As some of you may know I am a photographer of sorts. One of my pet projects is photographing old movie theaters. Whenever I travel I try to find old movie theaters wherever I go. I actually photographed my first theaters back in the 1970’s when I lived in New York City. Of course, back then these theaters were not old classic movie theaters, they were the theaters you visited every week. That all said, I thought I would share some of these photos I have taken over the past few years in a short series, six in all, I will occasionally post. These are no great works of ‘art’ here, just a look at days gone by. I will provide any information on the theater that I am aware, some personal memories and links to the theaters that are still active today in some form.
First up are those New York City theaters.
The Loew’s Oriental was the local theater in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn where I spent most of my youth. Many Saturday afternoons were spent in this grand theater watching films like “Thief of Bagdad,” “Visit to a Small Planet,” “The Wackiest Ship in the Army,” “Exodus” and many more. Jerry Lewis toured the Loew’s movie chain during the release of one of his movies, I think it was “The Nutty Professor” and I got to see him there live. The theater was twinned in 1977, the same year this photo was taken. Today the theater is a Marshalls Department Store.
The Baronet/Coronet Theaters, along with the Cinema I and Cinema II were located on the same block with just a Bookmasters store in between. These four theaters were once the primo theaters for big movie releases during the 1960’s and 70’s. Foreign films like Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” and Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” to domestic works like “The Exorcist” and “The Graduate” had their premiere engagements at one of these fours theaters located on the Upper East Side. One personal experience I had happened one weekday afternoon in September of 1976 . I took a half day off from work to go see Woody Allen’s film “The Front” which opened that day and was playing at the Coronet. The theater was fairly crowded for a weekday afternoon. After the film was over and everyone began filing out I suddenly noticed walking out right in front of me were John Lennon and Yoko Ono! Growing up in the 60’s, and a Beatles fan, I pretty much stood there stunned. I never saw The Beatles in concert but over the years I got to see Paul, George and Ringo separately in concerts and I got to go to the movies, well sorta, with John.
Loew’s State 1 and 2
The Loew’s State opened on Broadway in 1926. Over the years its marquee has gone through several reconstructions and in 1968 the theater was twined. “Ben-Hur,” had its World Premiere here as a road show engagement and ran for 74 weeks. Other major films to premiere at the Loew’s State include “Becket,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Some Like it Hot” and “The Godfather.”
“Illicit” was only Barbara Stanwyck’s fifth film and she was already a star. Having just appeared in Frank Capra’s “Ladies of Leisure” as a prostitute, or as they would call it, a ‘party girl’ for Columbia, Babs, who had arranged for non-exclusive contracts with both Columbia and Warner Brothers, starred in her next film for Brothers Warner as a free thinking woman, a post feminist long before the term was even conceived.
Stanwyck is Anne Vincent and her lover, James Rennie, is wealthy Richard “Dick” Ives II. They have been happily living out of wedlock, going away together for weekends, enjoying life, but she refuses to marry Dick who wants to marry her. Anne explains her theories on marriage, how married couples become complacent, have kids and begin to take each other for granted leaving the fun and romance behind. Anne wants none of that. Eventually though pressure from friends and family force the couple to marry. Once married, egos get hurt, misunderstandings come out of the closet as well as former lovers. From Anne’s past comes Price Baines, played smoothly by Ricardo Cortez, who keeps popping up to complicate the situation. Late in the film Dick is about to run off with a former girlfriend (Natalie Moorhead) when the couple come to the realization they only want each other. Continue reading →
Twenty Four Frames is now on Facebook! Brand new capsule reviews, links to interesting articles on classic and current films, photos and more. Click on the FB button on the right, check it out and hit that LIKE button!
The camera focuses in on what is a homemade time bomb. A young unidentified man carries it to a car placing it inside the trunk. Unknowingly, an American with his bimbo girlfriend gets into the car and drives off. The camera pulls back; we are in a sleazy Mexican border town. The camera follows the car. Coming into the moving camera’s range is Vargas (Charlton Heston), a Mexican police officer and his newlywed American wife, Susie (Janet Leigh). They cross the street heading toward the American side of the border. We pass one bar and strip joint after another; the music, jazz, rock and roll, blaring out from each one. At the border, Vargas stops and talks with the border guards, the two Americans in their car pass through, the girl mumbling something about hearing a ticking sound, but no one pays her much attention. Moments later the car explodes into a fiery ball. With the strategic assistance of cinematographer Russell Metty, Welles frames this opening all in one astounding continuous long running brilliant shot. Continue reading →
Crime in the streets is this week’s theme. Two low budget flicks that came and went from the screen in the final blink of a dead man’s eye.
The Gangster (1947) Gordon Wiles
Unconventional gangster flick with Barry Sullivan as a hardened, self made, top dog gangster who becomes obsessed with a beautiful dame (Belita). Meanwhile he soon finds himself being squeezed out of his territory by another outfit headed up by the snarly Sheldon Leonard. Each of his weaknesses are slowly exposed, the politicians once in his pocket are no longer there, and other hoods are no longer willing to back him up. His downfall is inevitable.
Sullivan’s character is obsessive and paranoid when it come to his girl and bitter, cold-hearted and cynical toward everyone else. Despite being a low-budget production director Gordon Wiles paints the sets with a shadowed noirish light. And the sets, though obviously backlot, are very stylized, the shadowy ironwork on the elevated train, the rain soaked streets, the details in the soda fountain shop add an engaging arty flavor. The look and detail most likely stems from director Gordon Wiles background as an art director. There is also a winning melodramatic score by Louis Gruenberg. Yet for all these nice touches there is something about the film that does not crystallize. All these nice pieces yet the whole does not ring true and leaves you unfilled.
The film represented a reteaming of Barry Sullivan and Belita one year after they appeared in the 1946 oddity, “Suspense.” Supporting cast include Charles McGraw, John Ireland, Virginia Christine, Harry Morgan, Akim Tariroff, Elisha Cook Jr. and Leif Erickson. Also look for Shelley Winters in a small role. The script was co-written by the soon to be blacklisted Dalton Trumbo. Continue reading →
Of all the filmmakers who came to be collectively known in the 1970’s as the movie brats, Brain DePalma was the one who liked to push most the cinematic buttons of both critics and audiences. He delights in making his audience uncomfortable. With a sardonic wit and an ice cold point of view, DePalma has never been a middle of the road filmmaker, critics and audiences either love his work or hate it. He is viewed as either a violent, immoral rip-off artist who hates woman or a visionary artist who flies in the face of conservative thinking enjoying the shock and loathing his films have sometimes unleashed over the years. The more uncomfortable the audience is the better DePalma likes it. Like Alfred Hitchcock, DePalma’s films are planned well in advance with each detail written into the script. What you read is what you get, little changes. Editing is just putting the finished pieces together and not an exploration to potentially discover alternative new themes or ideas during the process.
Like Hitchcock, Brian DePalma’s films are a voyeurs’ delight. Examples abound, the slow motion dream like opening shot of the girls’ locker room in “Carrie” or the TV game show called “Peeping Tom” in “Sisters.” In one of his earlier films, “Greetings” Robert DeNiro’s character is a porn filmmaker and in “Body Double,” Craig Wasson’s Jake Scully watches a beautiful, sexy neighbor undress in front of her window. Hitchcock himself gave us “Psycho” where the camera works its way into a hotel room catching Sam Loomis and Marion Crane finishing up a lunch time affair and later just before Norman murders Marion Crane he is seen watching her through a peephole in the motel room next to hers. Hitch also gave us the ultimate voyeur movie with “Rear Window.” Continue reading →