selling millions of copies and his persona and lifestyle ensured that he remained the best known music star in the world. We’re told by editors that Ali had a master plan to regain the heavyweight title (which he did), that Onassis couldn’t forget a past love named Sir David Ormsby-Gore (unconfirmed), and that Presley wanted to be a preacher (we all know how that turned out). The Gazette also makes room for stories on Howard Hughes, the Oakland A’s, and Jack Dempsey, but they’re all just bit players to the Big Three. We’ve scanned some pages below, and we’ll have much more from The National Police Gazette later.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1940—The Battle of Britain Begins
The German Air Force, aka the Luftwaffe, attacks shipping convoys off the coast of England, touching off what Prime Minister Winston Churchill describes as The Battle of Britain.
1948—Paige Takes Mound in the Majors
Satchel Paige, considered at the time the greatest of Negro League pitchers, makes his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 42. His career in the majors is short because of his age, but even so, as time passes, he is recognized by baseball experts as one of the great pitchers of all time.
1965—Biggs Escapes the Big House
Ronald Biggs, a member of the gang that carried out the Great Train Robbery in 1963, escapes from Wandsworth Prison by scaling a 30-foot wall with three other prisoners, using a ladder thrown in from the outside. Biggs remains at large for nearly forty years.
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